Fundamentals of training #1 - The pyramid

Fundamentals of training #1 – The pyramid

If you’ve followed our educational series of articles so far, you should know a good amount of information about how the body handles different loads.

What we’re referring to here :

  • Why measuring your workout is important – Training parameters
  • Did you know? The 3 Energy systems of the body
  • How does the muscle grow?
  • Types of muscle growth

If you haven’t read those yet, make sure to do so!

We also learned that when it comes to muscle building, we should stay within the 70~85% range of our maximum strength capabilities.

However, it is important to remember that when done the wrong way, weight lifting can cause damage to your joints, tendons and ligaments.

So, what is the one thing we can do to avoid such unpleasant occurences?

Working your way up


Training is a type of stress for the physique, to which the body adapts.

That is exactly why we need to work our way up to the higher levels of intensity, where proper stimulation occurs.

Needless to say, all we want is positive adaptations, such as increases in strength, strength endurance, muscle size, etc.

Negative adaptations, such as loss of strength, size and even damaging the skeletal system is a no-go.

For this article, we will discuss something a bit more practical – The pyramid.

Warming up

warming up

Just doing a couple of limb rotations on each side and stretching your muscles out is NOT a warm up.

We MUST remember that we need the proper set and setting in order to produce maximum muscular force.

It’s kind of like a car – If you get in the car and floor it right off the bat, what’s going to happen?

Some of the mechanical parts may break. And even if they don’t at first, wrong exploitation of the machine will lead to negative side effects in the long term.

And after all, the goal with training is to maintain fitness overtime, instead of sacrificing your joints for temporary good looks.

Warming up and working your way into the workout is of PRIME importance, not just for joint health but for getting an optimal workout as well.

There are a ton of people who believe that a warm-up would make them lose energy and perform worse during their strength exercises.

That however is wrong.

If we consider the body to be a machine, we need to warm up its separate components (systems).

In this case, these are the things that are most activated during each resistance workout:

  • The musculature
  • The cardiovascular system
  • The respiratory system

If we properly activate those systems, prior to starting the actual part of our workout, we will observe a significant improvement in performance.

Warm-up recommendations

  • 5-10 minutes of light cardio – Slow pace jogging, rope jumping, bike, etc.

Cardio to activate the cardiovascular system and get the blood flowing

  • Contract and stretch

Doing weight-free isometric contractions (simply flexing the muscles) will help you start feeling the targeted muscles more and creating that vital mind-muscle connection.

  • Joint rotations

Once you’ve done the previous part of the warm up, you can do mobility & rotations, bringing each joint through its full range of motion, under all angles.

Working your way to intensity- The pyramid

Okay, so once this part of the warm-up is done, you can get to the exercises.

The Pyramid principle which we talk about, implies a gradual increase in the working weight that we use.

We start from the lower levels of intensity and build up to the higher levels.

Logically, that means lower weights and higher reps in the first 2-3 sets and then higher weights with lower repetitions in the last 3-4 sets.

This gradually increasing stress upon the musculature, joints and nervous system allows to avoid excessive stress and negative adaptations.

pyramid workout

In our article for beginner workouts, we saw a similar pyramid:

  • Set 1 – 15 repetitions
  • Set 2 – 12 repetitions
  • Set 3 – First working set, 10 repetitions
  • Set 4 – Second working set, 8 repetitions
  • Set 5 – Third working set, 6 to 8 repetitions

If you’re doing full body workouts, the pyramid principle can be applied on the first 2 exercises, in order to warm up both the pushing and the pulling muscle groups.

If you’re doing a split workout, you can apply it on the first exercise only, and then proceed to working sets.

Increasing weight

Alright, we now know how to smartly approach training, so that we will avoid mistakes and injuries.

Now the question is – How should you increase weight?

Well, as you see in the pyramid, the working sets start at Set #3, where you do 10 repetitions.

For the working sets, pick a weight that’s challenging, but doesn’t bring you to failure.

The goal is to ultimately get a 3×10 with the weight you’ve picked.

And so, if you start at 50 kg on the bench press for 15,12,10,8,6, your goal before upping the weight should be reaching 15,12,10,10,10 with that weight of 50 kgs.

Once that checkpoint is hit, you can increase the weight with up to 5%.

Usually, you shouldn’t go for immense increases.

A total of 2,5 to 5 kg and working your way up to 3×10 with that weight is fine.

Though that may not look like a lot, gravity takes its toll and the small increase becomes a great challenge on the upper rep range.

This increase in weight is just one of the parameters that can be manipulated, in order to introduce new stimulus to the body.

This increase is also referred to as “Progressive overload” and it is an inevitable, fundamental principle, which is mandatory for progress.

After all, the body adapts to previously unknown stress, which is exactly why we need to introduce new stress.

The topic of discussion however is pretty big, which is why we have dedicated a separate article on Progressive overload.

Make sure to check it out by clicking HERE.

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