Why You Should Never Do Pyramids

Pyramids… A beginner way of lifting that just doesn’t part from some people.  I still see people who go to the gym with their friends, keep on stacking weight set after set, get completely fatigued, and feel a great sense of accomplishment when in reality, they hardly accomplished anything.

First, let’s clarify what I mean when I say pyramids.  Pyramids are a way to lift in which you start with light weight but with each progressive set you increase the weight so that after about 5 sets or so you have the maximum weight that you want on the bar.  Then after all that, most of the time you also work your way down the pyramid by taking the weight slowly off with each progressive set until you get back to where you started.  If you did a pyramid correctly, your muscle should be burning, and you should be pretty wiped out.

What’s the problem here?

The problem is that fatiguing your muscles does not induce muscle growth!  High intensity lifting with OVERLOADING your muscles induces muscle growth.  The problem with pyramids is that the weight is light for so long, let’s say 4 sets, but the person is going to failure each time.  This is not warming up because they are fatiguing their muscles.  These 4 sets are also not going to build any muscle because the weight is so light; the body can already easily lift with these weights.  Now, by the time the person gets to the 1 or 2 sets that actually are going to build muscle, they are so fatigued by the other sets that they are not going to be able to do nearly as many reps as they normally could, so even those sets are not going to build muscle because that person is capable of doing that weight with those reps under normal conditions.  He did not, in fact, reach muscular failure – he got fatigued.

Some people might be reading this and think, “I did pyramids a ton and saw a lot of muscle growth!  I think that they can work!”  The only time that pyramids would produce muscle growth is if the person is a beginner or they took a long break from lifting and so they are not sort of like a beginner.  Beginners tend to see results no matter what type of lifting routine they do.

I would never advise anyone trying to build muscle to do pyramids.  They are one of the most inefficient forms of lifting that I know of, and I only did them when I first starting lifting because I didn’t know any better.  If you are looking to gain more muscle, stick to normal, light warm-ups and heavy working sets.  Don’t do anything in between.