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Tip: The push-pull pyramid | T nation



It might be challenging to give yourself a quick kick in the pants. A pyramid is a collection of sets in which you perform a specific exercise, starting with higher repetitions during the first few sets and progressively fewer repetitions as you work your way through the pyramid.

Basically, the reps start high and drop each set. Some lifters will work the pyramid back up and manipulate the weight to go down and then back up in repetitions.

This is the former approach. Here’s what it looks like in action:

The horizontal push-pull pyramid

  • Do 1
    0 pushups and then 10 reverse rows.
  • Do 8 pushups and then 8 reverse rows.
  • Do 6 pushups, then 6 reverse rows.
  • Do 4 pushups, then 4 reverse rows.
  • Do 2 pushups, then 2 reverse rows.

Rest as needed. Try to finish it as soon as possible while maintaining strict form and pace.

My feet are raised in both exercises and I use tape resistance. You can downsize by doing it with your feet on the floor or without a tape.

You don’t have to use pushups and rows. Choose between presses (push-up and bench presses) and pulls (reverse rowing exercises and free-weight rowing exercises).

The vertical push-pull pyramid

  • Do 10 strict presses, then 10 pull-ups.
  • Do 8 strict presses, then 8 pull-ups.
  • Do 6 strict presses, then 6 pull-ups.
  • Do 4 strict presses, then 4 pull-ups.
  • Do 2 strict presses, then 2 pull-ups.

Vertical presses include overhead exercises like rigorous barbell presses and handstand push-ups with general emphasis on the shoulders. Vertical pull movements include chin-up, chin-up, and pull-down variations with a general emphasis on the lats.

When should you make pyramids?

  • Use it as a finisher. They are a great way to crush your muscle fibers at the end of a workout. I say “finisher” because if you get them right, you will toast.
  • Try them out as a test every 10-12 weeks. When doing bodyweight exercises, you are exercising to shorten your overall time and beat your previous score. When doing weighted exercises, you are exercising to increase the load between tests.
  • Don’t use them every time you workout. You will end up running into the ground. Just sprinkle pyramids regularly to keep things interesting.

Why should you make pyramids?

  • Stepping up the intensity every now and then is a great way to challenge yourself.
  • Pyramids can be a measure of overall strength and performance. Use them to measure where you are in terms of overall strength and anaerobic endurance.
  • They help “balance” things. Using an opposing movement pattern type pyramid can be an effective way to round out your workout.

Related: Pyramid Method for Strength and Muscle

Related: Do pyramid repetitions for broad shoulders


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