Bored with doing three sets of 10 reps, I've started doing sets of 15, 10 and five reps. I increase my weight as I go. Is this okay? What are the pros and cons of this?
Without knowing it, you have been performing what we trainers call "pyramid sets." A pyramid set is a workout comprising multiple sets in which the number of repetitions increases or decreases throughout the workout. Pyramid sets are used when you are really trying to challenge the body.
The weight usually changes in an inverse relationship to the repetitions you are doing. The fewer the repetitions, the higher the weight.
If you wanted to do a pyramid set of squats, for example, you would warm up with a light weight for 15 repetitions, then do 10 reps, eight reps and six reps, increasing the weight each time.
Trainers prescribe pyramid sets for two main reasons: They add variety to a workout (I'll often recommend pyramid sets to my clients after they've been exercising regularly for over a year and I don't want them to plateau); and pyramid sets can also stimulate different muscle fibres within the same workout. Longer, endurance sets tend to recruit a greater percentage of slow-twitch fibres. When you perform fewer repetitions, and concentrate more on power and speed, more fast-twitch fibres are needed. (I use pyramid sets with any of my clients who are athletes if I know that they need both power and endurance in their sports.)
Trainer's Tip: If you want to add variety to your workout, you can super-set two exercises within your pyramid workout. To perform a super-set, do exercises back to back with no rest in between. Pick two exercises. Do 15 repetitions of each with a light weight, then 10 reps of each with a medium weight. Finish with six reps of each exercise with a heavy weight.
Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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