Pyramiding in strength training has probably been around as long as the pyramids themselves. And, like the structure of a pyramid, which is strong, stable, and efficient, pyramided repetition schemes provide high quality relative strength improvements.
A typical pyramid begins with a lower weight and a higher number of reps. Weight is added progressively each set, and reps are reduced, until a maximum, or near maximum, effort is reached for a given day. At that point, the lifter begins a retracement or a regression of their step-loaded work back to the beginning load.
The goal behind pyramiding is simple: choose a broad enough energy system challenge that the body has to fulfill one, or at most, two energy system objectives. Those two objectives must be adjacent to one another.
For instance, you do not write a pyramid to address both anaerobic alactic capacity and anaerobic lactic capacity, but you can write an effective pyramid to address anaerobic alactic capacity and anaerobic lactic power. A typical example of an effective pyramid is: 8, 6, 4, 4, 6, 8.
This pyramid is a classic favorite of Charles Poliquin, a former mentor of mine. As effective a rep scheme as it is, it is too broad to be maximally effective for the development of relative strength.
I will outline a more effective methodology for pyramiding on the next page of this article.
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