Popularized in the bodybuilding genre of strength training, pyramid sets are a great way to combine high repetition sets with lower loads and lower repetition sets with higher loads in the same training session. In this training routine, the body works from a muscular endurance schematic to an absolute strength component.
There are three basic pyramid schemes, Ascending Pyramid (increasing the load as the repetitions decrease), Descending Pyramid (decreasing the load as the repetitions increase) and the Full Pyramid (combining both ascension and descension). As with any routine, each has its pluses and minuses.
The Full High-Volume Pyramid will be a test of overall conditioning. This will consist of 13 total work sets after proper preparation has been completed. The repetitions per set will be between 15 and 2. During the latter part of the Rejuvenation Stage of Training is where I would possibly recommend this set and rep scheme.
The first phase of this routine will be the ascending part. The athlete will start with higher reps to lower reps per set. The load will increase segmentally with each set. There will be 7 ascending sets in the high volume Full Pyramid.
When the athlete reaches the apex or capstone of the pyramid, the descending portion of the routine is now completed, 6 work sets. In this portion of the routine, it is the athlete’s goal to match the weight utilized on each successive rep change as was completed during the ascent. If the athlete fails to complete the goal reps of a particular set on the descending pyramid, an adjustment should be made for remaining sets.
Obviously, mini pyramids can be created off the high-volume model by reducing the number of sets utilized and concentrating on a specific rep scheme.
By separating the Full Pyramid into the “climb” phase and “plunge” phase we create the Ascending and Descending Pyramid schemes. In the High-Volume models, each will consist of 7 work sets. The Ascending Pyramid will test the individual’s ability to handle maximum loads under duress with the amount of volume done beforehand. The Descending pyramid will do the opposite. After a proper preparation progression, the athlete will handle the heaviest load first and then test their ability to handle the continued increases in volume on each drop down.
I prefer mini Ascending or Descending pyramids when I do implement them. My favorite for accessory work is a high-volume Mini Ascending Pyramid
It is always a benefit to have multiple sets and reps schemes in your tool box. Variation is the spice of life and sometimes you will need to throw a curve ball into your programming.