Pyramid vs Reverse Pyramid Sets

Pyramid vs Reverse Pyramid Sets

What is it?

Pyramid sets are the conventional way that people like to train in the gym. Typically this involves having the first set of a certain exercise with the most repetitions and as more and more sets are performed, the reps are decreased. For example, my first set would be 15 reps, then my second would be 12 reps, then 8, and so on. But what is better? Doing the standard pyramid sets that most people do or doing a reverse pyramid?


Whats the difference?

There really isn’t a right answer to this question. Personally I like to do normal pyramid sets but there are also benefits of doing a reverse pyramid. A reverse pyramid is simply starting at the heaviest weight on the first set with the lowest amount of reps then gradually decreasing the weight and increasing the reps. The benefits of doing reverse pyramids are that often times the first set is when you are at your strongest and at your strongest. So it makes sense to work your way up in reps as your muscles start getting fatigued. But there are also negatives. If done incorrectly or when you are not properly warmed up, you can get severely injured by using the heaviest weight first. Depending on your experience level, I would not recommend reverse pyramids for beginners. If you do decide to do reverse pyramid sets, please make sure you are properly warmed up to prevent injury. Normal pyramid sets have the benefit of warming up to your heaviest weight through higher repetitions in the first few sets. By doing pyramid sets, your muscles are being worked more. Which as a result forces blood into the muscle which drives nutrients. The only downside to doing the standard sets and reps is that once you get to the last set of your exercise, you won’t be able to lift as much. I would suggest implementing both types to have a well rounded physique and to change things up to keep your body guessing. If you continually do the same exercises, same amount of reps, and same amount of sets, your body will get used to your routine and adjust. Eventually your gains in the gym will slow and your goals will stagnate.

How to change it up?

There are several different things that personal trainers and bodybuilders use in order to continue advancing in the gym. One of the most common is changing rep tempo. What I mean by this is change the time your muscles are under tension. If you keep the weight moving versus holding or squeezing, you will find that you can’t lift as much weight as you normally could and you approach failure sooner. This is not necessary a bad thing, it allows better stimulation and activation of the muscle. Another strategy you can implement is ‘burnout’ sets. These are usually towards the end of your workout or a certain exercise. For example if you are doing push ups, you might stop short of failure. When doing a burnout, you do as many ‘clean’ reps as possible, then you drop to your knees and do push ups past failure. This will allow you to force more blood into the muscle. There are several other ways you can change up your routine to keep your body guessing but those are a few ideas if you are a beginner or amateur in the gym.

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