What is Pyramid training?

pyramid training examples

Pyramid training systems are widely known and are often utilised in resistance training programmes – but what are they?

Well it depends which pyramid we are talking about as “Pyramiding” can actually be performed in three different ways

1. Ascending pyramids

Ascending pyramids adopt a light-to-heavy approach, whereby each successive set is performed with a heavier resistance and fewer repetitions.

Example of an ascending pyramid for a Back Squat

Set 1: 15 reps of 60kg

Set 2: 10 reps of 75kg

Set 3: 5 reps of 90kg

Note the load is increased after each set and the reps are decreased.

2. Descending pyramids

The descending pyramid starts with the fewest repetitions and the heaviest load (following an appropriate warm up) and for each subsequent set a percentage of the load is removed. The lighter load allows more repetitions to be performed than the previous set.

Example of an descending pyramid for a Back Squat

Set 1: 5 reps of 90kg

Set 2: 10 reps of 75kg

Set 3: 15 reps of 60kg

Note the load is decreased after each set and the reps are increased.

3. Complete (double) pyramids

The complete pyramid combines the ascending and descending approaches. Starting light the client builds up to a heavy set, then reverses this to finish with a lighter set.

Example of a complete (double) pyramid for a Back Squat

Set 1: 15 reps of 60kg

Set 2: 10 reps of 75kg

Set 3: 5 reps of 90kg

Set 4: 10 reps of 75kg

Set 5: 15 reps of 60kg

Note the load is increased after each set and the reps are decreased until the heaviest set is performed, then the load is decreased after each set and the reps are increased until finishing with a lighter set.

Why should I use Pyramid Training?

As with any training system that you have not utilised before you will be subjecting the body to a new stress it is not accustomed to so therefore you should experience some increases in muscular strength and hypertrophy providing you are also optimising your recovery. The theory behind this specific system is that different muscle fibres respond differently to different loads so by by training a lift across multiple rep ranges you may tap into a greater pool of fibres. This s the theory anyway and not necessarily an exact science however, it has been a popular training system for bodybuilders and strength athletes for serval years so why not give it a try.

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