Pyramid training is one of the fundamental and most effective methods of developing the size and strength of muscles. Use this guide to create your training system based on ascending, descending, and triangular pyramids!
The history of Western civilization is rooted in Ancient Egypt and dates back thousands of years. The legacy of Egypt has given us many things, including attachment to cats. And if you are a bodybuilder, even your training program can be influenced by the architecture of Ancient Egypt, especially if you follow the principle of the pyramid.
Pyramid training is one of the basic and most effective training schemes. If you are confused in its intricacies, the proposed material will help you transform any set of exercises, sets, and repetitions on the principle of the pyramid!
Muscle and strength pyramid: building a pyramid yourself
In strength training, a pyramid is considered a fundamental construct that you create by distributing sets and repetitions in each exercise. It implies an easy start with a gradual increase in working weight in subsequent sets. With an increase in working weight, the number of repetitions decreases, which illustrates the inverse relationship between the two components of the training process. Classical pyramid training also called the ascending pyramid, is not too complicated a science. Below we will consider the rising pyramid as an example of one exercise – lying bench press.
|Example of a pyramid for bench press|
Pyramid training is fraught with many advantages for the development of mass and strength indicators, but, alas, it is not ideal, which was the reason for the appearance of a couple of interesting variations. Let’s carefully examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of the rising pyramid.
Pyramid training: the advantages of the pyramid
- Warm-up included
One of the main advantages of the rising pyramid is that warm-up sets are present by default. You start easy exercises and gradually increase the load, which heats the target muscles and makes them flexible. If you ever went to the gym and immediately tried to lift a heavy barbell without a warm-up, you know that in this way you can’t get close to maximum weights. You can lift a significantly larger load and reduce the risk of injury if you include a warm-up with a gradual increase in load in your plan.
“When I first started my career in strength training, I did not know anything about the principle of the pyramid, but I used exactly this methodology in my training,” says Abby Barrows, IFBB professional in the bikini fitness category and representative of BPI Sports brand. “I always started with warming my muscles and ended with the heaviest weight I could lift (ascending pyramid). The system helps to warm up the muscles and reduces the risk of injury while preparing the target muscles for the upcoming exorbitant loads. ”
Warming up muscles with low weight will prepare you for lifting real weights
- Maximum power increase
The rising pyramid is ideal for those who are looking for an increase in strength indicators. Athletes striving for the maximum increase in strength, and it is not worth it to perform as many sets to muscle failure as bodybuilders aimed at increasing muscle size, limiting themselves to only 1-2 sets for an exercise.
This allows them to generate maximum power in the last 1-2 sets in which they have to lift the heaviest weight. All previous sets act as a warm-up. However, it should be noted that none of these warm-up sets can be performed before muscle failure.
- A large amount of load
In the nature of the pyramid is laid a large training time. Adhering to the bottom-up scheme and increasing the working weight in each subsequent set, you inevitably perform many sets, which guarantees a high amount of work – a marker of muscle growth.
In terms of stimulating hypertrophy (an increase in muscle mass), training systems with many sets are preferable to low-volume programs.
Disadvantages of pyramid training
It’s time to say that this training system has two significant drawbacks. First, a warm-up is never performed to failure – even close. A huge number of sets can be a serious problem, especially when you are full of energy at the beginning of a workout.
The temptation to complete the set to muscle failure is great, but the payback for this will be a slight drop in strength indicators in subsequent sets. If you complete several easy sets to failure, you will move away from your goals, whether it be an increase in strength or muscle mass. You need the muscles to be fresh during the hardest (last) set. If you are too tired during previous sets, they will certainly not be full of strength. Therefore, all warm-up sets must be completed shortly before muscle failure.
Secondly, the aspect mentioned above forces you to get to muscle failure only in the last set, and this is not always enough if your goal is to maximize muscle size. Muscle failure is important in terms of stimulating growth processes. For the muscles to grow, they must be subjected to stress, significant in quantitative terms. One set to failure may not give the momentum for growth that you need.
In short, the rising pyramid is well suited for those who crave the growth of strength and power, but it is not so effective when the maximum increase in muscle size is at stake. This feature is important.
Pyramid workouts routines: what is an inverted pyramid
So, if the rising pyramid cannot be called the ideal choice when working for the mass, then what can be? Take the descending pyramid, which is sometimes called inverted. The name very accurately conveys the essence of the methodology: you start with the maximum weight, perform several repetitions, then reduce the weight and do more and more repetitions in subsequent sets. This is just an inverted copy of the previously discussed pyramid for lying bench press.
With the reverse pyramid, you often achieve muscle failure, which means you gain more mass
I propose to dwell on some of the advantages that conceal the use of an inverted pyramid.
- You start with the hardest
In an inverted pyramid, you load the target muscle as much as possible in the first sets, when it is still full of energy. With fewer sets that take your energy to lift the maximum weight, in the heaviest set you use the maximum amount of muscle fibers, which leads to more growth.
Barrows notes that the descending pyramid is better suited for serious muscle development. “I really like the descending pyramid because it allows you to start with the most difficult without sets that accumulate fatigue,” she says. “Today I train in an inverted pyramid with at least four different weights. I get most tired when I train this way.”
- Maximum muscle growth
The inverted pyramid is ideal for working to increase muscle volume because you often achieve muscle failure. When you work for strength, you don’t want to train so often to failure, but working for the mass requires a different set. With this type of pyramid, you fail from the very first set, and you reach it much more often. From the first to the last set, you can work to failure, and this is important when the stimulation of the mechanisms responsible for muscle growth is at stake.
“Training to failure is important for building muscle because you are tearing muscle drains,” says Barrows. “By training in this way, you get more muscle gaps.”
- Inverted pyramid sets: volume and intensity
A descending pyramid guarantees a high training volume, but it also allows you to train with more intensity and load. By summing up the total amount of work – sets and repetitions – in each exercise, you will get a greater degree of intensity and stress for the target group with the help of an inverted pyramid.
“I try to train with this technique as often as possible,” adds Barrows. “This is affected by the degree of muscle soreness. I usually use this approach for the lion’s share of the muscles of the upper body, especially the shoulders. I also love to squat on the pyramid, but after that it’s too hard to walk throughout the next week!”
You should remember that lifting a heavy weight requires a thorough workout. Obviously, the descending pyramid does not provide for warm-up approaches.
Although there is no warm-up in a classic inverted pyramid, ignoring it will be a big mistake. As with the rising pyramid, a warm-up is never performed until muscle failure. Immediately after the warm-up, go to the maximum working weight and then adhere to the inverted pyramid scheme.
Triangle – the union of two pyramids
It might seem to you that it’s unfair to do warm-up sets, but not to include them in the main program. I can not agree with you. Just in this case, you follow the technique, which is called the “triangle” and combines the signs of an ascending and descending pyramid.
With triangles, you perform a couple of warm-up sets, each increasing the working weight and reducing the number of repetitions, but not getting to muscle failure. After maximum weight, you switch to the descending pyramid and work with decreasing weight and increasing number of repetitions in subsequent sets, each of which is performed before muscle failure.
This technique gives the intensity needed to gain muscle mass. After the first two exercises for each target group, you can drop all the warm-up approaches and immediately proceed to the downward pyramid. For those who seek muscle growth, this type of pyramid is one of the best training techniques.
Pyramid training without problems
Ready to integrate pyramid training, in all its possible variants, into your strength training program? Take on a few simple tips, and then put them into practice in one of the suggested training examples!
- When training in an ascending pyramid, never perform warm-up sets until muscle failure. Any set in which you continue to increase working weight is considered warm-up, which means that the number of repetitions decreases in each subsequent training set.
- Having reached the maximum weight – indicated in each exercise by the minimum number of repetitions – work until muscle failure.
- Bodybuilders and individuals seeking to maximize muscle volume should follow several sets to failure, and therefore in this case the most popular descending pyramid and triangle.
- Note that the top-down pyramid does not include warm-up sets. Do them as much as you think is necessary, but never bring the warm-up set to muscle failure.