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Reverse Pyramid Training and My Workout Plan



I did a program which most people on these forums would say is a ripoff of 5/3/1, but I thought it was great. Anyways, I'm only saying this so that you know I'm not a complete beginner (also see my lift numbers), but I am somewhat of a beginner/novice I suppose.

The program I'm now on is based on Martin Berkhan's program and uses the concept of reverse pyramid training around 4 main exercises: squat, chinups, bench press, and squat. The most important set is the first, the second one is +1 rep minus 10% weight, and the third +1 more rep minus another 10%. Once the upper rep range has been hit for the first set, the weight can move up in the next workout. For example, the deadlift rep range is 3-5. So if I hit 300lb x 4, in the next set I take 10% off and add one more weight. THen in the next workout, IF and only IF I do 300lb x 5 in the first set, then in my next workout the following week I can move up to 305lb.

My goal is to become stronger and gain some muscle mass.

The first number indicated the # of sets, second number is # of reps.

Mondays (Deadlift and Chinup day)

Deadlifts 2 x 3-5
Chinups 3 x 4-6
BB Bent Over Row: 3 x 5

Wednesday (Press)

Bench Press 3 x 6-8
Overhead press 3 x 6-8
Inclined Bench Press 3 x 5 or 6
Tricep dips: 2 x 8-12 reps
Some shrug exercise x 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Friday (Squat)

BB Back Squat 3 x 4-6
Hip Thrusts 3 x 6-8
Front Squat 3 x 8 (I keep switching this exercise. I think it would be better to work on my hamstrings, like with stiff-legged deadlifts).
Some calf raise exercise of 2 sets x 8-12 reps (usually lever standing calf raise)

Current numbers:
Deadlift: 300lb x 5 before my grip fails. With straps, I can pull easily do the same plus 25-35lb.
Chinups: Bodyweight (160lb) + 95lb = 255lb x 1, and BW + 55 = 215lb x 6 (done 5 minutes after deadlifts)
Bench Press; 170lb x 6 or 7
Overhead Press: 100lb x 5 (done 4 minutes after bench press)
BB Back Squat: 245lb x 6 (this is a low bar squat, so the # is probably lower if I did a high bar squat) (I also go a bit more than just below parallel).

Thanks, y'all.


berkhan is ripped...and dont get me wrong, he looks better than i do, but i wouldnt say he's big and loaded with mass. If gaining mass is what youre looking for, i think you may want to consider reading up on some articles and changing your program all together. I would look into John Berardi's "Gladiator training". solid program, from a very VERY knowledgable guy. it's on his website under the articles tab.


The first part of your post is very ironic considering at your current strength levels a very basic foundational program would benefit you very much still.

A non-advanced lifter


I didn't see a point, question or reason for writing what you did? Just to share your current program? You are more trained than the average sedentary public who may be obese, anorexic, unhealthy or whatever. BUT you could benefit from advice from pretty much anyone who lifts weights at all.

To be honest this post (if it has a purpose) should be in the beginners section. Your chinup strength is quite good, but I doubt it's textbook stretch-contraction kind of lifting, probably 'kipping pullups', no? An 100lb overhead press makes you a beginner, I am sorry. Even professor ex can do 200lbs and he doesn't even do that movementz lol

I'm glad you're enjoying Berkhan's plan. Berkhan is very lean, I like IF so thanks for that Martin. BUT his training plan (as evidenced here) is not the best at all.
The model of progression is okay. It is sensible for compound lifts, and achievable. Keep pushing(/pulling) hard and you will see some gains, in time. But here are the main problems I see with your plan as outlined:

1) Shoulder work. There is far too little. Overhead press, and some indirect work through Bench press and rows will not do you any good for your shoulder work.

Also, you are doing considerably more work around the shoulder joint that will lead to rounding forward of the shoulders, such as presses (and also chinups will internally rotate your shoulder as that's what the lats do) as well as shrugs, than depression/retraction of the scapulae. For this reason, and the dips (which my shoulders hate) I predict a shoulder injury. You should IMO add in work like rear delt flies, external rotations with a DB, face pulls, more rowing (feeling your mid-back contracting as you do it). Deadlift and chinup day should be your busiest day, not press day.

2) Arm work. There is none. Think about it. You have arms. You should do at least a little training for your arms.

3) Volume. It is far too little work. I am currently dieting, so do less than normal. But even now, I do 3-5 exercises, 6 days a week, for between 1-4 work sets per exercise. I would do more if I was eating to support it.

4) Ab work. You have abs. They are in the middle of your body. They are important. You should consider doing cable pulldowns, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, twist crunches or all of them. Abs do: trunk flexion, rotation, anti-flexion, and anti-rotation. You are currently training them (with your leg movements) only in the anti-flexion function, if at all.

Berkhan, Rippetoe and others who seem to hate 'isolation' moves have spread some misinformation.

Isolation moves, like the much-hated tricep kickback, are amazing. They are specifically for improving weaknesses, which are unique to each lifter.

With a training plan like you have, you are acting like your shoulders, abs and arms will grow without you asking them to. You are acting like you have no weaknesses, which may be the case, but extremely unlikely.

e.g. I wasn't feeling my triceps during heavier movements, so i started doing lighter high-rep 'pump' sets of tricep kickbacks beforehand, with maximum contraction (no distractions - they are only for triceps). The result: I have better mind-muscle connection to triceps, which benefits my compound presses etc.

All the best


Hits just about everything
Depends on how you grip, but if your Chinup is the grip i think for chinup, and not pullup, Mostly Bi, some back
Depending where you bring the bar, Upper back or Lats.

Depending on form, mostly pecs

Depending on form, Quads, hams, Glutes, + others
Really depends on form, but should be Hams, hip group, possibly calves if you toe off
Mostly quads
Depending on that Calf exercise, mostly either Gastroc or Soleus

MY Problems with this routine:

1) Now, looking at this distribution of muscle attention, there's not a whole lot of love being spread.

2)Most of these days assume that 1 movement will be hitting a muscle sufficiently enough that you wont need to do 2 or 3 more movements, like everyone else.

3)There is little volume.

4)Reverse Pyramid training, IMO, is a pretty dangerous approach to training, and i just dont see it being too great for muscle growth, especially in terms of size.

5) Time between Days. A full week to make a complete cycle?

If your goal is bodybuilding size, as i assume it would be considered the section, then i just dont think this is a great approach. if the goal is simple strength, i dunno, i could be terribly wrong about everything i said. Perhaps the powerlifting section might be able to provide more insight. Then again, i could be completely wrong. Meh.


To be fair Akuma, regarding point 2, could you say that that may not be a bad thing. I mean DC is based around only doing one movement per muscle and many people have had great progress using that. Just playing a bit of devils advocate.

As far as building strength goes - I wouldn't consider that anywhere close to ideal for building strength due to the relatively low % work being done. Not to mention it'd have him folding up on himself and not being able to get out of the hole when using maximal weights. Just my 2 cents.


Yea, as i was saying, i could be wrong. What i was saying is through what ive done, through what ive seen bigger than me guys do, and from what ive taught dozens of others, that isnt a great approach.

  • THank you all. I'll respond to the lack of arm and core workouts first. It's not true that they're not being hit. Deadlifts (I switch to mixed grip once I fail) hit all the arm (especially biceps) and core. Squats hit the core, as do chinups. Deadlifts also hit the forearm pretty big. Frankly, I'm not crazy about core exercise.

I don't remember where I read the study, but they did a research on athlete and non-athlete performance before and after a core training phase, and there was no improvement. Focusing on core 3-5 times a week seems to be overrated to me.

  • "Reverse Pyramid training, IMO, is a pretty dangerous approach to training" Please explain. I warmup sufficiently prior to my first lift.

  • "Shoulder work. There is far too little" Agreed. I was trying to put in face pulls on bench day.

  • overhead press: exercises involving my shoulder (previously injured) have been my weakness. But note that 100lb is not my 1RM. My 1RM OHP 4 weeks ago was 125lb. If I do it right now, it should be at least 140lb. This is much higher considering that after 4 months of Starting Strength I still couldn't do 85lb x 5/5/5 and the reason I quit SS was because of shoulder injury.

  • I should clarify what I meant by gaining mass. I'm 156lb right now, around 10-12% bodyfat, and i like to go down to 8% bodyfat eventually at 165lb. SO I need to add 15lb of muscle and lose 6lb of fat, or something like that. I'm not so keen about getting ripped. Just a bit bigger, leaner, but much stronger.

  • "Your chinup strength is quite good, but I doubt it's textbook stretch-contraction kind of lifting, probably 'kipping pullups', no?"

NO! and NO! The form for all my main lifts is very very good. I even squat lower than most people. For chinups, I stay hanging, pull myself up slowly while slightly getting out of vertical so my feet are a bit more forward than my head, and and once my chin passes the bar I move my head forward a bit while pulling up until the bar touches my upper chest. Then I come all the way down. Kinda like this:

  • Isolation exercises: put me in the camp that says beginners don't really need isolation exercises.

  • Like I said before, I was doing Growth Stimulus Training before this one and it looked something like this:
    Squat, forward lunge, close-feet leg press
    CHinups, seated cable rows, tricep cable pushdown, dual-pulley lat pulldown
    Deadlift, glute bridges, good mornings, romanian deadliest
    Bench Press, incline dumbbell bench press, overhead press, dips

I've already taken up too much space, so if you're interested in finding out how the set and rep scheme worked you can find it in my journal on bb.com.

And it seems all of you are saying this is superior because it has more volume. The reason I started my current workout, however, is a lack of time and inability to go to the gym 4 times a week.

Again, thanks.


Deadlifts will work the forearm, and possibly triceps to some degree, but if you are working biceps during your deadlifts, you are setting yourself up for a muscle tear. Chinups work biceps.


OP, what are your goals?

If your goals are Bodybuilding (it's in the BB forum, or it should be beginners' forum,) why are you doing a split like this? There is so much wrong with it from a BBing I wouldn't even know where to start.


Yeah, my bad, this shouldn't have been in the bodybuilding section. Sorry about that.


Your core isn't being worked enough by deadlifts to actually help your squat and deadlift (if you care about your numbers). Get in some heavy ab work, giving you more stability in the hole, better lockout power on the pull. If you want to hit big numbers, need to be able to stabilize them (for the record you're not hitting big numbers if you think you are). Anti rotation work, as well as heavy pulldown type work will help with the above.


Fair enough. Different strokes for different boats.


Hmmm, it seems that my post was moved from the bodybuilding forum to the beginners forum here, and at the same time, the recent post i made to the beginners forum was removed even though it had an extra post. Damn you, admin :stuck_out_tongue:


OK, keeping in mind that this was originally posted in the body building subforum (and really it shouldn't have been), I've given the replies some thought (thanks everyone!) and here's my response:

1) Shoulder work. There is far too little.
- Fine. So I'm adding 1 set of kroc rows after my bent-ver barbell rows on my deadlift day, followed by 3 sets of facepulls on the same day and another 2 sets of pacepulls on bench day.

2) Arm work. There is none. Think about it. You have arms.
- Again, deadlifts hit the arms almost better than anything else. Chinups as well. And rows, and now kroc rows. If that wasn't enough, I also do a set of bicep curls on deadlift day for fun. I think that's more than enough for a beginner.

3) Volume. It is far too little work.
- Tons of studies have shown that volume is only useful for hypertrophy. For actual strength, not necessarily; in fact, only one all-out set (hence why the reverse-pyramid scheme) seems to be enough for strength. I'm aiming for both strength and hypertrophy but primarily strength. I want to build a solid foundation for later but since I'm a beginner, a strength-focused workout will also add enough muscle mass.

4) Ab work. You have abs. They are in the middle of your body.
- Which is why I'm not doing 2 sets of leg raises on each workout day (3 times a week). In a few weeks I might drop those in favor of something like ab-ripperX on non-workout days (twice a week).

1) Now, looking at this distribution of muscle attention, there's not a whole lot of love being spread.
- What does that mean? I'm doing compound exercises which hit all my body and every muscle group.

3) There is little volume.
- Again, not needed for strength. But I've also added a few more assistance exercises as I've mentioned.

4)Reverse Pyramid training, IMO, is a pretty dangerous approach to training, and i just dont see it being too great for muscle growth,
especially in terms of size.
- Why? What is your opinion based on? Intuition? I warm up very carefully before I start lifting. And for strength, it's good enough.

5) Time between Days. A full week to make a complete cycle?
- I'm doing compound lifts. They're very taxing. It's not like I'm doing set after set of tricep pulls or bicep curls or leg curls.

6) Your chinup strength is quite good, but I doubt it's textbook stretch-contraction kind of lifting, probably 'kipping pullups', no?
Already addressed this, but because the suggestion of me doing kipping pullups makes me mad, I'm going to say, once again, NO!


lol I almost wrote a whole rant here.

OP I'm eager to see how you progress with this whole setup.


Well done. You were right all along. Please teach me lol

More constructively, your lateral deltoids need some work, still.
But by all means continue with what you are doing as long as it makes you happy.


You are 160 pounds. You need mass and hypertrophy. Depending on your height, I guess you need at least 20 pounds of muscle to be able to reach some decent strength level.


Man, I'd be surprised if OP has any friends other than his mom IRL.


Umm, bravo. Point well made. You've clearly shown your ability to critically analyze my counterpoints in the same way a third grades retorts against his classmates.

I just responded to the points that was made and said thanks. I'm not sure what's going on with this last set of replies. If I'm wrong, then just say I'm wrong and why and be helpful. If you can't bother with that, then just leave it be. For example,


are helpful, valid, and constructive tips, so thank you both for those comments.

Well, as examples, in exactly 34 days I've done the following:

Squat: 245 x 1 --> 245 x 5
Deadlift: 305 x 1 mixed grip --> 300 x 5 after a 290 x 5 set, regular overhand grip and done very easily.
Chinups: (BW+40lb) x 6 --> (BW+60lb) x 6
OHP (remember, multiple shoulder injuries): 120 x 1 --> 135lb x 1 (yes, still a far way to go).

I'd say that's decent progress in one month, no? If my workout plan sucks and I stall/get injured quickly, then I'll go back to my similar-and-not-so-similar-to 5/3/1 program from before which had a lot more volume and had me training 4 days a week.