From my very introduction to the Iron Game over 20 years ago, (geez, that
makes me sound old!) all of the literature, books, and courses I've read or
followed advocated "pyramiding" your weights on the basic exercises.
If you don't know what "pyramiding" is, here's an example using the
Set 1: 12 reps with 135 lbs.
Set 2: 10 reps with 185 lbs.
Set 3: 8 reps with 225 lbs.
Set 4: 6 reps with 250 lbs.
Set 5: 4 reps with 265 lbs.
Set 6: 2 reps with 285 lbs.
Even as a novice bodybuilder, after a few weeks of "pyramiding" I thought
that it was kinda stupid. After all, if the goal of doing all this work in the
gym is to get stronger and bigger...and we're supposed to constantly
strive for pushing more and more weight in the basic exercises...then all
this "pyramiding" stuff seemed to me to be a lot of wasted energy on
lighter unproductive sets.
Plus it seemed like I would be able to do more weight on the heavier sets
if I hadn't have burned up so much energy on the lighter sets. This was
(and still is) just my humble observation.
Now I agree that warming up is important...but geez, how "warm" do you
wanna get? So warm you're fried???
So I think I've discovered a better way. Well, it's been better for me.
But who knows? It could work for you, too!
As I was just now getting ready to describe my system for the basic
exercises, I realized that I don't have a name for it!
I guess I gotta call it sumthin'!
Hmmmmmm...since I'm not really in a creative mood let's call it...
(insert drum roll here)
"Doberman Dan's Non-Pyramid System For Maximum Muscle Growth"
OK, I admit that kinda sucks. I tried to think of something cute and
creative but couldn't. I tried to think of a word that means "opposite
of a pyramid" but I don't think that word exists. So for now we're
stuck with this non-creative name.
So instead of the pyramid thing (wouldn't it actually be a "triangle?"
Pyramids are 3 dimensional) let's try training on the bench press like
Warm-up Set 1: 20 reps with the empty bar
(Get a little blood flowing and work on your technique. Do these
slowly like you really have weight on there. Just don't ask
someone to spot you on this set lest you look like a wuss!)
Warm-up Set 2: 12 reps
(Select a weight in which you can EASILY complete 12 reps
without even being remotely close to temporary muscular failure.
This is an easy set just to get you warmed up. Do NOT select a
weight which will tax the muscles.)
Warm-up Set 3 (if needed): Same as set 2
Set 4 "Weight acclimation" Set: 4 reps
(Use a weight that you could do about 10 to 12 reps with if you
went to temporary muscular failure. You're not trying to tax the
muscles, just getting used to the feel of the heavier weights.)
Set 5 - Your 2nd "weight acclimation" set: 1 to 2 reps
(Use a weight that you could do about 6 to 8 reps with if you
went to temporary muscular failure. Again, you're not trying to
tax the muscles, just getting used to the feel of the heavier
Set 6 - Your first actual "work set": 6 to 8 reps
(Use a weight that allows you to do at least 6 reps but no
more than 8 reps to temporary muscular failure. If you can't
do 6 reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can do 8 or more
reps, the weight is not heavy enough.)
Set 7 - Your 2nd "work set": Same as Set 6
(Due to fatigue from the first work set you might not be able
to get 6 reps. If you only get 4 or less, lighten the weight a
little for the final set.)
Set 8 - Your 3rd "work set": Same as Set 6
When you start your actual work sets, rest 2 to 4 minutes in
between sets. You want plenty of recuperation time. We're
trying to hoist big iron here.
If you're a relative newbie to the Iron Game stick with the
6 to 8 rep range on the work sets.
If you've been training a while and consider yourself an
intermediate or advanced bodybuilder, you might want to
try the 4 to 6 rep range for the work sets. I've made some
really good size and strength gains within the past 3
months by working in the 4 to 6 rep range on the basic
If you have good recuperation-ability and are intermediate
to advanced, you could add a 4th work set. But for most
folks I think 3 is plenty.
Now go try it on your next bench, deadlift, or squat workout.
I'll bet if you've been "pyramiding" you'll be amazed at
how strong and fresh you are on the work sets while
following my "non-pyramid" system.
I added 25 pounds to my incline press the first time I tried
this system. Maybe you'll do the same!
All the best,
Note: Dan's book "Hardgainer Secrets: Build Up To 25 Pounds
Of Muscle In 8 Weeks" is available for instant download at:
For more bodybuilding workout and diet tips subscribe to our newsletter.
FREE WEEKLY FITNESS TIPS NEWSLETTER
Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Shape Up
stay informed and stay motivated,
Sign up free by sending an e-mail to