Pyramid sets are widely recommended in most gyms and do have their place, but this isn’t the quickest route to gaining strength. Pyramid sets are great for exhausting the muscle and building mass, but what if your goal is muscle definition? I will recommend a better approach.
[The Great Pyramids near Cairo, Egypt. This is one of those “places to see before you die”. Damn we live on an amazing planet!]
What Exactly are Pyramid Sets?
I think most of you know what I’m talking about, but here is a quick reminder. Doing a lift in a “pyramid set” fashion is when you start with a light weight and do it for 10-12 reps, then increase the weight each do the next 4-5 sets with less and less reps. So you might hop on a bench and do a set of 12 with 135, a set of 10 with 185, a set of 8 with 205, a set of 6 with 225, then a “pump out” set with as many reps as possible with 135. Pyramid sets don’t require you to follow this exact rep range, I’m just using these as an example of a typical pyramid scheme that is common.
Why Have Pyramid Sets Been So Popular?
The logic behind pyramid sets makes sense. You start out with a light weight, which helps insure that you don’t pull a muscle and you end up with a heavy weight to gain strength. This is a great way to work both fast twitch and slow twitch fibers, which will ensure maximum muscle growth if a strategic diet plan is followed as well. It is a great way to build mass, but not the best way to gain strength.
“Jack of All Trades Master of None”
The problem with doing a wide variety of reps is that you will never be great in any specific rep range. If you want to get good at low reps, practice lifting low reps…If you want to get better at high reps then stick in that rep range. Think about world class runners…how many athletes are good at both 100 meter sprints and marathons? The answer is none! It really makes a lot of sense if you think about it!
What About Warming Up With Lighter Weights?
The big mistake I see a lot of people make is that they grab a light weight for a warm up and move the weight at lightning speed for 10-15 reps. The problem with this is that this doesn’t prepare your nervous system properly to deliver a strong impulse to the muscle when you hit your heavy low rep sets. If you are doing sets of 5, grab a light weight and lift it for only 5 reps. This is a way to warm up with a lighter weight, but still staying within the 5 rep range.
Try to Do All Sets at The Same Speed for the Same Rep Range
So let’s say that you are warming up with a couple of lighter sets of 5 reps. When you grab that light weight, lift it “like it is heavy”. Tense the muscles hard and lift it at the same slower velocity you lift when the weight is heavy. I like to pretend that I’m an actor and I’m trying to make this lighter weight look heavy for a movie clip. What will happen is that you are preparing your muscles and nervous system properly for the heavier sets. Doing a fast set of 10-15 when you are eventually going to lift a slow sets of 5 is foolish…it is like jogging 10 miles each day in preparation for a 100 meter sprint.
If You Have Been Doing Pyramid Sets, You Will Love This!
I spent my first 10 years of lifting doing pyramid sets. I always got sore and gained a lot of mass, but I would have a much tougher time gaining strength on a consistent basis. Pyramid sets are great for gaining mass, but aren’t the best when it comes to gaining strength. As soon as I adopted a true strength training program that avoided pyramids, all my lifts went up quickly. You will be blown away at how much more effective this “focused” approach is compared to doing pyramid sets. Give it a try!
Other Good Strength Training Articles from Across The Web…
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