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Make big gains in strength, power and muscle growth with this 4-week pyramid training scheme.


If you have followed a number of my programs, then you know that I am a big proponent of periodization. This means that during each workout, you stick with a specific rep range on each exercise. Rep ranges change on a scheduled basis, usually every week (microcycles) or every time you train the same muscle group. Another way of training is to do a number of different rep ranges in the same workout. For example: Set one may be done for 12-15 reps, then set two for 8-10 reps, and set 3 for 3-6 reps. Or you can go in the opposite direction, from low reps to high reps.


If the change in rep ranges with each set follows some form of a linear manner, as shown above, then it's referred to as a "pyramid." Pyramid training has been very popular with bodybuilders and other strength athletes for decades. There are three basic types of pyramids when it comes to weight training: An "ascending pyramid" starts with light weight and high reps, and with each successive set, the weight gets heavier and the reps get lower. A "descending pyramid" starts with heavy weight and low reps, and each successive set gets lighter and the reps get higher. There is also an "ascending/descending pyramid" (sometimes called a "triangle pyramid") in which the weight increases and then decreases. Alternately, there's the "descending/ascending pyramid," in which the weight gets lighter and then heavier.

As far as comparing pyramid training to periodization, I’d argue that periodization is better. However, since you need to switch things up, it can be beneficial to go from a periodized program to a pyramid program, then back to a periodized program. Remember: Change is good.

Power Up the Pyramid

As you would expect, I've taken the standard pyramid training scheme and modified it to make it even better. My Power Pyramid Training uses an ascending/descending pyramid as the template, but is quite different than any standard pyramid you may have seen. It not only changes up the weight and reps each set, but it also changes up the rep speed (tempo) used. This is in an effort to not only build greater strength and muscle mass, but also build more power.

If you have read any of my articles on power training, then you know that using a very fast and explosive rep speed is important for maximizing power development. Building power is not only great for athletes, but it can help to increase your strength on exercises and build more muscle.

Set 1: The first set of my Power Pyramid Training is done with a very light weight that allows you to perform about 30 reps or more on that exercise. However, you will only perform 8 reps and stop. You don't want to fatigue your muscles when training for power. The fatiguing sets will come later. These 8 reps will be performed as quickly and explosively as possible on the positive portion of the rep, then slow and controlled on the negative portion. This first stage will serve as both a warm-up set and a power-building set.

Set 2: For the second set, increase the weight to a one that will allow you to perform about 15-20 reps on that exercise. For this set, you will stop at 5 reps. These 5 reps will be performed again as quickly and explosively as possible on the positive portion of the rep, then slow and controlled on the negative part of the rep. This stage will serve as a second power set to further build more power in that muscle group.

Sets 3 and 4: For the third and fourth sets, jump way up in weight to a weight that limits you to do 6 reps. You will perform as many reps as possible on each set, hopefully reaching failure at or around rep 6, at least on set three. Treat these two sets as typical strength sets, with full rest in between (up to 2-3 minutes). Don’t worry about how many reps you can get on set four. Keep the weight the same and do what you can.

You should still try to perform these reps as fast and explosively as possible, even though the extreme heavy weight will prevent you from moving quickly. Just trying to move a heavy weight as explosively as possible can help increase both power and strength. This stage will serve as a combo strength/power set, building both muscle strength and power. The third and fourth sets are the peak of the pyramid, and from here you will descend down the pyramid.

Sets 5 and 6: The last two sets are basically two sets (and maybe three) in one, because it’s one set that involves a drop set. I've listed it as two sets in the program for a reason: Unlike typical drop sets in which you reduce the weight by 20%-30% and do as many reps as you can until muscle failure, in this set you'll

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