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The Reverse Pyramid Training – A Blue Print for Strength and Muscle Mass

Getting that buff bod is not easy.  It requires discipline, commitment, and the desire to achieve your goals. However, there are hundreds of training workouts and plans out there that you can choose from, and one of them is Reverse Pyramid Training. This way of training requires you to start with your heaviest weight first, then work your way down to lighter sets that have more reps to them. This type of workout is suitable for big compound training movements such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, as well as chin-ups. 

What Is Reverse Pyramid Training?

In Reverse Pyramid, the routines are usually short or has a low relative training volume but high intensity. This is a good routine for those who hit a plateau in their workout or those who haven’t been pushing themselves in the gym. One reason behind this is that when you use RPT for the first time, you’ll find that you have more to give than your usual training because they are pushing themselves close to failing.

However, because of the high intensity of Reverse Pyramid, this weight training plan is not suitable for novices since their form can break down. It is not ideal for the more experienced weightlifters since the low overall training volume can make them feel that they are stagnating in their workout routine. [1]

The Pros and Cons of Reverse Pyramid Training

If this is your first time to hear about RPT and would like to try it out yourself, you might want to start with learning more about the pros and cons to know what you are dealing with. Here’s what you need to know:


  • Time efficient. Compared to 5 x 5, RPT is more time efficient and produces better results. This is ideal for those who don’t have the time to head to the gym regularly every week which means that, in your training, you will need to make every set and reps count.
  • Dieting. RPT has been proven one of the most effective ways for you to retain or gain strength and muscle while promoting fat loss.


  • Not ideal for everyone. Although reverse pyramid workout helps you with strength training and building muscle, it is not applicable to all. One example of this is a powerlifter who needs to develop their technical proficiency as well as motor patterns in terms of squat, bench press, and deadlift. This goes true to any type of sport that doesn’t rely on just strength and muscle hypertrophy. [2]

Benefits Of Reverse Pyramid Training

If you have been training regularly, but then hit a plateau in your workout, you know that you need to get your training up and running again. On the other hand, if you are still starting out in RPT, this workout will help you build strength as well as muscle gains compared to other types of training. These are the benefits that you can get from RPT.

  • Build heavy set without fatigue. In the reverse pyramid, instead of doing the light lifts first, you will be doing your heaviest set first while you are still fresh. This gives you the opportunity to do heavy weights easier and with more power too. Of course, you still have to start with a proper warm up otherwise you are setting yourself up to getting injured. The 5/3/1 protocol is a good warm up set where you do 5 reps of light weight, 3 reps with medium weight, and 1 rep using a weight that is near your heavy set. You should rest between the build up sets and another 3 minutes before you do your RPT.
  • One heavy set at maximum effort. Another benefit to training with reverse pyramid is that you are going to do the heaviest weight once where you can push yourself to the limit and not have to do it again. Not only will this give you that sense of relief, but it will also enable you to perform better in the latter sets. Another plus to this is that you will not put yourself at risk from excessive neural fatigue. This means that you’ll feel stronger after and more refreshed too.
  • You’ll do two easier sets after. What’s great about doing the heavy weights at the start is that your body will be supercharged. Lifting heavy weights needs maximum muscle fiber stimulation right from the first rep. This is quite different from lifting lighter weights where you engage your muscle fibers on the last toughest reps. When you do your heavy set at the start, your body moves to a temporary muscle fiber activation which means that you will be promoting more muscle growth at the later part of your training. [3]

The RPT Program

In the first set of RPT you will need to do 4 to 6 reps which you need to complete using full range of motion and without any help. You should put maximum effort in your final rep without taking to failure. After the first set, you can rest for 90 seconds or up to 3 minutes max, to recuperate in order to complete the next sets and reps.

In the second set, the number of reps should be 6 to 8 where you will be lifting 90% of the weight that you used during your first set. Drop another 10% in your third set with the goal of doing 8 reps but not taking to failure. Here’s a sample reverse pyramid workout to consider.


For Monday, you can focus on building up your chest muscle and biceps by doing these exercises.

  • Incline bench press3 sets of 4, 6, 8 reps.
  • Flat bench press. 3 sets of 4, 6, 8 reps.
  • Incline dumbbell curls. 3 sets of 4, 6, 8 reps.
  • Cable curls. 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Cable fly. 3 sets of 10 reps.


On Wednesdays, the muscle group that you will be focusing is on your legs.

  • Squat. 3 sets of 4, 6, 8 reps.
  • Deadlift. 2 sets of 3 and 5 reps.
  • Lying leg curl. 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Leg press. 3 sets of 6, 8, 10 reps.
  • Seated calf raise. 3 sets of 10 reps.


On the third day of your training, you will be focusing on your back, shoulders, and your triceps. Here’s a sample workout to do.

  • Weighted pull ups. 3 sets of 4, 6, and 8 reps.
  • Standing military press.  3 sets of 4, 6, and 8 reps.
  • Barbell row. 3 sets of 4, 6, and 8 reps.
  • Lying triceps extension. 3 sets of 6, 8, and 10 reps.
  • Lateral raises. 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Tricep pushdown. 3 sets of 10 reps.

What You Need to Know on Making Progress with RPT

If you want to become bigger and stronger even, you will need to boost your training stimulus which is the main goal behind the progressive overload. It doesn’t matter whether you are going to increase the weight, add more reps, or lower the resting period in between sets, you will have plenty of opportunity to add progressive overload during your RPT.

If you want to know whether you are making any progress, write down your training in your journal so you will be able to keep an eye on the number of reps that you can do for each weight that you lift for each workout that you do.

Basically, in the Incremental Progression Model, you will increase the weight once you reached the maximum rep for a given set. So, if your rep ranges for each set are: set 1 is 4 to 6 reps, set 2 is 6 to 8 reps and set 3 is 8 to 10 reps, on your next workout, it will be 5, 7 and 9, and on the next workout it will be 6, 8, and 10 repetitions and so on.

Keep in mind that the rate of your progress is going to be depending on your experience. For example, if you have already gained about 15 to 20 lbs of lean muscle in your training, it’s going to be harder for you to make any progress compared to those who just gained 5 to lbs of muscle. This is why it is important that you have a workout journal with you, so you will know what your targets are for your next workout session. [4]


If you plan on using reverse pyramid to jumpstart your training, you need to keep in mind that the number of sets that you are going to do is critical to this program. Usually, three sets are good enough start, but for those who are in the intermediate as well as advanced lifting experience, you should add three to six sets so that your muscle fibers will be completely tired after your workout.

If your goal is to burn fats, then you need to build more lean muscle since this muscle requires calories to burn. RPT will help you get this down pat.