From my very introduction to the Iron Game over 20 years ago, (geez, that makes me sound old!) all of the literature, books, and courses I've read or followed advocated "pyramiding" your weights on the basic exercises.
If you don't know what "pyramiding" is, here's an example using the bench press:
- Set 1: 12 reps with 135 lbs.
- Set 2: 10 reps with 185 lbs.
- Set 3: 8 reps with 225 lbs.
- Set 4: 6 reps with 250 lbs.
- Set 5: 4 reps with 265 lbs.
- Set 6: 2 reps with 285 lbs.
Even as a novice bodybuilder, after a few weeks of "pyramiding" I thought that it was kinda stupid.
After all, if the goal of doing all this work in the gym is to gain mass and strength ... and we're supposed to constantly strive for pushing more and more weight in the basic exercises. Then all this "pyramiding" stuff seemed to me to be a lot of wasted energy on lighter unproductive sets.
Plus it seemed like I would be able to do more weight on the heavier sets if I hadn't have burned up so much energy on the lighter sets. This was (and still is) just my humble observation. Now I agree that warming up is important ... but geez, how "warm" do you wanna get? So warm you're fried?
So I think I've discovered a better way. Well, it's been better for me. But who knows? It could work for you, too!
As I was just now getting ready to describe my system for the basic exercises, I realized that I don't have a name for it! I guess I gotta call it something!
Let's call it ...
Non-Pyramid System For Maximum Muscle Growth
OK, I admit that name kinda sucks. I tried to think of something cute and creative but couldn't. I tried to think of a word that means "opposite of a pyramid" but I don't think that word exists. So for now we're stuck with this non-creative name.
So instead of the pyramid thing let's try training on the bench press like this:
- Set 1: Warm-up
- 20 Reps With The Empty Bar
- Get a little blood flowing and work on your technique.
- Do these slowly like you really have weight on there.
- Just DON'T ask someone to spot you on this set, lest you look like a wuss!
- Set 2: Warm-up
- 12 Reps
- Select a weight in which you can EASILY complete 12 reps without even being remotely close to temporary muscular failure.
- This is an easy set just to get you warmed up.
- Do NOT select a weight which will tax the muscles.
- Set 3: Warm-up
- Set 4: 1st "Weight Acclimation Set"
- 4 Reps
- Use a weight that you could do about 10 to 12 reps with if you went to temporary muscular failure.
- You're NOT trying to tax the muscles, just getting used to the feel of the heavier weights.
- Set 5: 2nd "Weight Acclimation Set"
- 1 to 2 Reps
- Use a weight that you could do about 6 to 8 reps with if you went to temporary muscular failure.
- Again, you're NOT trying to tax the muscles, just getting used to the feel of the heavier weights.
- Set 6: 1st "Work Set"
- 6 to 8 Reps
- Use a weight that allows you to do at least 6 reps but no more than 8 reps to temporary muscular failure.
- If you can't do 6 reps, the weight is too heavy.
- If you can do 8 or more reps, the weight is not heavy enough.
- Set 7: 2nd "Work Set"
- Same as Set 6 above.
- Due to fatigue from the first work set you might not be able to get 6 reps.
- If you only get 4 or less, lighten the weight a little for the final set.
- Set 8: 3rd "Work Set"
Print Out Dan's Non-Pyramid System Workout Log HERE!
When you start your actual work sets, rest 2 to 4 minutes in between sets. You want plenty of recovery time. We're trying to hoist big iron here.
If you're a relative newbie to the Iron Game, stick with the 6 to 8 rep range on the work sets.
If you've been training a while and consider yourself an intermediate or advanced bodybuilder, you might want to try the 4 to 6 rep range for the work sets. I've made some really good size and strength gains within the past 3 months by working in the 4 to 6 rep range on the basic exercises.
If you have good recuperation-ability and are intermediate to advanced, you could add a 4th work set. But for most folks I think 3 sets is plenty.
Now go try it on your next bench, deadlift, or squat workout. I'll bet if you've been "pyramiding" you'll be amazed at how strong and fresh you are on the work sets while following my "non-pyramid" system.
I added 25 pounds to my incline press the first time I tried this system. Maybe you'll do the same!