The Crazy Pyramid Training Protocol for Rapid Fat Loss and Accelerated Muscle Gain
Both of these posts have a particular theme in mind: When you don’t have access to a kick-ass gym, you still have access to kick-ass workout protocols, and therefore can still get kick-ass results.
Today, I want to talk to you about one of the more “advanced” training methods I use in such situations.
As I mentioned in the Vegas post, while I love bodyweight workouts, I’m really a gym-rat to the core. However, I don’t care much for hotel gyms when I’m traveling, mainly because they are never stocked well enough to allow me to perform a scheduled workout from whatever program I’m on.
So, obviously, if I want to get a good lift in while I’m on the road (or in a limited facility of any kind), I need to look at some other methods.
And, that, of course, is my subtle segue into today’s post about just one such method—Descending Pyramid Training (DPT), which is an exceptionally adjustable and customizable protocol that, due to its nature, can be used to burn fat while building muscle.
You see, DPT programs are designed with a few specific things in mind: stimulating muscle tissue to create an environment suitable for muscle growth; and increasing the overall metabolic response that will enable you to burn fat without entering into an energy deficit that would make hypertrophy impossible.
Descending Pyramid Training is a method that has been used for decades by some of the world’s most successful athletes. In fact, the Big Man Himself, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a strong advocate and implemented pyramid training of all types (especially DPT) extensively in his training.
The idea of pyramids is pretty simple: do short sets with descending numbers of reps, allowing you to do perform a good deal of work in minimal time (increased density), all while having built-in rest periods.
In order to make this possible, there are two ways to set up DPT exercises:
Here’s an example with bicep: Curl a dumbbell with your left arm 5 times, then with your right arm 5 times; then 4 with your left, followed by 4 with your right. Repeat for 3, 2, and 1.
Sounds simple enough, but, done correctly, this is actually a rather clever protocol—when you use the right weight, which should usually be a weight above what you could use for the desired reps.
In the example above, let us say you were using your 10-Rep Max, which in a dumbbell curl might be 25 pounds.
If you perform a normal set of 10 reps, you are lifting a total of 250 pounds (10 reps X 25 pounds = 250 pounds lifted). Not too bad.
Let us say you use that same weight for the descending pyramid, as described above.
You are lifting that same 25 pounds, but for a total of 15 reps (5 +4+3+2+1 = 15). You are able to lift your 10RM for 15 reps because of the rest periods that are built into the protocol, and so you are able to recover and keep working. You’re doing a total of 50% more work, but it’s also taking up a bit more time, so you’ll wind up with a modest (but not huge) bump in density.
Most importantly, over the course of that set, you will have lifted a total of 375 pounds.
With descending pyramids, you are doing more work—in the form of more reps—with a weight you normally could not lift that number of times.
The result is more total weight lifted. Given those factors, it’s not difficult to see how this method can lead to significant muscle growth.
Now, here’s the best part. Because you are doing more work with challenging weight (and more work overall) this is a very calorically expensive training method, which means it’s great for fat loss based on that factor alone.
However, looking further, if you pair exercises together intelligently, you can create fast-paced DPT circuits, which allows you to be lifting supra-maximal weight while getting ALL the benefits of traditional Metabolic Resistance Training.
As far as nutrient partitioning and body recomposition, DPT training is one of many effective protocols. However, as far as advanced methods you can use on the road or in limited space, Descending Pyramid Training is the best there is.
And of course, I’m not just going to stop there—I’ve got a whole DPT workout for you, one that incorporates BOTH methods of using descending pyramids.
A) Dynamic Lunges
Reps: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Using your 10 rep max, perform 5 forward dynamic lunges with your left leg, then 5 for your right leg, then 4 for your left leg, etc.
This circuit is to be performed three times, with 60 seconds of rest between each. After the third circuit, rest 30 seconds and proceed to Circuit B.
B1) Bicep Curl
B2) Dumbbell Top-Squat
B3) Overhead Press
Reps: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Perform 6 bicep curls. At the top of the last curl, secure the dumbbells on your shoulders and perform 6 dumbbell top-squats. At the apex of your last squat, press the dumbbells overhead for 6 reps. Drop the dumbbells back down to your sides, and perform 5 bicep curls. Proceed this way until you have completed all reps.
This circuit is to be performed twice, with 90 seconds of rest between each.