Will Doing Pyramid Sets Help Me Get Stronger?

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question-icon-newI’m a beginner bodybuilder and I need some advice on my current routine. I’ve been training for about 6 months and for some reason I’m not gaining any more muscle so I’m having doubts with the way I’m lifting. If I lift 100 pounds on the flat bench press, should I do my 4 sets with the same weight and then next week increase it by 5 pounds or start with 100 pounds on my 1st set and end with 120 pounds on my last set?

answer-icon-newThe best phase during a bodybuilder’s life is the beginners phase. When you are a beginner, you make strength and size gains quickly. Seeing those quick gains, you are motivated to workout even harder and you continue seeing some more gains for many months when all of a sudden you hit a plateau.

This is the time when most beginners sometimes quit as they do not see any more gains and feel like all of their work is going to waste. Seeing no changes for a long time, they believe that they are just not made for bodybuilding and they will might never gain any more muscle in the future. Unfortunately, they sometimes quit before they even had a chance to reach their true potential. What if with a little change to your program, you could start seeing great strength and muscle gains again? What change am I talking about? Its called pyramid sets and it looks like you are already thinking about using this popular bodybuilding technique.

What are Pyramid Sets?
Unlike normal workout sets where you lift the same weights for a given number of sets, pyramid sets require you to increase the weight every set. Let’s say that you are able to do 10 reps with 100 pounds on the bench press. What would your sets look like and how would you change them for gaining strength?

Here is an example of how your standard sets look like:

  • Standard Set 1: 10 reps of 100 lbs.
  • Standard Set 2: 10 reps of 100 lbs.
  • Standard Set 3: 10 reps of 100 lbs.

Now, here is an example of pyramid sets:

  • Set 1: 10 reps of 100 lbs.
  • Set 2: 8 reps of 110 lbs.
  • Set 3: 6 reps of 120 lbs.

As you can see, you are going to attempt to increase the amount of weight lifted in each set instead of trying to lift the same weight that you have been using for the previous set. You may have to reduce the number of repetitions in the 2nd and 3rd sets in order to be able to lift the increased weight.

How are Pyramid Sets Going To Help You Get Stronger?
Pyramid sets are designed in such a way that you are forced to lift more weight with each set. So, instead of your body getting used to lifting 100 pounds, you are forcing it to go beyond its comfort zone and lift 120 pounds which helps to shock your muscles into growth. This means that the body is not doing mechanical work, but has to adapt to the increased weight. The rep ranges are reduced too. Generally, the best rep ranges for strength gains are between 4 to 8 reps per set while those for muscle gains are between 8 to 12 reps per set. Pyramid sets help you get the benefit of both worlds.

Pyramid sets can help you break a plateau by helping you slowly increase the weights being lifted very gradually. So, instead of being stuck with doing 100 pounds while hoping you will see strength gains, you are forcing your body to make gains so that it can adjust to the increased weight. As you get used to the additional weight, you can increase both your reps or the weight being used and continue experiencing the gains that you would normally miss with your standard workout.

Make sure you write down the weight you used for each workout and increase the weight by small 5 pound increments for each set, each week. So, if you can do 100 pounds for 6 reps on your first workout, then increase the weight to 105 pounds for your set of 6 reps for your next workout. Start using pyramid sets today to break through your plateau and start packing on new muscle!

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