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Digital Subscriptions > Men's Fitness > June 2019 > The power of pyramids

The power of pyramids

Use this simple but effective rep strategy to get more out of every workout

When it comes to training, the simple ways are some of the most effective. So instead of looking for the latest fancy exercise variation, we suggest that you focus on executing the basics to perfection and using subtle adjustments that give you a big return. One deceptively simple way to train that will have a huge impact on your progress is to use pyramid sets, where the rep count goes up and then comes down.

When you take this approach, your central nervous system is activated by the big lifts at the start of your session, and your capacity to lift increases so you’re usually able to lift more in the second and third set of an exercise than you were in the first. Then, once you’ve hit your strength peak on that move, the reps decrease because, although fatigued, your muscles are still capable of completing a meaningful amount of work.

This rep strategy has its ups and downs – but we can assure you that you’ll end the session on a high.


This four-week training plan for your best ever body couldn’t be easier to follow. Simply do the four workouts on the following pages each week - sticking to the exercises, sets, reps, tempo (see panel, right) and rest periods detailed - for a month. The first workout of each week targets your chest and triceps, the second your back and biceps, the third your legs and abs, and the fourth your shoulders. This strategy will ensure all your major muscle groups get enough dedicated training time each week to stimulate the process by which your muscles get bigger and stronger, while also creating the right metabolic environment for your body to burn away excess fat.

All four weekly workouts are made up of five moves. The first two moves of every workout are big, compound lifts done as pyramid sets, where the reps ascend for the first three sets before reducing in the fourth and final sets. The final three moves of each session are all straight sets, which means you do all the sets and reps of move 2, then move on and do the same for move 3 and finally move 4. This will enable you to lift heavy and with intensity to make big changes fast.

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