Lift Like An Egyptian; Build Mega Strength With Pyramiding

Pyramid Training

Challenge yourself with one of the oldest, proven strength training techniques

Weight training programs come and go but one method has stood the test of time.

Pyramiding is a simple, yet effective method for building strength and muscle.

It has gone through several incarnations but the system remains the same: progressively increase resistance through weight, reps, sets or a combination of these parameters.

Benefits Of Pyramiding

Regardless of your fitness objective or type of sport, you can use the principles of Pyramiding to help you improve performance.

Here are the benefits of adapting a Pyramiding system:

  • Reduces the risk of injury by slowly preparing the mind and body for more progressive workloads;
  • Saves time by removing guesswork from your training program;
  • Pyramiding can be used to build strength, muscle or improve conditioning;
  • Highly diversified training method: there are many possible schemes and combinations for Pyramiding routines.

Pyramiding is an efficient system for any progressive resistance training program.

Its applications can be customised to support your individual goals and objectives.

Different Types Of Pyramiding

As the concept of Pyramiding began to circulate and find its way to other types of physical activity, its proponents started to develop their own approach to the system.

Before we go through each type of Pyramiding system, let’s take some time to understand how the weights are derived for your program.

If you know what your maximum 1-rep weight is per exercise, all you need to do is to find the percentage to calculate the working weight for each set:

Number of Reps Percentage of 1-Rep Max
12 50%
10 60%
8 70%
6 80%
4 90%
2 95%

Thus, if your 1-rep maximum in the Squat is 90 kilos, your Pyramiding workout would look like this. Please take note that I have rounded out the numbers:

Number of Reps Percentage of 90 kilos
12 45 kilos
10 55 kilos
8 60 kilos
6 70 kilos
4 80 kilos
2 85 kilos

If you don’t know what your 1-rep maximum is, simply use a weight that you can do 1-2 reps more than indicated.

For example, if you can do 13-14 reps with 45 kilos, that should be your working weight for the set of 12 reps.

For your rest periods, rest up to 2 minutes when attempting sets that target 8 to 12 reps and 3 minutes when hitting 2 to 6 reps.

Here are a few of the most popular types of Pyramiding systems:

1. Ascending Pyramid

This is the most basic of all Pyramiding systems. In an Ascending Pyramid system, you are increasing the amount of weight while decreasing the number of reps for each set.

A standard rep scheme for Ascending Pyramiding system is 12-10-8-6-4-2 which would look like the example we have for the person who has a maximum Squat of 90 kilos.

2. Descending Pyramid

In a Descending Pyramid, you will warm up until you are ready to attempt 95% of your maximum weight for 2 reps then work your way down to 12 reps.

In other words, you will decrease the weight and increase the number of reps for each set.

A Descending Pyramid workout will look like this:

Number of Reps Weight:
2 85 kilos
4 80 kilos
6 70 kilos
8 60 kilos
10 55 kilos
12 45 kilos

It should be noted that when you work your way up to 85 kilos, you should not be tired.

A good warm up would be:

Pyramid Strength Training

It’s good to have a spotter to get you through your pyramid training


  • 45 kilos x 10 reps
  • 50 kilos x 5 reps
  • 60 kilos x 3 reps
  • 70 kilos x 2 reps
  • 80 kilos x 1 rep

When doing a Descending Pyramid, do not tire yourself out from the warm up. You will introduce lactic acid early in the program and this will affect your performance.

3. Triangle Pyramid

If you want to seriously challenge yourself, the Triangle Pyramid is for you. This type of Pyramiding combines the Ascending and Descending methods.

A Triangle Pyramid workout would look like this:

Number of Reps Weight:
12 45 kilos
10 55 kilos
8 60 kilos
6 70 kilos
4 80 kilos
2 85 kilos
4 80 kilos
6 70 kilos
8 60 kilos
10 55 kilos
12 45 kilos

You are not expected to hit all the reps on the Descending part of the Triangle. For example, if you can’t hit 6 reps with 72 kilos, aim for at least 4 reps.

Do not attempt the Triangle Pyramid until you have had at least 1 month experience on both Ascending and Descending methods.

4. Strength Pyramid

If you want to focus on building strength, this is the pyramid system for you. The Strength Pyramid maintains a rep range while increasing the amount of weight.

Unlike the Ascending or Descending methods, your working sets start at 70% of your maximum effort:

Number of Reps Weight:
5 60 kilos
5 65 kilos
5 70 kilos
5 75 kilos
5 80 kilos
5 70 kilos
5 65 kilos

If you notice the structure is similar to the standard strength formula of 5 sets of 5 reps with the addition of 2 drop sets. The purpose of the drop sets is to add more volume to your workout.

5. Hypertrophy Pyramid

Hypertrophy means muscle growth and the ideal rep range would be 6 to 8. With the Hypertrophy Pyramid, we introduce another parameter: Time.

You will use the same weight throughout the workout but rest for only 30 to 45 seconds between sets:

Number of Reps Weight:
12 45 kilos
10 45 kilos
8 45 kilos
6 45 kilos
4 45 kilos
2 45 kilos

You can use all of these Pyramiding methods for a 10 week weight training program:

Week No: Pyramid Method:
1 -2 Ascending
3 -4 Descending
5 Triangle
6 – 9 Strength
10 Hypertrophy

Make sure you keep track of your numbers so you can adjust your workload periodically.

Further, it should be noted that while the principle of Pyramiding can be applied to almost every exercise, it works best with compound lifts such as Squats, Deadlift, Bench Press and Shoulder Press.

Pyramiding is a proven way to get great results from your training.

It is a classic, timeless strength and muscle building system that will continue to remain relevant in the years ahead.