Pyramid Training

Simply put, pyramid training is where you start with a light weight and high reps and progress up by increasing the weight and lowering the reps for the next set and the subsequent ones.

Reverse pyramid training exists as well, where you start with a heavy weight and low reps and then decrease the weight but increase the reps for the next set and then subsequent ones.

This is more of an advanced bodybuilding technique for experienced weight lifters who need to break out of a weight training plateau.

Why experienced weight lifters?

Because it’s essential to maintain the proper form while trying pyramid training, or else it will be useless and will dramatically increase your chances of injuries.

Pyramid training


Benefits Of Pyramid Training

The chief benefit is that it gets your body used to a variety of loads. e.g. If you are constantly training at low reps and heavy weights, you wouldn’t do well in endurance activities.

Pyramid training is based on progressive overload, which is the universal law of muscle growth.


Different Forms Of Pyramid Training


1. Standard Pyramid Training

– Increase weight, decrease reps

You could start with 60% of your 1RM at 10 reps. Then increase the weight by 10% of your 1RM and decrease by 2 reps and so on. You can vary the weight and reps depending on your preference, exercise selection and your comfort levels.

For illustration purposes only:
60 lbs x 10 reps
70 lbs x 8 reps
80 lbs x 6 reps
90 lbs x 4 reps


2. Reverse Pyramid Training

– Decrease weight, increase reps

2-3 x warm up sets
90 lbs x 4 reps
80 lbs x 6 reps
70 lbs x 8 reps
60 lbs x 10 reps


3. Triangle Pyramid Training

– Combines both standard and reverse pyramid training

60 lbs x 10 reps
70 lbs x 8 reps
80 lbs x 6 reps
70 lbs x 8 reps
60 lbs x 10 reps


4. Double Wave Pyramid Training

–  Do a standard pyramid training twice

60 lbs x 10 reps
70 lbs x 8 reps
80 lbs x 6 reps
60 lbs x 10 reps
70 lbs x 8 reps
80 lbs x 6 reps


Pyramid Training Notes

For beginners, keep your sets to about 3. For more advanced gym goers, you can go to 4 or 5.

However, do cut down on the sets done for other body parts done in that same workout if you happen to do a lot of pyramid sets. This will help prevent overtraining.

Pyramid training is best used for compound exercises where you can handle a larger range of weight.


Standard or Reverse Pyramid Training?

The merits of standard pyramiding is that the lighter weights help you to warm up first, and that some believe a gradual build up is the only way to hit your max.

However, some find the low reps useless because they aren’t intense at all at the beginning. This wastes time, effort and calories.

The merits of reverse pyramiding is that you are the freshest at the start so you should start off lifting heavy.

Mike Mentzer was the one who developed the idea of reverse pyramiding in 1970s,  claiming that it fulfills 3 principles:

1. You either train long or hard, you can’t do both
2. Muscle strength precedes size
3. Higher intensity recruits more muscle fibers

There is no concrete evidence as to proving which is better. Try it out and see which fits better for you.

For me, i prefer reverse pyramiding, because I tend to lose a bit of steam/energy when I reach the heavier weights if I were to do standard pyramiding.

Whereas with reverse pyramiding, I’m able to do heavier weights with much better form and thus, it hits my muscles better.



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  1. Raff

    What is 1RM? How can I know/ “measure” my 1RM?

    Thanks for the nice article?

  2. Raff

    Opps, I mean “Thanks for the nice article!”. Not with the “?”.

  3. anonymous

    1RM stands for ” One Rep Max” and its not hard to measure , its the max amount weight you can lift in any given exercise


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