Pyramid training is one of the most fundamental and most effective methods for developing the volume and strength of muscles. Use this guide to create your own system of training on the principle of an ascending, descending and triangular pyramid!
Author: Bill Geiger
The history of Western civilization goes back to ancient Egypt and counts thousands of years. The legacy of Egypt has given us many things, including affection for cats. And if you are a bodybuilder, even your training program can get under the influence of 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 to convert any set of exercises, sets and repetitions according to the pyramid principle!
In strength training, the pyramid is considered the fundamental construction that you create by distributing approaches and repetitions in each exercise. It implies an easy start with a systematic increase in working weight in subsequent approaches. With increasing working weight, the number of repetitions is reduced, which illustrates the inverse relationship between the two components of the training process. The classical pyramid training, also called the ascending pyramid, is not too complicated a science. Below we will consider an ascending pyramid on the example of one exercise – bench bench press.
Pyramid training has many advantages for the development of mass and strength indicators, but, alas, it is not ideal, which was the reason for the emergence of a couple of interesting variations. Let's carefully study some of the advantages and disadvantages of the ascending pyramid.
One of the main advantages of an ascending pyramid is that warm-up approaches are present by default. You start small and gradually increase the load, which heats the target muscles and makes them plastic. If you ever went to the gym and immediately tried to lift a heavy bar without a warm-up, you know that in this way you can not get close to the maximum weights. You will be able to raise a significantly larger load and reduce the risk of injury if you include in your plan a warm-up with a gradual increase in the load.
"When I first started my way in strength training, I did not know anything about the principle of the pyramid, but I used this methodology in my trainings," says Abby Barrows, IFBB professional in the fitness bikini category and BPI Sports brand representative. "I always started small, to warm up my muscles, and ended up with the heaviest weight I could lift (the ascending pyramid). The system helps warm up the muscles and reduces the risk of injury, while preparing the target muscles for the upcoming exorbitant loads. "
The ascending pyramid is ideally suited for those who are looking for an increase in strength. Athletes striving to maximize strength, and close to not doing so many approaches to muscle failure, as bodybuilders, aimed at increasing muscle volume, limited to only 1-2 sets for exercise.
This allows them to generate maximum power in the last 1-2 approaches in which they have to lift the heaviest weight. All previous approaches serve as a warm-up. However, it should be noted that none of these warm-up approaches can be performed before muscle failure.
In the very nature of the pyramid laid a large training volume. Adhering to the ascending scheme and increasing the working weight in each subsequent approach, you inevitably perform many sets, which guarantees a high volume of work – a marker of muscle growth.
In terms of stimulating hypertrophy (muscle mass increase), training systems with many approaches are preferable to low-volume programs.
It's time to say that this training system has two significant drawbacks. First, the warm-up is never carried out to failure – even close. A huge number of approaches can become a serious problem, especially when you are full of energy at the beginning of a workout.
There is a great temptation to perform the set before a muscle failure, but the payoff for this will be a slight drop in the strength indicators in subsequent approaches. If you perform several light approaches before failure, you will move away from your goals, be it growth of strength or muscle mass. You need to keep the muscles fresh during the hardest (last) approach. If you are too tired during the previous sets, they definitely will not be full of energy. Therefore, all warm-up approaches need to be completed shortly before muscle failure.
Secondly, the aforementioned aspect forces you to get to the muscle failure only in the last approach, and this is not always enough if your goal is the maximum muscle size. Muscle failure is important in terms of stimulating growth processes. For the muscles to grow, they need to be subjected to stress, significant in quantitative terms. One approach to failure can not give the momentum for growth that you need.
In short, the ascending pyramid well suits those who crave the growth of strength and power, but it is not so effective when the maximum increase in the size of the musculature is at stake. This feature is important.
So, if an ascending pyramid can not be called an ideal choice when working on mass, what then is possible? Take a descending pyramid, sometimes called an inverted one. The name very accurately conveys the essence of the technique: you start with the maximum weight, perform several repetitions, then reduce the weight and make more and more repetitions in subsequent approaches. This is just an inverted copy of the previously considered pyramid for bench press lying.
I propose to dwell on some of the advantages that the use of an inverted pyramid conceals.
In the inverted pyramid, you maximally load the target muscle in the first approaches, when it is still full of energy. With fewer approaches that consume your forces before lifting the maximum weight, in the heaviest set you use the maximum amount of muscle fibers, which leads to greater growth.
Barrows points out that the descending pyramid is better suited for serious muscular development tasks. "I really love the descending pyramid, because it allows you to start with the most difficult without sets that accumulate fatigue," she says. "Today I'm training on an inverted pyramid with at least four different scales. I get tired the hardest when I train in this way. "
The inverted pyramid is ideal for working to increase muscle volume, because you often achieve muscle failure. When you work on strength, you do not want to train so often to the point of failure, but working on the mass requires a different approach. With this type of pyramid, you achieve failure from the very first approach, and reach it much more often. From the first to the last set you can work to the point of failure, and this is important, when the stimulation of mechanisms responsible for muscle growth is at stake.
"Exercise to the point of failure is important for building muscle, because you are tearing the muscle fibers," Barrows says. " "By training in this way, you get more muscle micro-ruptures."
The descending pyramid guarantees a high training volume, but it also allows you to train with greater intensity and load. 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 using an inverted pyramid.
"I try to practice this technique as often as it is possible at all," adds Barrows. "This is affected by the degree of muscle soreness. Usually I use this approach for the lion's share of the muscles of the upper body, especially the shoulders. I also like to crouch along the pyramid, but after that it's too hard to walk for the whole next week! "
If you were careful, you remember that lifting a heavy weight requires a thorough warm-up. Obviously, the descending pyramid does not provide for warm-up approaches.
Although there is no warm-up in the classic inverted pyramid, ignoring it will be a big mistake. As in the case of the ascending pyramid, the warm-up is never performed until muscle failure. Immediately after the warm-up, go to the maximum working weight and then follow the scheme of the inverted pyramid.
You might think it's not fair to do warm-up approaches, but do not include them in the main program. I can not agree with you. Simply in this case, you follow a technique 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 the muscle failure. After the maximum weight, you switch to the descending pyramid and work with decreasing weight and increasing number of repetitions in subsequent approaches, each of which is performed before muscle failure.
This technique gives the volume and intensity necessary for a set of muscle mass. After the first two exercises for each target group, you can drop all warm-up approaches and immediately proceed to the descending pyramid. For those who want to grow musculature, this type of pyramid is one of the best training techniques.
Are you ready to integrate pyramid training, in all its possible options, into your strength training program? Take on board a few simple tips, and then implement them in practice in one of the suggested examples of training!
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