Reverse pyramid training is a style of weight training where you perform your heaviest set first. From there, you drop weight for every subsequent set. For example, let’s say you’re bench pressing. You could start by benching 185 for 5-8 reps, then drop to 165 for 8-10 reps, and finish with 155 for 10-12 reps. As its name suggests, this progression resembles an upside down pyramid.
The reason reverse pyramid training works so well is that you get to perform your heaviest weight without any muscle fatigue, which means you’ll have your best form for that heavy weight. As you drop the weight but increase the reps, you progressively overload the muscles.
To get the most out of this style of training, you want to get the weights right. Ideally, you would perform one or two light and slow warm-up sets with perfect form. Then choose a weight that you can only lift for the number of reps you’ve set for yourself. If it’s 4-6 reps, don’t choose a weight you could do for 8 reps. The idea is to fatigue the muscles, and then push them further by increasing the number of reps and dropping the weight.
Another crucial aspect of this training modality is rest time. Muscles typically respond best to short, explosive movements when coupled with long rest periods. Between your first 4-6 rep (1st) set and your 6-8 rep (1st) set, there should be a rest interval of 2-3 minutes. This will give your muscles time to recover and provide consistent performance across the entire workout (more on this in another blog post).
For those looking to build strength and muscle mass, you need not look much further than reverse pyramid training. It’s the bulk of what we prescribe in our own programs because it’s just so darn effective. There are other styles of training, of course, but for anyone who just wants to cut through the bullcrap and get started in the weight room, reverse pyramid training is all you really need.