T Nation

Pyramid vs Reverse Pyramid


Which one of these training methods do you think is better for size/hyperthrophy.

Reverse pyramid is doing 2-3 warm-up sets then doing the heaviest weight and then going lighter,6-8-10-12reps.The idea is lifting the heaviest wheight while having the most energy/freshest. I have been thinking of using this method on lateral raises as i am stuck with 12,5 kg per hand.

While the regular pyramid you one does 12,10,8,6 lightest to heaviest.This allows for better neutral activation but at the same time one might get tired by the time one gets to the heaviest weight.


The bast way to determine which one works best for you is to try it out and let us know.


I go up in weight gradually because it makes the most sense as far as safety once you start lifting heavier. These are largely non-issues if you can only curl a 40lbs dumbbell because you are at less risk of injury. There is no way I would a try a bench press much over 300lbs with little to no warm up.


same thing here.


What do you think about doing something like this for delt day as a example:
Military press, regular pyramid, 10-8-6 (I figured this will have warmed up the delts therefore one can move on to reverse pyramid safely)
and for the rest doing reverse pyramid
Lateral raises 6-8-10
Db shoulder press 6-8-10
Rear delt raise 6-8-10

Or is it still better to do regular pyramid for all exercises?


I do extended warm ups, not a "regular pyramid" and I don't reverse pyramid.

For example any barbell compound movement:

15 reps w/the bar just to get in the groove
12 reps w/40% of my target working weight
6 reps w/60%
3 reps w/80%
1 rep w/90%
Then I start my working sets.

This way I'm not tired when it comes time to doing my work sets.

Today I'll be doing deadlifts, so I won't even start with the plain bar today... probably 135 instead.


You're not stuck on 12.5kgs on lateral raise because you're not reverse pyramiding. You're stuck because you don't eat enough. Probably.


I don't think it's due to eating as i have increased on all other exercises in my routine

  1. Work your way up to the heaviest weight you're going to lift on that exercise
  2. Lift that weight for as many reps as possible
  3. Do another exercise or lift the same weight for fewer reps or lift a lighter weight for as many reps as you can
  4. Same as 3
  5. Same as 3
  6. Same as 3
    See the pattern?

It's lifting weights, not genetically manupulating bacteria to produce chimeric monoclonal anti-bodies that bind to CD20 and induce apoptosis of B-cells. ("Rocket science" is getting old)

Try "cheating" a little more a few times and you'll probably blow past the 12,5 kg plateau. Also try eating more. Good luck!


Post your numbers and the increases you've made recently.

Shontayne is right about one thing for sure: Your problem is likely not related to your set/rep scheme.

12.5Kg DB's are so light that you ought to be able to get past them no matter what you do, training-wise.


I use pyramids when I'm short on time. Apart from that...


Like X said, after a certain level of strength things just become more dangerous.

I like to think of the muscle/tendon as a piece of steel or glass. If you try to bend a piece of steel or glass while it's cold or frozen it will snap. However, if they're heated they become more pliable and will bend without breaking.

Same thing applies with the body. I think it's really important to warm the muscle up before you decide to go really heavy. It doesn't necessarily needs to be ramping up in the same exercise but just any movement that will warm up that muscle group.

So a set of pushups before you bench press should be fine. Then you can start with close to your max on bench press.


My problem isn't necerssarly the plateau in lateral raises as i think i will get passed it by the next session since i only didn't increase it in my last workout but but made reps with better form,i was toying with the idea of using reverse pyramids as a plateau buster.
What i am wondering is benefits of the reverse pyramid compared to regular,like is the being fresh argument a valid one? Martin Berkhan who wrote the lean gains diet is a advocat of the reverse pyramid.
As i have cought a cold atm for the last few days i haven't been able to workout since i have a fever,to try it.

People that recommend the reverse pyramid uses this argument:
"The greater amount of force you'll be able to generate with your muscles will be when you are freshest in your workout, e.x., the first set of each exercise performed. If a set counts, it is the first one, which is most important. "

Do you think this is valid?or is it not ,due to injury risk and maybe worse neutral muscle activation due too few sets(3 warm-ups) before hitting the max.


It's not important.

Progress is.

Reverse pyramids will take quite a bit out of you... So you will be less fresh for your second, third etc exercise. So the main argument becomes completely pointless under certain circumstances.

They work great in a program like Big Beyond Belief where you only get one exercise per muscle-group per session, or (if using a regular routine) if you have a high volume tolerance or are on gear...

Better than drop-sets though, imo (you can get in more quality work).

Thing is, what reverse pyramids/back off sets really are is a way to get more work in for the current exercise. However, you will have to lower the weight each consecutive work set... You can do a regular pyramid and stay fresh for your heaviest set simply by doing a single or double before it instead of a higher rep set.

Some guys prefer to do less exercises and more work for them (not always via reverse pyramids either), others get more out of doing more exercises and less work per exercise, just focusing on the heaviest sets basically (you'll be able to go reasonably heavy on your consecutive exercises that way, at least more-so than you would after a reverse-pyramid on the first exercise).

Up to you... One thing to consider: If you aren't used to additional volume, don't just start doing 3 back-off sets on every exercise. Add them in gradually... And ask yourself how much you really get out of them. Natties don't usually get to do a shit ton of useless pump-work if they want to keep growing and getting stronger... That may "work" great for guys who simply up their gear dosages or rely on SEO though.


Thx for the reply,and as you say it seems to be suited for low volume fas i saw Martin berkhans routine,he seems to workout HIT style,3 days on,high intensity and low volume doing reverse pyramids.Getting most work in shortest time.

I am more of a volume guy and from what you wrote,it seems i should continue with regular pyramid right?
My split looks like this:
2 days or cardio or Chest/Delt isolation and Back/triceps. I do around 12 sets for chest,back,delts
and 9 for biceps,triceps,traps.

My main goal is size/hyperthrophy,i guess reverse pyramid vs pyramid also comes down to which rep range one should focus more on.If i do a regular pyramid i will be able to go heavier in the 10 and 12 rep range while lower on my heaviest one,6 reps.
If doing reverse maybe i might be able to go heavier on the 6 rep but lower on the other sets with higher reps.


OMG WTF you still haven't posted a single strength stat about yourself....rows, squats, DLs, Bench, come on my man. Anyways, I prefer ramping up in weight, with my previous sets being sub-maximal by 1-2 reps, so they don't take much out of me...helps with being more warmed up on heavy exercises, and usually don't take much out of you even on the final set, maybe 1 rep less than if you were fresh. But if that helps you get stronger in the longer run, who gives a shit about that one rep here and now? Most likely, you're just over-analyzing like most less experienced lifters.


Yeah what I do is very similar I ramp up to my actuall work set weight by using a lot of sets that take nothing out of me then I do a max set with the heaviest weight I can handle for whatever amount of reps Im aiming for. Until recently I stopped after that 1 maxed out set but have switched to adding one more after that, if it goes well I do with more weight if I just got it ill use the same weight.


recently ive made the best progress ive ever made by focusing less on sticking to a stringent set x rep scheme and focusing more on straight up progression. if i were stuck at 12.5kg on lateral raises id be focusing on doing what i have to do to increase it be it by doing less reps leading up to my top set, rest-pausing it, increasing the weight and cheating a bit more to get used to a heavier weight, or increasing the weight im using on the lower sets and keeping the same top set (increasing total poundage for that exercise) or whatever. just my opinion.


x2 ramping FTW

This is also good for a bit of variety:


in my (very) personal opinion of world class nutter lifter "Pyramid vs Reverse Pyramid" is a nonsense...
I mean if i do pyramid I start with light weight (40% 0f my 1rm)x8 reps,add 20lbish and do 3 reps and so on until i reach my 70ish %.
now the dilemma starts; if i push to failure the set with 70&& I will pay this in next sets with higher & of load,will do less reps...

option A; 70%X12 75%X9 80%X5 85%X3 ( reps number VERY GENERALIZED)


option B: 70&x7 7%X7 80%X7 85%X4/5 (of course,just 80 and 85% sets are working sets)

if I DON'T push first set to fsilure i'm doing -basicaly- a cluster type of training,saving my energy for one/two sets...
otherwise,if i do reverse pyramid I have to warm up (for example;benching) well before my main 85& aka 5 reps set, so i -again- start from 50& of 1rm x8 reps ,adding 20lb for jump and doing 3 reps for each set, until i reach 85% of my 1rm, then go for main all-out working set.
imo, just two warm up sets with 50 and 70% of your 1rm don't allow my brain,mind,body for a real 5 reps/85% 1rm set but could be just me...

my view; really each training protocol (even those of one century ago) works if you really bust your ass with.
choose one and do it hard for almost 3 months,then see results and decide.

about lateral raises; there is (very imo) a correlation between your working loads (on the bench,rows and military press) and your body weight,I mean if you are not injuried and train with 200lb on the bench very rarely you can train with 180lb on mp.
become stronger on main excercises and also isolations loads will go up.

PS; because a painful left elbow I went lighter on dbs lateral raises and more reps,13kg (30lbish) with perfect form-failure and then extra reps with just one arm alternating,great pump&pain.
maybe going heavy on compounds and light with isolations is the way????