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Will pyramid sets help my workout? Add to ...

QUESTION

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?

ANSWER

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.

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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 trainer@globeandmail.com. 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 Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

 

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