A Few of the “Strong” Benefits of Reverse Pyramid Training

Reverse pyramid training (RPT) is great training option to use when looking to gain muscle size and strength. This type of program design features high-intensity sets but low volume workouts. Reverse pyramid training is simply a lifting style. RPT involves the heaviest weight used early in each overall sequence of sets for a particular muscle group. The reason this type of training works so well is because it takes advantage of a persons high energy level early in a workout. As a result, the muscles are not fatigued (yet) and, therefore, have the ability to handle heavier loads early in the workout. The idea is to do as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP) without going to failure during each set.

Reverse Training Pyramid Example

Here are a few examples of what an upper and lower body RPT would look like following an efficient warm-up. This would be an example for an intermediate lifter who is looking to build strength and hypertrophy. Rest between sets is approximately 2-3 minutes using a tempo of about 4-seconds/repetition, 2-seconds each for concentric and eccentric phase. Decrease the weight between subsequent sets by approximately 10-15 percent.

1A – BENCH PRESS

(*Perform 2-3 warm-up sets for each exercise*)

225 x 6

185 x 10

160 x 12

1B – INCLINE BENCH PRESS

155 x 8

125 x 10

105 x 12

2A – SQUAT

(*Perform 3 warm-up sets for each exercise*)

315 x 3

275 x 6

235 x 8

2B – DEADLIFT

345 x 4

295 x 6

250 x 8

Research Review on Reverse Pyramid Training

There are few studies in the research literature that look at the benefits of RPT. But in that same breath, know that RPT is not better than traditional training. It offers you another training option but with a nice caveat – it can be used to help break through training plateaus. According to research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, training with repetitions around the 8-12 range allows for gains in muscle size compared to training with less repetitions, such as 2-4 repetitions, will elicit more of a strength gain. The outcome, as it relates to RPT, is the lifter receives both benefits (size and strength).

Changing Training Stimulus is Important in Reverse Pyramid Training

One way to bust through a training plateau is to change the training stimulus. This could be done by switching in/out exercises, changing repetitions, sets, or adjusting volume or rest between sets to name a few. This could also be a good time to add in RPT. Every few months, think about how changing things up a bit could benefit your overall program. Remember, the body continually adapts to the training stimulus provided. Your goal is to periodically measure how you are doing on the program, adjust, pivot if necessary, and continue to push through.

Stay Strong with Jefit

Jefit was recently named best online strength training workout for 2021 in an article published by Healthline. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit

Download the Free Strength Program on Jefit App

Please visit the Jefit app to download the free, beginner Reverse Pyramid Training program that is mentioned in this article. You can find it here.

Why Repetitions are an Important Training Variable

There are four training variables that require manipulation during a workout in order to make significant gains in the gym. An easy way to remember them is with an acronym known as FITT. The FITT Principle, as it is referred to, stands for training frequency, intensity, timing and type (specificity). These variables are controlled for during each training session and over the length of the training program. Frequency is the number of sessions per week, intensity is the load expressed as resistance, time is simply duration of a workout and finally type is the activity.

With that said, to reach any fitness goal, the rules of overload and progression should be followed in a given workout. Each of these are key training principles that refers to the amount of load or resistance and the way that load should be increased respectively.

The Importance of a Repetition

You can perform hundreds of repetitions in a given workout. The speed of a repetition, total number of repetitions and the volume, all play an important role in muscular development. Variations in either will have a direct correlation on the nervous and muscular systems via the corresponding training stimulus. Let’s break down each one of these.

Repetition Speed or Tempo and TUT

A repetition has three distinct phases, an upward, isometric and lowering phase. As a result, we have the ability to increase or decrease time under tension (TUT) by manipulating the tempo (speed) for a given repetition. For example, a workout with a prescribed tempo of 1/1/2 would mean, a 1-second upward (concentric), 1-second isometric and a 2-second lowering (eccentric) phase. Therefore, in this case, each one takes 4-seconds to complete. In other words, 4-seconds x total repetitions = TUT. If we use 8 repetitions as an example, we would have 32-seconds of TUT. A good range to shoot for is about 30-50 seconds of TUT/set. Research has demonstrated the importance of TUT and the key may be in the cumulative effect of TUT for an entire workout (all sets) versus to a single set.

Repetition Tempo x Total # Repetitions = TUT

Quantity of Repetitions

One of the first things you learn when strength training is a higher number of repetitions stimulates muscle endurance while a lower number builds strength. Here is nice graph, showing the importance of a repetition scheme on a specific training goal, as seen in the NSCA manual.

TRAINING GOALREPETITIONSINTENSITY (% 1-RM)
Strength Endurance>12<67%
Hypertrophy6-1267-85%
Maximum Strength<6>85%
Power
-Single-repetition event
-Multiple-repetition event

1-2
3-5

80-90%
75-85%
Source: NSCA Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.) 2008.

Exercise Volume (sets x repetitions x load)

The volume is the quantity of work that someone does in a training session. In regard to strength training, this is the number of repetitions multiplied by the number of sets and weight lifted. For example, performing four sets x 8 using 40-lbs. dumbbells equates to a volume of 32 x 40 or 1280. In addition, volume can also be expressed in terms of distance, time, number of throws, or even number of jumps, etc. For example, when performing medicine ball throws for 35-seconds, volume can be quantified by time. Volume can also be expressed in terms of distance, such as sprinting for 100-meters or running a certain number of miles, like a 5k. An inverse relationship exists between the intensity of an exercise and its volume.

The Value of this Information Moving Forward

During your next workout pay attention to how you execute each repetition in each set you perform. Be more aware of the tempo for each repetition; have an idea of the cumulative TUT post workout. Are you less than 30-seconds/TUT/set like many who train? Is your total TUT changing from one workout to the next based on your training goals? If you know you move through your repetitions quickly, that fine (especially training for power), maybe slow down that final phase of each repetition. The lowering or eccentric phase is important because you can typically handle more weight, so slow things down to challenging your muscles more often, keeping the concept of TUT in the back of your mind.

Try Jefit App

Jefit app was named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC Magazine, Men’s Health, The Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit!

Master the Lat Pulldown Exercise for a Strong Back

Walk into any gym around the country and you’ll see one thing for sure. Someone most likely performing a variation of a lat pulldown exercise. The lat pulldown has long been considered a staple multi-joint movement.

Lat Pulldown Exercise Not Only Builds Strength, It Helps Posture Too

Many people sit in front of a computer for hours at a time each day. This can negatively effect the neck and back areas by placing stress on the muscle and connective tissue resulting from a rounded back and forward head. The lat pulldown exercise can help correct this postural issue. A weak, unused, latissimus dorsi muscle, is typically the culprit. This can eventually change by strengthening the back area using different grips and a combination of narrow and wide hand positions during the pulling movement.

Most Effective Way to Perform the Pull Movement

Have you ever thought about what is actually happening during a lat pulldown exercise? We know that it is a compound movement where muscles surrounding the shoulder and elbow joints are actively working. The action of the lat pulldown results in a downward rotation and depression of the scapula, leading to scapula retraction, combined with adduction and extension of the shoulder joint.

The big, and often discussed, question that arises is how to perform the exercise correctly. Meaning, should a front pulldown or rear pulldown be used? The answer is a front pulldown is better and safer to perform than pulling the bar behind the neck. To begin with, pulling the bar down behind the neck can eventually lead to shoulder issues like an impingement. It can also lead to rotator cuff issues, specifically in the subscapularis, one of the four muscles making up this area.

Moreover, best technique includes using an overhand grip. In addition, hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width. A study in the Journal Strength & Conditioning Research determined this was the most effective way to perform the exercise. The study concluded the wide-grip lat pulldown exercise in the front produced greater muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi. Lastly, here’s a great thesis by Gary Pugh while at the University of Florida on front versus rear lat pulldown.

Lat Pulldown Exercise Execution

First, make sure you an appropriate weight selected on the machine. Meaning, you should be able to perform 8-12 repetitions with proper form. If you cannot maintain good form, decrease the amount of weight until you’re in that range. Start by using an overhand grip. Lean back slightly. Engage your back muscles (latissimus dorsi) as you pull the bar down toward your chest. Think about pulling your elbows towards the floor. Visualize the scapula retracting (moving toward each other) as you execute the movement. Exhale as you pull the weight down and inhale on the way back up. Think, “exhale during exertion.” Keep your elbows in close to the body and maintain control as you lift and lower the weight. Engage the core to prevent rocking back and forth.

Primary Muscle Groups Worked

The lat pulldown activates the largest back muscle, the latissimus dorsi, during the movement. In addition, the biceps, posterior deltoid, rhomboid, trapezius and pec major, all come into play. A second study in the J. of Strength & Conditioning Research showed promising results using a front lat pulldown. The study found the pec major had the highest EMG activity during a front versus rear lat pulldown exercise. This study showed external rotation and abduction during a rear pulldown can be an issue for the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff has to work extremely hard to stabilize the head of the humerus in this position. Over time, shoulder pain and injuries like tendinosis can arise.

Adding the front lat pulldown exercise, using an overhand grip with arms slightly wider than the shoulders, will offer the best chance for highest overall muscle activation. Exercise options could include a narrow overhand grip, or a wider underhand grip to place more demand on the biceps while changing up the muscle activation involving the back. Use the award-winning Jefit app to help log and track all the exercises you add with the lat pulldown in your next workout. Stay Strong!

Try the Award-Winning Jefit App

Jefit app was named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC Magazine, Men’s Health, The Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your sustainable fitness lifestyle.