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What Is Pyramid Training?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Pyramid training is a type of weight lifting routine in which a lifter will start with lighter weights and more repetitions, then progress to more weight with fewer repetitions. This workout is designed to increase strength and muscle growth, and while many proponents advocate for pyramid training because of the quick results and thorough workout, detractors note the higher risk of injury and prolonged amount of time it takes to complete the workout due to the constant changing of weights. Variations on this type of training include the reverse pyramid and the truncated pyramid workout.

A typical pyramid training session will start with some sort of stretching or brief warm-up to help prevent injuries to the muscles throughout the course of the workout. The lifter will then choose a weight that will require about a 60% effort, meaning the initial weights will be quite light for the lifter. He or she will do several repetitions with this weight — usually more than ten repetitions minimum — and then rest very briefly. The lifter will then choose a slightly heavier weight that requires about 70% exertion, and he or she will do fewer repetitions than were done with the first weight. This process will repeat with 80% exertion, 90% exertion, and finally full exertion. The maximum weight in the pyramid training session may only require one or two repetitions.

Pyramid training is designed to strengthen muscle and promote muscle growth.
Pyramid training is designed to strengthen muscle and promote muscle growth.

A reverse pyramid training workout works in much the same way as the regular pyramid workout; the difference is in the order of weight use. The reverse pyramid requires the lifter to start with the heaviest weights and lower repetitions, and then progress to lighter weights and more repetitions. The benefits of each type of workout are only slightly different from each other, though most professional lifters will recommend the pyramid set over the reverse pyramid.

The idea behind pyramid training is thorough muscle development: higher repetitions at lower weights will encourage blood flow to the muscles, which allow them to function more efficiently. The higher weights will help build muscle mass by essentially overloading the muscle fibers and encouraging the muscles to grow more muscle fibers. If the pyramid workout is done consistently over the course of weeks or months, the muscles will begin to adapt to the differing weights, meaning the muscles will work more efficiently. It is, of course, important to perform all the lifting exercises correctly to prevent injury to the muscles during the intense movements.

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    • Pyramid training is designed to strengthen muscle and promote muscle growth.
      By: Christopher Howey
      Pyramid training is designed to strengthen muscle and promote muscle growth.