Imagine incorporating a training methodology. That’s not only extremely time-efficient, fun, and effective. But will get you better results than all of your friends? I’m talking about reverse pyramid training.
Reverse pyramid training is the brainchild of Swedish powerlifter Martin Berkhan. Martin has his own site at leangains.com. I highly recommend you check it out.
RPT is the most fun and effective method of training. That you can perform while only working out 3-4 times per week in my opinion.
The 3 Pillars Of RPT
1. Get As Strong As You Can On The Compound Exercises
These exercises include the barbell bench press, overhead press, deadlift, squat, weighted chin-ups and rows.
2. Perform The Heaviest Set First When You’re Fresh
This way you can give the first set everything you’ve got. Whereas with traditional pyramid training. When you get to your hardest set you’re already fatigued from the previous sets.
3. You Train Hard Every Set: Each Set You Perform Is As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)
The reason that you don’t need to do much volume (hard sets) with this type of training is because it’s super hard.
And if you’re doing this style of training 5-6 times per week. You’ll quickly burn out.
Why Reverse Pyramid Training Works So Well
RPT has you work in different rep ranges. This is because once you’ve performed your first and heaviest set. You decrease the weight for the subsequent sets.
This way you get the benefits of lower rep. And higher rep training.
The main reason why this training style works so well. Is because it has progressive overload built into the programming. Through a progression method called double progression. This means that if you train hard you will get stronger.
Any training style that has a progression model. That has the primary goal of getting you stronger. Will help you build more muscle.
How To Do RPT In 5 Steps
1. Warm Up For Your Hard Sets.
Here’s an easy warm-up routine:
1st warm-up set: 50% of your hard set for 8 reps.
2nd warm-up set: 70% of your hard set for 4 reps.
3rd warm-up set 90% of your hard set for 2 reps.
Then perform your work sets.
For example for the dumbbell bench press if you think you can get 40kg dumbells for 6- 8 reps on your hard set. This is what your warm-up would look like.
Warm-up set 1- 20kg x 8 reps.Warm-up set 2- 28kg x 4 reps. Warm-up set 3- 36kg x2 reps. Then your first and heaviest work set would be 40kg x 6- 8 reps.
2. Always Have A Goal Rep Target/ Range.
If you’re using dumbbells It’s good to have a rep range. Because most dumbbells increase/ decrease by 2kg per side.
For example, say that last week you managed to get the 40kg dumbbells for 8 reps.
So this week your goal is to get the 42kg dumbbells for between 6-8 reps.
And once you can hit 42kg dumbbells for 8 reps on your first set increase the weight next week.
Note: Your following sets are dependent on your first set.
3. Decrease/ Increase The Weight Depending On The Exercise.
After every set you decrease the weight and perform as many reps as possible (amrap).
This is how much you need to decrease the weight depending on the exercise:
Any Exercise with fixed dumbells – Decrease the weight by 2kg per side for dumbbells. Once you’ve hit the top of your rep range increase the weight by 2kg each side.
The barbell deadlift And Barbell Squat – Decrease the weight by 10% for each of the following sets. Once you’ve hit the top of your rep range increase the weight by 5kg next session.
If you can deadlift 120kg for your first and hardest set, you’ll need to decrease the weight by 12kg for your next set. Because in most gyms reducing the weight by this number isn’t feasible. Just reduce the weight by 12.5kg.
The barbell overhead press, barbell rows, barbell bench press, T-bar rows. Decrease the weight by 5% for each of the following sets. Once you’ve hit the top of your rep range increase the weight by 2.5kg next week.
Any other isolation exercise – Decrease the weight by 5%. And once you’ve hit the top of your rep range increase the weight by 2.5kg or the next dumbbell.
4. Rest 3-4 Minutes Between Compound Exercises And 1-2 Minutes Between Isolation Exercises.
Every set that you perform is for as many reps that you can do with correct form.
You need to muster up as much strength as possible for all of your sets.
When you perform compound exercises. Exercises that involve multiple joints and muscle groups (exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin-ups and rows). You can lift more weight.
Compound exercises are more taxing on your muscles & body compared to isolation exercises. And that’s the main reason why you need to rest longer between sets of your compound exercises.
Note: An isolation exercise is an exercise that trains only 1 muscle group ( exercises like biceps curls, lateral raises, triceps pushdowns and leg curls etc).
5. Train 3 x Per Week And Have A Day Off Between Training Sessions.
I’ve noticed that if you train 3x per week. You’re always fresh and ready to give your sessions all you’ve got.
This is called abbreviated training. And if you focus on getting really strong at the basics while only training 3x per week you’ll do well.
I’d advise you to train on Monday, Wednesday and a Friday. Although you could train on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or any other similar pattern.
On your days off. And even your training days I’d advise you to do some steady-state cardio like walking. This way you’ll keep your cardiovascular health going strong.
This is also a great method of active recovery.
A 3 Day RPT Dumbell Workout Routine
Monday Day (A)
Dumbbell rows 3 sets with a first set goal of 6-8 reps.
Dumbbell seated or standing overhead press 3 sets with a first set goal of 6-8 reps.
Dumbbell Hammer curls 3 sets with a first set goal of 8-10 reps
Wednesday Day (B)
Dumbbell bench press 3 sets with a first set goal of 6-8 reps.
Dumbbell rows 3 sets with a first set goal of 8-10 reps.
Seated calf raises 3 sets with a first set goal of 8-10 reps.
Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats 3 sets with a first set goal of 6-8 reps.
Chin-ups 3 sets for as many reps as possible. Once you can easily perform 3 x 10 reps. Add weight to your chin-ups using a dumbbell or weight belt so that you can add plates to your body weight.
Diamond Push-ups 3 sets of as many reps as possible.
Reverse Pyramid Training Progression Example
For the dumbbell row on day B, you progress exactly the same as above. Just with a slightly higher rep range. And the calf raises are the same.
Although here’s how the progression goes for chin-ups.
Note: You can swap some of the dumbbell exercises for their barbell and machine counterparts. The reason this program is exclusively using dumbbells. Is because I couldn’t find any all dumbbell reverse pyramid training programs on the internet.
So I decided to make one.
This program can take you well into the intermediate stage.
What Makes Reverse Pyramid Training So Great?
With RPT your first and heaviest set is the most important. The reason for this is because that set is where you achieve the highest neurological stimulus. And the highest training intensity.
The Bottom Line On Reverse Pyramid Training
- There are many different training methodologies that work. But in my opinion. Some are definitely more effective than others. And this seems to be one of the most effective and time-efficient training styles around.
- RPT is very straightforward. And it only requires that you track your workouts. And keep on getting stronger from week to week.
- These workouts take no longer than 45 minutes. Anyone can utilise RPT and experience amazing results.
Further reading: The Lean Gains Method, Beyond Brawn
Thanks for reading.
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