T Nation

Pyramid and 350 Method


Hi Paul,
in one of your articles you suggested a pyramid scheme for shoulders development: 25 reps - increase weight - 15 reps - increase weight - 10 reps, rest 3 minutes, repeat doing 10-15-25, for a total of 100 reps.

I really like squeezing more work into less time, so I applied it to most of my assistance work in the last few weeks: DB rows, rear raises, curls, lateral raises, pushdowns, belt squats, leg press.
I also supersetted the smaller movements, i.e. I’d pyramid up with rear raises 25-15-10, then immediatly pyramid up rope hammer curls 25-15-10, rest 3 minutes and pyramid down each one back to back. Same with lateral raises and pushdowns. And just to make sure I did at least “something” right, I also used slow negative, paused reps and different tempos during the various sets.
I like how it’s been working, I’m running a basic 3 days PPL split and I can really hammer the assistance work after strength work while having a lot of time to recover.

But, I also just managed to catch up with some of your articles and stuff in your blog and seen you recommend the 350 method. I want to try and mix it with the above, my exercise selection is pretty much the one I wrote above, plus body weight dips that I usually superset with plate raises for 5-6 sets of 8-10 reps, and I want to take off the leg press for the hack squat.
As I said in the BTN press thread, exercise selection is a bit crippled by the fact I’m still dealing with the thumb tendinopathy and I can’t do much that requires bending/flexing the wrist (front squats, benches, overhead presses with a close grip, most DB variations of pushing exercises).

So, with this in mind, in your blog you suggested to be a bit conservative, which of the above exercises would you recommend pushing with the 350 method, while keeping the others with the pyramid scheme? Is this a good idea at all?
I was leaning towards belt squats on leg day, DB rows on pull day and dips on push day. The push day’s main work is BTN press working up to a heavy set of 6-10 reps, with a backoff set of 15-20+ reps, so another option could be to scale the weight down and instead of a single set of 15-20 reps, use the 350 approach.
Also, the pyramid scheme nets a total of 100 reps, while the 350 method a total of 50 reps, this would mean that I’m getting less volume on belt squats and DB rows but the 350 method allows to handle more weight, so the actual volume/poundage difference is minimal, I guess it wouldn’t make much sense to add even more work to make up for that slight difference.

Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance!


I don’t recommend using either the 350 method or the giant set method with things like squats. Took systemic intensive and also anything with a lot of axial loading, it’s a no no. Straight sets there for those movements.

For something like squats, I would go with the 50% sets where you do 1 set then rest 60 seconds and do a second set trying to get half the number of reps you did in the first set.

For the 350 I used it often on pressing movements. Not single joint exercises.

The 25-15-10 giant set is really more for single joint movements so I would use it for those. That’s kind of the high level overview for the best ways to apply all of these.


Thanks Paul!

Hadn’t read of this method yet, thanks again. Does this apply to free weight squats only, like belt squats, or is it also recommended for machine work like hack squats?

The BTN Press is pretty much the only multi joint pressing exercise I can do now, along with dips, could I replace the 15-20 reps backoff set on the BTN press with the 350 method? Without benching, I don’t see issues upping the pushing volume

That’s great!

EDIT: apologies for the followup, what about rows? I seem to recall I’ve read on your blog that you used the 350 method with barbell rows, is it a go for DB rows too? Or should I opt for straight sets?


A squat is a squat is a squat…


And try doing an article search. Paul has explained the 50 % method many times.


sorry to bother again.
It just occurred to me - while I can’t bench with my fucked up thumb right now, I might be able to bench with a wide-ish reverse grip. I’m gonna give it a try next week and see how my hand responds, I’d do incline bench with reverse grip and it’s the kind of thing that seems perfect with the 350 method - forcing to keep a very low weight and not being an asshole.

What I was wondering is, if I wanted to keep a 3 days a week format (legs - push - pull currently), would you recommend to use the 350 method on both the BTN press and reverse grip incline in the same workout?

It would be something like:
BTN press - main work (working up to 1-2 heavier sets of 6-10 reps)
BTN press - 350 method
Reverse grip incline - 350 method
Bodyweight dips - 50 reps
Lateral raises giant set (25-15-10 pyramid up and down)
Tricep pushdowns giant set (25-15-10 pyramid up and down)

or maybe it would be wiser to rotate each week the 350 method between the BTN press and reverse grip incline?

Thanks in advance!


No I don’t recommend using it on both. Just one or the other.

Again, for BTN if it’s feasible then use the heavy set of 5 then back off set of 10-12, and then 15-20.

I’d use the 350 for the incline.


I mixed it up a bit: for BTN press I’ve been working up to a heavy-ish set of 6-10 and used the 50% method to rest 1 min and try to get half the reps. This usually nets 8-10 reps followed by 5-6 reps at the heaviest set. Then the 350 method - this while doing the BTN press as only big push barbell lift.

Should I keep the 50% method for the heaviest set (thus ending at about 5 heavy reps) then follow up with the backoffs of 10-12 and 15-20?
Or simply drop the 50% method and ramp up to a single heavy set of 5 followed by the backoffs?

Thanks again for taking the time to reply, for some reason I seem to suck at figuring out the best approach to upper body stuff (even if the setup I’ve been using has worked great for shoulders, triceps and traps, with chest lagging behind a bit due to reduced exercise selection)


Honestly man just experiment with it. I can’t tell you what’s “best” in that regard because you know your body, and you’ll be the one tracking your numbers to see how the progression is coming. So take some chances and just experiment and see how you respond. If your performance is going up then you’re dialed in. If you’re into it mentally then your performance should go up as well. So a lot of this is figuring out how the method is “speaking” to you.