T Nation

To Pyramid Or Not To Pyramid


For as long as I have been lifting weights, I have adopted the method described by John Berardi in his article, "The Creation of a T-Man":

"...I try not to mess around with the weights too much. I pick a weight that I'd fail at after about ten to twelve reps and bang out four sets of as many as I can do. If I can complete all the reps for four sets, I up the weight during the following session. If I can't complete all the sets with ten to twelve reps, I stay put until I can."

I train in exactly the same manner as Dr Berardi has summarised above, except in some sessions I "bang out" four sets of six to eight reps and in others, four sets of ten to twelve reps. However, recently, a friend has informed me that this method of training is futile and that the only option that will yield significant results is to increase the load each set and obviously, if necessary, decrease the number of reps each set. What do you folks think? I certainly hope I haven't been wasting my time in the gym!


You haven't been wasting your time. Your method is fine (many of us use constant weight for all sets).

Pyramids are just another way to structure your training. I used to use pyramids when I first started training, as I think they work better for beginners who are neurologically inefficient at lifting weights. By increasing the weight on each set and staying within a certain rep range (8-12), you can increase strength and hypertrophy. However, for intermediate and advanced trainees, I don't think pyramids are the best way to structure the workouts.

There is research that shows that varying reps too much as many people do during pyramids (2-12 reps within one set) is not as effective. I believe Poliquin has talked about this. That's why it's best to stay within a smaller rep range (3-5, 4-6, 5-7, 7-9, 8-10, 10-12, etc.).


everything works...

for a while...


Thanks for the explanation. :slight_smile:


Nothing works...



Something works...



Even a broken clock is right...

Twice a day...


Not to pyramid.


Perfectly stated!


lol, so you guys think after about 12 years of the same split I should mix it up some. I was brain washed by FLEX magazine in the early 90s and have never recovered.


Traditional increasing weight-decreasing rep pyramids aren't very useful. Like they said, everything works for a while, but it is much MORE productive to warm up, then do the heavier sets first.

A decent way to do it in a lift you're trying to bring up (or bodypart, depending) is 2 x 2-4, 2 x 6-8, 2 x 10-15. Can be the same exercise or different, depending on goals.



One strategy some coaches are starting to use now is wave loading. Something like this:

Say your existing 5RM in bench press is 275.

  1. Warm-up Sets
  2. 5 x 270
  3. 3 x 270
  4. 2 x 270
  5. 5 x 280
  6. 3 x 280
  7. 2 x 280


your wife/girlfriend must be pretty damn disappointed then!


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