Muscle Building

How to Use Pyramid Sets for Hypertrophy Training

Hypertrophy training is a term used to describe a workout method that very literally focuses on increasing muscle cell growth. When you’re looking to build as much muscle mass as possible, hypertrophy training is definitely an area in which you should concentrate your efforts.

There are a number of ways that muscle hypertrophy can be reached to give you the muscles you’ve been looking for since you started hitting the gym. But one of our favorite workout methods for muscle mass building is pyramid sets. In this article, we’ll explain muscle hypertrophy’s ins and outs and how you can achieve your muscle-building goals by focusing on this area through the use of pyramid sets.

What Is Muscle Hypertrophy?

When muscle cells experience growth through exercise, it’s called hypertrophy. There are various ways to exercise and engage hypertrophy in your muscles, but weightlifting is one of the most common.

Everyone has different muscle growth goals. Fortunately, two different types of hypertrophy can be focused on depending on what kind of muscle growth you are looking for. Here’s a look:

  • Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy – With this type of hypertrophy, your muscle glycogen storage is focused on. Building up sarcoplasmic hypertrophy can increase your endurance and energy storage capabilities.
  • Myofibrillar Hypertrophy – Myofibrillar hypertrophy focuses on the strength and speed that you are capable of through the building of your contractor muscles.

How Can Hypertrophy Training Help?

When you’re working on muscle-building specifically at the gym, there are generally two types of workout categories you’ll use: hypertrophy training and strength training. So what’s the difference between hypertrophy training and strength training, specifically? As mentioned earlier, hypertrophy training focuses more on muscle size building, while strength training focuses on building muscle power. If you’re seeking to develop bulging muscle mass, hypertrophy training can help you with this goal, but that’s not the only benefit with this form of training:

  • Strength – Despite hypertrophy training focusing mainly on muscle size, increases in strength can also be achieved through this type of training.
  • Balance – Hypertrophy training can help build symmetry in muscles and increase overall balance.
  • Calorie Burning – If you’re looking to lose weight, hypertrophy training can help by increasing caloric expenditure.

Hypertrophy training programs mainly further build upon established weight training exercises. Combinations of your own body weight, free weights (barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells), and weight machines (stacks and pulleys) are used in hypertrophy training, just as in weight training. The difference with hypertrophy training is you’ll do more sets and reps than average but with less intensity than is used in other weight training programs. Pyramid sets are one weight training program that has the capability of maximizing the muscle’s hypertrophy results.

What Are Pyramid Sets?

So what are pyramid sets exactly? Pyramid sets are a form of weight training that essentially enables you to take the exercise you’re doing and implement structure that begins with tougher and heavier reps at the beginning and finishes with easier and lower rep counts.

There are four types of pyramid training sets:

  • Standard – Standard pyramids consist of building with each set by increasing the weight used while simultaneously decreasing the number of reps. An example set structure could be:
    • Set One: 14 repetitions with 20 pounds
    • Set Two: 12 repetitions with 30 pounds
    • Set Three: 10 repetitions with 40 pounds
  • Step – Step pyramid training fluctuates up and down with rep counts and weight amount used. Here’s an example of what a step pyramid training set could look like:
    • Set One: 14 repetitions with 40 pounds
    • Set Two: 12 repetitions with 30 pounds
    • Set Three: 10 repetitions with 20 pounds
    • Set Four: 12 repetitions with 30 pounds
    • Set Five: 14 repetitions with 40 pounds
  • Reverse – The reverse pyramid training version consists of decreasing the amount of weight lifted while simultaneously increasing each set’s reps. Here’s an example of how to do this:
    • Set One: 10 repetitions with 40 pounds
    • Set Two: 12 repetitions with 30 pounds
    • Set Three: 14 repetitions with 20 pounds
  • Diamond – Diamond pyramid training is similar to step pyramid training in that it fluctuates up and down. However, in the diamond version, you’ll begin with the lower weights and higher repetitions and end with lower weights and lower repetitions. Here’s an example of what diamond pyramid training can look like:
    • Set One: 14 repetitions with 20 pounds
    • Set Two: 12 repetitions with 30 pounds
    • Set Three: 10 repetitions with 40 pounds
    • Set Four: 12 repetitions with 30 pounds
    • Set Five: 14 repetitions with 20 pounds

How to Incorporate Hypertrophy Training Into Your Routine

If you’re looking for how to incorporate hypertrophy training into your exercise regiment, we’ve listed a four-day workout routine below as an example that could be used. As always, when you are looking to start something new with exercising and weight training, we recommend utilizing a trainer when possible until you’re comfortable.

  • Day One: Standard pyramid sets
    • Three standard pyramid barbell deadlift sets
    • Three standard pyramid barbell curl sets
    • Three standard pyramid chin-up sets
    • Three standard pyramid Romanian deadlift sets
  • Day Two: Step pyramid sets
    • Five step pyramid leg press sets
    • Five step pyramid barbell squat sets
    • Five step pyramid barbell row sets
    • Five step pyramid side lateral raise sets
  • Day Three: Diamond pyramid sets
    • Five diamond pyramid incline barbell bench press sets
    • Five diamond pyramid barbell military press sets
    • Five diamond pyramid barbell row sets
    • Five leg press sets
  • Day Four: Reverse pyramid sets
    • Three reverse pyramid barbell curl sets
    • Three reverse pyramid pull-up sets
    • Three reverse pyramid dip sets
    • Three reverse pyramid triceps press sets

Just as pyramids vary your reps and sets to increase maximum muscle building, a varied schedule similar to the one above can help ensure you get the most out of your workouts. We’ve also put together some pro tips below to maximize your pyramid training sessions even more:

  • While on this workout schedule, take a one-day break between each day to allow your muscles to rest and recover.
  • Always make sure to take the time to warm up before performing any set. Warming up can help you avoid injury.
  • Between each set, rest for at least four minutes.
  • Adjust your diet to best support your muscle-building efforts. Your diet could be a combination of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. It’s crucial to find the diet balance that works best for you.
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