A few months ago I wrote about one of the most effective strategies that I know for strength gain under any circumstance: reverse pyramid training. Today, I want to give you a few tips to ensure that your continue to progress for months and years to come.
The one draw back of RPT, or rather how people implement it, is that it’s fairly easy to burn out if you aren’t careful, which leads us to our first lesson: AVOID TRAINING BEYOND FAILURE LIKE YOU’D AVOID EATING MEAT LEFT OUT IN THE BLAZING SUMMER SUN FOR 148 HOURS.
When I type in all caps, you know I mean business.
If you could only take away one delicious nugget of information, this would be it.
Think of your body as a car. Ideally, you’d be driving down the street at a normal speed and slowly braking at all traffic lights. Sure, there would be occasions when you’d have to stomp on the brakes to avoid a collision, but these moments are few and far between.
Now picture you’re another car, but this time you’re gunning the gas pedal every chance that you get, and when it comes stopping at a light you only know one way to do it: drop kicking the brakes at the very last moment.
Which one of these cars is more likely to fall apart faster?
Approach your training sessions with a sense of long term vision if you’re interested in long term progress. If you’re grinding out reps each every time you pick up a weight, you better put on your chef hat because you’re creating a recipe for burnout, both physically & mentally.
Rep range first, weight increase second.
For reverse pyramid training, you first want to set up a rep range and let that guide your sessions. For a nice blend of strength and size gains gains I recommend a 2-5 rep spread using compound movements (think bench press, squat, overhead press, dips, rows & deadlifts). From here, and this is where the beautiful simplicity of this system comes into play, you stay at that weight until the you get to the top of the rep range.
Session 1: 225 x 2
Session 2: 225 x 3
Session 3: 225 x 3
Session 4: 225 x 4
Session 5: 225 x 5
Only after the last session where you hit 5 reps would you increase the weight by 5-10lbs (even smaller increases work as well) in order to bring yourself back down towards the bottom of the rep range, starting the process all over again – milk this for all it’s worth.
One note about the above: there’s nothing wrong with taking your time to hit the top number. In fact it’s much better to do that then grinding your way to the top just so that you can increase the weight, only to end up stalling soon after.
If you get to the top range and feel like you could’ve done one more rep, that’s a good sign that you’re ready to increase the weight. If you barely got that last rep, stay there for a week or two (or however long it takes) until that last rep doesn’t feel like you’re going to pop a brain vessel. Although it may seem like it sometimes, you’re not in any rush. Success takes time.
What you don’t want to do is this:
Session 1: 225 x 2
Session 2: 225 x 4 (grinded out 2 more reps with questionable form)
Session 3: 225 x 5 (grinded out 1 more rep – super difficult but upped the weight anyway)
Session 4: 235 x 1 (epicly hard)
Session 5: 235 x 1
Session 6: 235 x 1
Session 7: 235 x 1
Session 8-9: Skipped, didn’t feel like training.
Session 10: 230 x 1
By letting the rep range dictate when you increase your weight, you take yourself and your emotions out of the equation while also keeping yourself from training to failure.
The best thing about weights is that they’re completely objective. They don’t care what kind of day you had at work, nor do they care how heavy you think they are or how many reps you want to get – 300lbs will always be 300lbs. When your body is ready and capable of lifting a certain amount of weight a certain number of times, it will happen because you have trained for it, and not a moment sooner.
Have you incorporated reverse pyramid training into your workouts? If so how freakin’ awesome have your results been? If you have any questions, or just want to share how well it has worked for you, please do so in the comment section below!