Do you want to know what is Reverse Pyramid Training Protocol? How to Perform and Progress to make consistent strength gains? Then you want to read this article.
The Reverse Pyramid Training is by far the best training method for increased strength and muscle gains although a vast majority of the fitness industry do not follow this method in their training.
In fact, they use the exact opposite of RPT which trains the muscles to exhaustion rather than strength gains.
Here is what most people do. They grab a weight and pump out 12 to 15 reps and after about 30secs to 1 min of rest they rep out 10 – 12 reps.
They follow this cycle until they hit failure in the 6-8 rep range.
The problem with this approach is that they induce alot of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy right at the beginning of the set which we all know is temporary.
Towards the end of the set, they are highly fatigued and barely any energy to lift the really heavy weights. Not to mention, most people dont even hit their true 6-8 rep max using their traditional training methods.
Due to this they do not promote optimal muscle and strength gains.
In order to efficiently, induce high muscle and strength gains your heaviest set should be done first, in the rep range of 6-8 rep range, as you are likely to be more fresh for maximum output.
Besides in the beginning of your set, you have lot of glycogen stored in your body to help you lift the heavy weight in the beginning.
The second set will be more lighter but nearly failing at 8-10 reps.
Not reaching failure but “nearly failure” so your nervous system and your muscles can recover optimally.
After your first set which is your heaviest set, your subsequent sets will feel light. The heavy set induces alot of stimulation to your Central Nervous System which results in an increase in contractile strength in the muscle, also known as Motor Unit Recruitment.
“Motor unit recruitment is a measure of how many motor neurons are activated in a particular muscle, and therefore is a measure of how many muscle fibers of that muscle are activated.” – Motor Unit Recruitment, Wikipedia
Due to the increase in higher muscle fiber activation in your lighter sets, you will stimulate hypertrophy much more effectively.
Loads below 80-85% of your 1RM (One Rep Max) doesn’t activate your muscle fibers until the last few reps.
Reverse Pyramid Training involves all of your muscle fibers from the very first rep maximizing muscle growth.
How to warm up for Reverse Pyramid Training?
With all these benefits in the picture, you might be thinking how can a person do a heavy set right at the beginning of the workout? Wouldn’t it increase the cause for injury?
Yes it does. Lets discuss about how to warm up for the heavy set.
First thing to do is to stretch the muscle fibers that you will be working out for a specific day.
Secondly, choose a weight that is 60% of your heavy set and perform 5 reps.
Rest 2 mins.
Perform 3 reps with 75% of you heavy set.
Rest 2 mins.
Perform 1 rep with 90% of your work set.
The warm up set is essential only for the first heavy set.
If you feel like you need few more warm up sets, then it is advisable to do so to train the muscle fibers for the heavy set.
In the beginning you may not be able to figure out your 60% to 90% rep max. You may have to do some trial and error to figure this out initially.
How to perform Reverse Pyramid Training?
Reverse pyramid training should be performed with the heavy set in the beginning after the warm up set.
You will perform 4-8 reps with maximum effort just enough to reach failure.
After the first set, you should reduce the weight by 10% and perform an additional 1-2 reps.
If you want to go for a 3rd set, you will reduce the weight by another 10% and perform an additional 1-2 reps.
However, if you are experienced and really love the feeling of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), you can avoid decreasing the weight in the 3rd set. Caution: This is only for the freaks amongst us.
Under no circumstances should you rest less than 3 minutes in between your work sets. You must take 3 minutes of rest for maximum recovery and optimal lifting performance.
Slow and steady is always better than fast and sloppy.
How do you progress with Reverse Pyramid Training?
If there is one aspect of training that almost all workouts available on the internet has neglected, then it would definitely be a workout progression model.
Take any workout from any fitness website aside from this one. You will seldom find any workout with an effective progression model which describes how to improve with the workout.
Out of the few progression models you can find out are highly flawed as well.
Let us explain.
After an intense strength training session the rate at which your muscles and central nervous system recover and improve is really slow.
Beginners may be able to improve on their workouts by about 2.5% every workout and advanced lifters may increase by about 1% per workout.
The traditional training method is to continue training with a given weight until you hit the upper limit of a rep range for a set.
This might seem like a logical way to go about it but if you think about it, you will notice that adding 1 rep to an exercise will increase the 1RM by 3% or more.
3% increase in your 1RM is nearly impossible to maintain on a regular basis.
This flawed traditional progression model is the reason why most people hit plateaus in the gym.
Reverse Pyramid Training Progression Model 1
Instead of increasing the reps, if you increase the weight by 5lbs to the bar for the same rep range, that could mean a 2.5% to 5% of increase on your predictable 1RM.
The solution is to use micro loading. It means exactly as it sounds.
Instead of a 5lbs increment to the bar you will increase the weight only by 1.5 to 2.5 lbs.
One of the crucial reasons most people don’t progress is because most gyms do not have plates under 2.5lbs.
Depending on your situation you might want to get your hands on a set of ¼, ½, and 1lb plates to give you the flexibility to increase the total weight of the bar by anywhere in between 0.5 lbs to 3.5lbs.
Reverse Pyramid Training Progression Model 2
If you can’t get micro-load plates or if your gym doesn’t have any, the next best option would be to alternate adding 5lbs to your first or else your subsequent sets.
Here is how it would look like. You will add 5lbs to your second and third set and for the next workout session you will add 5 lbs to your first, second and third set.
Using this method you will increase the weight by 5lbs every second workout. This is a perfect progression for beginners.
For the more advanced lifters, adding 5lbs to only one of your 3 sets each workout is advisable. This method will be making you increase every 3rd workout.
- Workout 1: 200 lb x 5; 180 lbs x 6; 160 lbs x 8
- Workout 2: 205 lbs x 5; 185 lbs x 6; 165 lbs x 8
- Workout 1: 200 lb x 5; 180 lbs x 6; 160 lbs x 8
- Workout 2: 200 lbs x 5; 185 lbs x 6; 165 lbs x 8
- Workout 3: 205 lbs x 5; 185 lbs x 6; 165 lbs x 8
- Workout 1: 200 lb x 5, 180 lbs x 6, 160 lbs x 8
- Workout 2: 200 lbs x 5, 180 lbs x 6, 165lbs x 8
- Workout 3: 200 lbs x 5, 185 lbs x 6, 165 lbs x 8
- Workout 4: 205 lbs x 5, 185 lbs x 6, 165 lbs x 8