For decades, the “3 sets of 10” rep scheme has been a staple in strength training. Research and real-world evidence have shown that this particular scheme can effectively kickstart muscle growth and strength. However, as with any training method, it’s important to incorporate variety for optimal results. This is where reverse pyramid training comes in.
Reverse pyramid training is the inverse of a regular pyramid structure. Instead of starting with a light weight and high reps, you begin with a weight that challenges you to perform no more than four to eight reps of a given exercise. In each subsequent set, you reduce the weight by 10 percent while increasing the rep count by two, with the ultimate goal of reaching around 12 reps. The key is to struggle with the last two reps of each set, maintaining perfect form.
There are several advantages to reverse pyramid training. Like the classic pyramid structure, it aims to engage both type I and type II muscle fibers. However, reverse pyramid training has the edge because it targets type II fibers at the beginning when they’re strongest, allowing them to be optimally engaged. As you progress through each set and increase the rep count, type I fibers are gradually worked, maximizing endurance. Since both fiber types have growth potential, reverse pyramid training optimizes gains across the board.
While reverse pyramid training can be highly effective, it’s important not to overdo it. This rep scheme is taxing on the body, so it should not be the sole set/rep scheme for any workout, let alone a weekly routine. Instead, it is recommended to incorporate reverse pyramid training two to three times a week across different workouts, focusing on key muscle groups. The larger the muscle group, the better.
For example, when targeting the chest in a specific training session with the barbell bench press, you could follow this reverse pyramid sequence:
Set 1: 12 to 15 reps
Set 2: 8 to 12 reps
Set 3: 6 to 8 reps
Set 4: 4 to 6 reps
Repeat this sequence up to three times with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets. By the end of the third set, your muscles should be begging for mercy, but this deep burn indicates the hypertrophic results that are to come.
It’s important to note that reverse pyramid training should be supplemented with adequate recovery routines to bounce back quickly and maintain peak performance.
Incorporating reverse pyramid training into your workout program can be a game-changer for muscle growth and strength building. By challenging your muscles in a different way and targeting both fiber types, you can optimize your gains and take your training to the next level.