By continuing use this site, you agree to the Terms & Conditions and our use of cookies.
Pyramid training

Pyramid training


Weight training isn't just about lifting weights without knowing what we're doing or why we're doing it. In fact, depending on our objectives, our level of practice and our abilities, we're going to use different movements and techniques.

There are many different movements, but also many different methods for achieving a given goal. In this article, we'll take a look at a method that is commonly used, especially by beginners, as it offers a number of advantages.

This is the Pyramidal method.

What is Pyramidal training?

Pyramidal training involves reducing the number of repetitions for a given exercise as the load increases.

Let's take the bench press as an example. The first set will be 15 to 20 reps at 50% of your 1RM The second set will be 12 reps at 70% of your 1RM The third set will be 10 reps at 80% of your 1RM. And finally a set of 6-8 reps at 95% of your 1RM.

The Pyramidal can be performed on the upright system only, as described above, but you can also add the downward system. In this case, perform the reverse system after the last upward set.

The Pyramidal method is highly effective for building strength and avoiding injury. Gradually increasing the load ensures progressive warming-up of joints, muscles and nervous system. It also prepares you mentally for the heavier sets to follow.

To be effective, the Pyramid principle should be applied primarily to the basic exercises, as these are the ones that will build the most strength, as they are multi-articular. Rest periods between series should be long enough (around 1 min. 30 sec.) to allow the muscles to recover sufficiently for the next series.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of pyramid training?

Positive points of pyramid training sessions

This type of training is of real interest to beginner bodybuilders who don't yet know what their workloads or capabilities are. It enables them to gradually build up their strength and determine the loads they can lift for a given exercise.

This type of training will gradually familiarize the exerciser with the principle of progressive overload, increasing the load with each set.

From a physiological point of view, this method enables the body (muscles, tendons, ligaments) to prepare for the effort required by the heavy series of the "pyramid" and, at the same time, avoid injury.

Now let's look at the disadvantages of this type of training.

While for beginners who don't know themselves yet, and whose bodies are receptive to the slightest stimulation, this method is interesting, for intermediate and advanced levels it loses its interest and can even become limiting.

Indeed, if the first series are performed with the necessary intensity, they will have an impact on subsequent series. The fatigue caused by the first series will limit the muscle's capacity for the heavy series.

What's more, if the first series aren't performed at full intensity, they become little more than warm-up sets, and lose their value.

Another important point is that an advanced exerciser cannot be satisfied with a single heavy set to stimulate muscle growth, so several high-intensity sets are needed to encourage the muscle to adapt and grow. Pyramid training therefore loses its appeal. Experienced athletes who know their workloads will be better off doing a few warm-up sets with a given load without going all out, then "going all out" in their actual sets.

Example of pectoral training including the pyramidal.

Bench press: 15 reps (50%), 12 reps (70%), 10 reps (85%), 6-8 reps (95%)

Inclined bench press: 12 reps (70%), 10 reps (80%), 8 reps (90%), 6 reps (90%)

Flat squats: 4 sets of 12 reps

Pullover: 4 sets of 12 reps

Rest periods will be 1min 30 to 2min between each set.

You're now familiar with the pyramid training technique, which is a very good way of intensifying training for an athlete just starting out or returning to training after a break, but which, in my humble opinion, loses its appeal as soon as the body can no longer be satisfied with a single set to stimulate it.

Author Alexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers