Reverse Pyramid Training



Bodybuilders are always looking for different and unique ways to stimulate muscle growth. As you become more experienced with lifting, it get difficult to stimulate muscle growth. After a certain time, generally for intermediate to advanced lifters. They have to look at different and unique ways to stimulate muscle growth.

Reverse pyramid training is one such method to shock your muscles and stimulate muscle growth.

What is reverse pyramid training

Let’s say you are doing bench press. In a normal setup you would start with lighter weights and higher number of reps and then you would go on increasing the weight and the reps would gradually decrease. This is like a pyramid, higher reps at the start and lower reps at the top.

In reverse pyramid training, the pyramid is inverted. You start with heavy weights and low reps and then start decreasing the weights and increasing reps. Thus it appears like an inverted pyramid.

Reverse pyramid training science

Reverse pyramid training has some scientific benefits. 

  1. Progressive overload – when you start training with heavier weights earlier in your set, you can lift heavier weight compared to normal lifting.
  2. More Fast twitch muscle fibre recruitment – as you lift heavy weights, you’d be able to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibres in your training

How to do reverse pyramid training

Start with warm up – you start your training with full body warmup. Before starting the exercise we need to do movement specific warmups. For example if you are doing bench press, do your warm up sets first. For warm up sets, you can target 30-40% of your 1Rm in your warm up sets.

Once you are done with the warmup, move to the main sets.

As you progress in your sets, you decrease the weights by 10-20% and increase the reps. 

Reverse pyramid training setup

To do reverse pyramid training effectively it’s good to know your numbers. 

Let’s start with reverse pyramid training calculator

First you need your 1RM, go to the link below

You can use this online tool to calculate one rep max.

Let’s say we are doing bench press.

Your 1RM comes out to be 120 kgs.

You start with the warmup sets. 

Then you start with the main set with 80-90% of 1RM or 108 kg.

You finish your set, reduce the weights by 10% and then hit the next set. This time with an increased number of reps. 

As you start with lifting heavier weights, you will need more rest. Generally you would need 2-3 minutes of rest per set.

As you progress in the exercise with lesser weights, you can reduce the rest periods.

Here is complete reverse pyramid training example

Bench Press:

Set 1: 4 reps with 90% of 1RM

Set 2: 6 reps with 80% of 1RM

Set 3: 8 reps with 70% of 1RM

Set 4: 10 reps with 60% of 1RM

5 days reverse pyramid training workout plan

Day 1: Chest & Triceps

ExerciseSet 1 (6 reps)Set 2 (8 reps)Set 3 (10 reps)
Bench Press80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Incline Dumbbell Press80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Tricep DipsBodyweightBodyweightBodyweight
Overhead Tricep Extension80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM

Day 2: Back & Biceps

ExerciseSet 1 (6 reps)Set 2 (8 reps)Set 3 (10 reps)
Deadlift80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Bent Over Rows80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Barbell Curls80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM

Day 3: Shoulders & Abs

ExerciseSet 1 (6 reps)Set 2 (8 reps)Set 3 (10 reps)
Military Press80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Lateral Raises80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Front Raises80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM

Day 4: Legs

ExerciseSet 1 (6 reps)Set 2 (8 reps)Set 3 (10 reps)
Squats80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Leg Press80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Romanian Deadlifts80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Calf Raises80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM

Day 5: Full Body

ExerciseSet 1 (6 reps)Set 2 (8 reps)Set 3 (10 reps)
Bench Press80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Deadlift80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM
Military Press80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM

Progress with reverse pyramid training

Reverse pyramid training is a wonderful technique to shock your muscles. But there are limitations. As you progress your body will adapt to this method of training and you will start to plateau.

To address this concern we have to

  1. Increase weight or include progression in exercises
  2. Maintain rep ranges. Once you are able to complete the rep ranges, increase weights
  3. Rest and recovery – reverse pyramid training is demanding and will fatigue you. Its important to give time to recover
  4. Deloads – every 4 to 6 weeks, reduce the weights to induce recovery. You can also change your training strategy to normal lifting or regular pyramid to induce variety in training.

Tips for reverse pyramid training

  1. Make sure you do proper warm up. This is important if you want to avoid injuries.
  2. Cross check your form. It is common to cheat and lift with poor form when you are lifting heavy weights.
  3. Make sure you do the proper 1RM setup, so that you get maximum benefit of reverse pyramid training
  4. Give proper time between sets. Do not rush between sets. When you lift heavy, your muscles need time to recover
  5. Keep a variety of exercises. Your body will adapt to reverse pyramid training. It is important to keep changing the exercises.
  6. Track your progress – make sure that you are progressing in your workouts. That you are able to lift heavier weights over time.

Reverse pyramid training benefits

  1. Reverse pyramid training allows you to lift heavier weights in the beginning of your sets. Thus it can be more effective if you want to improve strength
  2. It stimulates fast twitch muscle fiber, this will help you with muscle gain.

Disadvantage of reverse pyramid training

  1. This type of training is not for beginners. Most people will not be able to establish mind muscle connection in the beginning of sets.
  2. Reverse pyramid training can be demanding for beginners. The chances of injury are higher.

Reverse pyramid training vs pyramid training

Both pyramid training and reverse pyramid training are excellent approaches for lifting weights.

Pyramid training is a safer approach. It helps you train with more volume and can be used by lifters of any level.

Reverse pyramid training on the other hand requires a certain level of experience and is not suitable for beginners. It is also a better approach for strength gains, as you would be able to lift heavier weights early on.

Reverse pyramid training Summary

Overall, if you are an experienced lifter, who is tired of his regular training and wants to try an alternative strategy for lifting – Reverse pyramid training is for you.

It will shock your muscles, you would be able to lift heavier weights and will notice immediate gains. However, you have to be cautious with reverse pyramid training as it may cause injuries and you have to make sure that you add variety in your training.


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