Bust Plateaus With Powerhouse Pyramids

When I started lifting at the ripe old age of 16, I really only knew one protocol: pyramid training. Maybe I watched “Pumping Iron” too many times or adopted too much old-school advice from the ponytailed, leather-skinned “Mr. California 1986” at our local gym. In any case, pyramids were then and are now the classic way to organize your daily grind.

And with good reason: They work.

Create Metabolic Anarchy!

Traditional pyramids begin with a warm-up set or two using a light weight and higher reps and progressively increase the weight and decrease the reps until you top out at your maximum possible weight for a certain number of reps (Table 1). Because each set progressively becomes more intense, your body has a chance to warm up and establish a movement pattern, helping perfect form and prevent injury. During the initial sets, your body calls more on the Type I motor units — those that produce less force — to get ’er done, but by the time you hit the last and most intense set, it will call on the Type II — high force — muscle fibers. These are the fibers that incite metabolic change, allowing you to lift heavier, gain more lean tissue and increase your resting metabolism.

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