Reverse Pyramid Training!

Recuperation is your body's ability to recover after exercise. The quicker recovery the quicker strength and mass gains will come.

Are you training smart and hard enough?

Reverse Pyramid Training means reversing the conventional method for building muscle. Rather than beginning with the lightest weight and doing 10 repetitions for the first set you'll reverse the order and begin your first set with the heaviest weight you can handle for at least 6 repetitions - if your goal is increasing strength and muscle mass. For each succeeding set you will decrease the weight (pyramid down in weight, hence, the "reverse" pyramid) and increase the reps. Therefore, this system is done in reverse as others would normally do it. This is perhaps the most energy-efficient and growth-inducing system around. It has been around awhile, but few people know how to utilize it correctly.

To achieve maximum results in the least amount of time you must:

1) Shorten your training time to make it more efficient and productive
2) Expand your knowledge on recuperation and performance nutrition, including supplementation
3) Learn how to train hard, not long.

Reverse Pyramid Training is not only for the beginner and intermediate but also for the advanced athlete, whatever your health, fitness or professional goal may be.


The amount of force a muscle generates is proportional to the amount of muscle growth you'll be able to create. Strength is defined as the maximum amount of force that can be exerted by a single volume contraction. Force is defined as mass (the weight you use) multiplied by acceleration (the speed at which you push a weight against resistance). To generate more force, then, progressively increase you poundage's while lifting in an exploding and forceful fashion. You'll actually increase speed during the second half of the rep or during the "sticking point."

Training heavy in the least amount of time while stimulating the most muscle fibers at a given time is what it's all about. The greater amount of force you'll be able to generate with your muscles will be when you are freshest in your workout, e.x., the first set of each exercise performed. If a set counts, it is the first one, which is most important.


The 6, 8, 10, Reverse Pyramid rep system is good for increasing strength and gaining lean body mass (LBM) while maintaining fat weight. However, you can change the rep range to suit your fitness needs and sport specific goals. Suppose you want to gain lean body mass and lose body fat (altering body composition as in bodybuilding). Simply change your rep range to 8, 10, 12 and maintain high-intensity by resting 30-60 seconds between sets.

For strength training (designed for a predetermined amount of weight an individual wants to lift by a predetermined time or for sports like football), use a rep range of 4, 6, 8. For weight training (designed for maintaining lean body mass and losing fat weight) use a rep range of 10, 12, 14. Everybody can benefit from the Reverse Pyramid system. It all depends on how you utilize it, which is dependent on individual goals.

In addition to modifying the Reverse Pyramid system to suit your needs, you can also modify it to suit your energy needs or, most importantly, when your time is limited. During those days when your energy is low, motivation isn't all there, rather than doing your usual intensity for the prescribed 3 sets of an exercise it is best to go all-out for one set. It is better to go all-out on one set than to give in to your feelings and call it quits and go home. Your rep range for this should be no higher than 8 reps for most exercises. You might want to incorporate your own training techniques for increasing the intensity and isolation so the set becomes progressively harder to perform for each muscle grueling rep. Always keep in mind that your first set on each exercise is the most important set of all. If any one set counts this one does.

Training Factors to apply for different levels and goals

Level / Experience Beginner (0-6 months) Intermediate (6-18 months) Advanced (1 ½ + years)
Sets per body part per workout 4 (large); 3 (small) 6 (large); 5 (small) 12 (large); 10 (small)
Workout frequency 3 times per week with each body part trained 3 times per week. 4 times per week with each body part trained 2 times per week. 5 to 6 times per week with each body part trained once per week.
Number of reps Hypertrophy (8-10-12); Hypertrophy and fat loss (10-12-15); Fat loss (14-16-18) Strength and hypertrophy (6-8-10); Hypertrophy (8-10-12); Hypertrophy and fat loss (10-12-15); Fat loss (14-16-18) Max strength (4-6-8); Strength and hypertrophy (6-8-10); Hypertrophy (8-10-12); Hypertrophy and fat loss (10-12-15); Fat loss (14-16-18)
Rest between sets 90 seconds to 2 min. 60-90 seconds 30-60 seconds
Speed of Contraction Steady and Controlled 4 second rule (2 seconds down and 2 seconds up) Explosive for strength; 4-second rule for hypertrophy; continuous for fat loss
Rest between body parts 48 hours to allow the nervous system to regenerate 3-4 days to allow for the muscular system to regenerate 4-7 days to allow for the nervous and muscular systems to regenerate
Type of routines 3-days per week; full body 4-day intermediate split; 3-day alternative split; circuit 3-day alternative split; circuit; 4-day advanced split; 2-ON, 1-OFF split; compound split


Your first set will undoubtedly be and feel heavy. But you will be fresh and be able to use all your existing muscle fibers and energy to explode the weight up. Since your energy will be freshest for the first set you will be stronger than if you used the same weight for the last set using the conventional ascending (weight) pyramid. That isn't the psychology but it is the physiology.

The psychology is that it is easier going down than up. The weight not only will seem lighter but it will be lighter. As a matter of fact your descending sets will feel like a springboard action because your muscles had already stimulated to the greatest degree on the first two sets! You might experience effortless sets a few times because of this springboard action. Whatever comes after the first set your muscles are ready. Each descending set is like a warm-down but just as intense. It is refreshing to know the last set is your last chance to use all available and existing muscle fibers to stimulate growth.

Copyright © 1997-2002 Randy Herring


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Showing 1 - 11 of 11 Comments

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  • rep this user

Hmmm. I've traditionally done low to high. Since I'm on a calorie deficit, I think this will be ideal for me!

Feb 9, 2012 3:46pm | report
  • rep this user

Huge fan of this style of training.

Feb 16, 2012 5:30pm | report
  • rep this user

been lifting for 11 months and i didnt really know about the workout frequency, thanks for including this information.

May 9, 2012 12:59pm | report
  • rep this user

Gonna have to play around with this method.

Aug 5, 2012 1:03pm | report
  • rep this user

I'm going to try this. I've been doing sets of 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 with the same weight.

Dec 5, 2012 2:40am | report
  • rep this user

I have a small neck injury, and I'm not supposed to lift too heavy working on my upper body. I'm not sure this would work for me.

Feb 17, 2013 6:02pm | report
  • rep this user

Been advised by a top IFBB Mens Physique Pro to do this.

Mar 19, 2013 6:01am | report
  • rep this user

I have always done this type of training, and it works well for me.

Apr 13, 2013 2:38pm | report
  • rep this user

Combine this with intervals on your chosen cardio machine and it will blast fat and maintain mass. These sets work great if your time is limited and you need to get the most bang for your buck.

Aug 16, 2013 10:52pm | report
  • rep this user

hey, nice article, been training RPT once in a while..
i have a few questions on the factors for different levels..can anyone help me?

if youre eg a beginner you should do 4 sets(large) per bodypart per workout. do you mean 4 different exercises of eg 6,8,10 or do you mean one exercise of eg 6,8,10,12? im kind of confused about this.

Same for workout frequency of eg an advanced.. how should you go 5-6 times a week and only train each muscle group once while doing eg a 3-day split?

Dec 8, 2013 4:40am | report

RPT IF have yielded the best results for me, with over 10 years of various training regimes and diets.

Google "leangains" and check out The best two resources online about both topics IMO.

Aug 28, 2014 10:19pm | report
Showing 1 - 11 of 11 Comments

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