Pyramid Sets for Bigger Strength and Size Gains


Pyramid Sets Build Strength and Size Fast

Back in college this was one of my go-to methods for adding a great deal of strength and size rapidly.  Utilizing pyramid sets was one of the fastest and easier methods to build up the main lifts both in terms of strength and muscle size.

The reason this method works so well is:

  1.  The Warm-up is as you go.  There's very little time spent doing additional warm-up exercises, the lighter weight is the warmup.
  2. High amount of volume - if you're doing a typical pyramid with 10-1 as your base level your overall number of reps can be calculated as : n (n+1)/2  or (10 (10+1))/2 = 55 reps.  That's only if you go from 10-1.  Now go all the way back down to 10-1-10 for a whopping 110 reps.  All that volume is great for stimulating muscle growth.
  3. Time-Under-Tension  - The amount of time you're under tension also helps build up muscle growth so if you're using a nice controlled tempo on those lifts you're getting another whopping growth stimulus.
  4. Strength component - You're not stuck doing sets of 10 the whole time, so you're actually building up to a heavier work load and stimulating more powerful muscle fibers, as well as engaging more nervous system activation to lift those heavier loads.
  5. Safety - If you don't have a lot of juice in your tank by the end of your sets of 5-4-3-2-1, then you can just leave it on the rack and start decreasing the load from their.  Your less likely to break anything when you're warm and if you happen to have one of those crappy days where the larger loads are just too demanding on your body, no big deal you've accomplished a lot already and can start dropping the weight down to an easier percentage depending on how you feel.   This helps reduce our risk of injury and burn out.

For these five reasons, pyramid sets are a great addition to anyone's overall programming to start enhancing their overall muscle growth, while still stimulating a heightened strength response.  You may not be a competitive powerlifter or bodybuilder, but it's an great starting point for beginners and all around lifters that want a bit of everything that they might be missing from straight sets of 10.

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Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.