Reverse-Pyramid For Size And Strength

Rather than training for size OR strength, build both in one workout with this excerpt from ''Insane Training.''

The methodology for this program is based on linear periodization but with a key alteration. Instead of just a steady progression in the amount of weight used, there is a wave system built into the program. The reason for this waving, or undulation, in intensity is twofold. It prevents overtraining by providing periodic deloads at key intervals, and it also allows for greater length of time of progression in the amount of weight lifted. If you were to just steadily increase the amount of weight used from week to week, it wouldn't be long before your progress stalled. The wave technique provides us with the ability to continually progress for a much longer period of time before we reach a plateau.

There is an additional unusual element to this program. The main exercises (squats, benches, and deadlifts) are performed by inverting the relationship between set and intensity progression. Stated plainly: As the sets progress, there is a small decrease in the amount of weight used, instead of the usual increase. The purpose of this is to allow the lifter to perform every set in good form and to ensure that the lifter never misses a rep in training, even as the amount of weight increases from week to week. Contrary to popular belief, training to failure and beyond is not always desirable when trying to build strength. When programmed properly, not missing reps in training can be a key ingredient to building strength—and as we know, gaining strength is a vital component to gaining size.

The exercise selection is based largely on multijoint compound movements
The exercise selection is based largely on multijoint compound movements.

The exercise selection is based largely on multijoint compound movements. As many of you probably already know, these types of exercises allow us to use more weight, which in turn yields greater muscle-fiber recruitment, which ultimately leads to a greater degree of muscular hypertrophy. Another key element to gaining mass is ensuring a large volume of blood is being forced into the muscle while training. More commonly known as the "pump" because of the way your muscles swell while lifting, the pump is often synonymous with an increase in muscle size. A good pump stretches the connective tissue that surrounds the muscle fibers, allowing room for new growth. Arnold was often quoted as saying that a good pump means you're growing, and he was right. This program achieves a massive pump both through overall training volume (a relatively high number of sets and/or reps) and through specific exercises done for higher rep ranges with shorter rest periods. For example, dumbbell rows, front squats, and barbell shrugs are all performed for sets of twenty reps but are still performed with relatively heavy weights, which, when combined with minimal rest periods, provides us with a high volume of blood being forced into the muscle. There are other methods used to achieve this, like the shoulder complex, which is a triset of three different exercises, all performed back-to-back without rest. By the end of your third triset, your shoulders will be blown up like balloons.

You will be training five days a week, and Thursday and Sunday will be the off days. Splitting things up into five days allows us to hit the individual muscles with sufficient volume during the training session without doing marathon workouts. The order of the individual training sessions ensures that there will be sufficient recovery time before the same muscles are trained again. It breaks down like this:

Monday: Lower back, hamstrings, and calves
Tuesday: Chest and shoulders
Wednesday: Upper back
Thursday: Off
Friday: Legs
Saturday: Biceps and triceps
Sunday: Off

After warming up, deadlifts, bench presses, and squats are performed for five sets of five reps with the weight selection in accordance with the weight progression percentages listed at the end of this article. You will be required to find your maxes on these exercises before beginning this program so you can plug the correct numbers into the formula. One word of caution here: do not guess your maxes. Overestimating them will lead to an inability to achieve the desired number of reps and to overtraining, ultimately resulting in a failure of the entire program.


The wave technique comes into play with the main exercises (squats, bench presses, and deadlifts). The amount of weight used will increase over each three-week wave. The fourth week will consist of a deload week, during which the amount of weight used will be substantially decreased to facilitate recovery and prevent overtraining. Then, the next wave begins. However, don't be fooled into thinking that the deload weeks will be easy. While the amount of weight used decreases, the amount of reps performed doubles, ensuring that you will still be working hard and stimulating growth even while preventing overtraining. The overall program length is written for sixteen weeks, which is comprised of four waves. At the end of the sixteen weeks, you will then find your new maxes, and, if you desire, you can plug them back into the table and begin the program again.

Rest periods should be kept to no more than five minutes maximum on the large compound movements like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts and at no more than two to three minutes for more isolation-type exercises like spider curls and pushdowns. This will ensure adequate recovery between sets but still provide you with the huge pump that you are looking for. If you are able to achieve all of the desired reps in good form for the assistance movements (everything besides squats, bench presses, and deadlifts), increase the weight by a small amount for the following week. On these exercises, we are not as concerned about missing an occasional rep because of achieving muscular failure as we are for squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

TRAINING PROGRAM

Monday: Lower back, hams, and calves
1
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift
Warm up, then follow weight progression at end of article

2

Pull Through

3 sets of 20 reps
Pull Through Pull Through

3

Lying Leg Curls

2 sets of 10 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

4

Seated Leg Curl

2 sets of 10 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

5

Standing Calf Raises

4 sets of 25 reps
Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises


Tuesday: Chest and shoulders
1
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Warm up, then follow weight progression at end of article

2

Barbell Incline Bench Press - Medium Grip

Pyramid up in weight sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
Barbell Incline Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Incline Bench Press - Medium Grip

3

Dips - Chest Version

Pyramid up in weight sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
Dips - Chest Version Dips - Chest Version

4

Standing Military Press

Pyramid up in weight sets of 10, 8, 6
Standing Military Press Standing Military Press

SHOULDER COMPLEX: REPEAT CIRCUIT 3 TIMES WITHOUT ANY REST BETWEEN EXERCISES
5
Front Dumbbell Raise Front Dumbbell Raise

6
Side Lateral Raise Side Lateral Raise

7
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise


Wednesday: Upper back
1

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

2 sets of 20 reps
One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row

2

Chin-Up

50 reps
Chin-Up Chin-Up

3

T-Bar Row with Handle

Pyramid up in weight sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
T-Bar Row with Handle T-Bar Row with Handle

4

Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

Pyramid up in weight sets of 15, 12, 10, 8
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

5

Barbell Shrug

2 sets of 20 reps
Barbell Shrug Barbell Shrug


Friday: Legs
1
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

2

Leg Press

Pyramid up in weight for sets of 15, 12, 10, 8
Leg Press Leg Press

3

Front Barbell Squat

2 sets of 20 reps
Front Barbell Squat Front Barbell Squat

4

Barbell Walking Lunge

2 sets of 30 steps
Barbell Walking Lunge Barbell Walking Lunge

5

Seated Calf Raise

4 sets of 25 reps
Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise
Warm up, then follow weight progression at end of article.


Saturday: Biceps and triceps
1

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

Pyramid up in weight sets of 10, 8, 6
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

2

EZ-Bar Skullcrusher

Pyramid up in weight sets of 12, 10, 8
EZ-Bar Skullcrusher EZ-Bar Skullcrusher

3

Triceps Pushdown

Pyramid up in weight sets of 15, 12, 10
Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown

4

Bench Dips

3 sets of 20 reps
Bench Dips Bench Dips

5

Barbell Curl

Pyramid up in weight sets of 15, 12, 10
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

6

Preacher Curl

Pyramid up in weight sets of 15, 12, 10
Preacher Curl Preacher Curl

7

Incline Dumbbell Curl

Pyramid up in weight sets of 15, 12, 10
Incline Dumbbell Curl Incline Dumbbell Curl

8

Spider Curl

3 sets of 20 reps
Spider Curl Spider Curl


Weight Progression For Squats, Bench Presses, And Deadlifts

Week 1:
5 × 80%, 5 × 77.5%, 5 × 75%, 5 × 72.5%, 5 × 70%
Week 2:
5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%, 5 x 75%, 5 x 72.5%
Week 3:
5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%, 5 x 75%
Week 4:
Deload, squats and bench presses 5 x 10 at 60%; no deadlifts
Week 5:
5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%, 5 x 75%, 5 x 72.5%
Week 6:
5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%, 5 x 75%
Week 7:
5 x 87.5%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%
Week 8:
Deload, squats and bench presses 5 x 10 at 60%; no deadlifts
Week 9:
5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%, 5 x 75%
Week 10:
5 x 87.5%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%
Week 11:
5 x 90%, 5 x 87.5%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%
Week 12:
Deload, squats and bench presses 5 x 10 at 60%; no deadlifts
Week 13:
5 x 87.5%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 77.5%
Week 14:
5 x 90%, 5 x 87.5%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%, 5 x 80%
Week 15:
5 x 92.5%, 5 x 90%, 5 x 87.5%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 82.5%
Week 16:
Deload, squats and bench presses 5 x 10 x 60%; no deadlifts
Week 17:
Find new maxes on squat, bench presses, and deads

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