Bodybuilders constantly find themselves looking for new methods of training, designed not only to help them pack on as much muscle mass as possible, whilst burning as much fat as they can, but also to basically provide them with an enjoyable alternative to their standard workouts they perform week in and week out for months at a time. Studies have found that in order for us to get the most from our training, we need to break it up, mix it up, and include new exercises, protocols, programs, and techniques to really keep our bodies guessing so that they don’t know whether they’re coming or going. Once we decide to switch things up, we’re next faced with a new conundrum, and that is actually deciding which form of training we should focus on. Some people opt for full-body routines, some people opt for 5-day splits, and some prefer push/pull days. One form of training however, which has proven extremely effective and popular, including with none other than the Austrian Oak himself Arnold Schwarzenegger, is pyramid training, and at its core, it is actually extremely simple.
Here we’ll be taking a look at what pyramid training is, a few different variations, and exactly how we can benefit from it.
So, what is pyramid training?
Basically, pyramid training involves you hopping on a plane, jetting over to Egypt and…no, of course it doesn’t really, as you’ll be glad to hear there are no real pyramids involved at all. Pyramid training is actually very simple, painfully simple in fact, which is one of the main reasons why more people aren’t doing it. It’s one of those forms of training that seem too good to be true, and as so many “Bro-Science” experts out there are so quick to talk about highly advanced and complicated training methods, people nowadays think of pyramid training as inferior, when in reality, quite the opposite is true. Basically, how it works is that you perform a number of different high rep exercises using a moderately light weight, I.E 20 reps. After your first set, you will catch your breath, go slightly heavier, and perhaps aim for 15 reps instead. After this set, again, go slightly heavier, and perhaps go for 12 reps. Your workout reps would look something like this: 20 – 15 – 12 – 10 – 8. However, you could also structure it in the exact opposite way, so for example, you may go with a heavy weight to begin with, and low reps. With each set, you would perform more reps and go slightly lighter in weight, so for example: 4 – 6 – 8 – 10 – 12. You could even pyramid up and pyramid down, I.E: 4 – 6 – 8 – 10 – 12 – 10 – 8 – 6 – 4. It’s all about selecting the right weights to perform the right repetitions.
What are the main benefits of pyramid training?
So, now that we have a basic idea of what pyramid training is, let’s now take a look at a few of the main benefits associated with this form of training. These include, but are not limited to:
Great mass builders – In order to gain muscle mass, contrary to popular belief, heavy weights and low reps are not the only way to achieve this. Of course, when you work with heavy weights and push your muscles to maximum capacity, you’re able to stimulate new growth within them, but on top of that, the same principle applies when you reach failure after performing 20 reps with a lighter weight. Your muscles are constantly being put under pressure and are getting a heck of a workout whenever they reach failure, which in turn will mean that they respond better and grow much larger more quickly as a result.
They’re very simple – As mentioned, pyramid workouts are extremely simple to perform, which is another huge advantage compared with other forms of training, which may seem slightly intimidating to people that don’t happen to have a degree in sport’s science. Sometimes we simply want to get into the gym, pump some iron, have a heck of a workout, and get out again as soon as possible, without having to worry about whether or not we’re doing something right or wrong. With a pyramid workout, you can do just that as it really is as simple as selecting the right weights which allow you to perform the right number of reps.
The exercises are very diverse – With some training programs and routines, the type of exercises you perform will have to be very specific in order for the program to be deemed a success. For example, if you follow full-body routines, it is recommended that you perform heavy compound exercises as you are only working one major muscle group with one exercise per workout. With pyramid training however, the exercises are hugely diverse and truthfully you can mix and match pretty much as you please. This means you can go with compound exercises, isolation exercises, free weight exercises, bodyweight exercises, machine-based exercises, and more besides. It isn’t the exercises that are important here, it is the weights used and the reps performed that will determine just how effective your training routine really is.
It keeps you mentally sharp and invested in your workouts – Another benefit of pyramid training is the fact that it has been proven to help improve mental alertness and focus during working sets, because you have to focus on the number of reps you’re performing. If you were constantly performing the standard 8 – 10 reps that most gym rats perform, you would have found yourself going through the motions over and over again as you knew what to expect. As each number of reps performed, and indeed each weight used, will be so different, it will be enjoyable, it helps keep you sharp, and you have to pay more attention to the exercises that you’re performing.