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Feeling a little bored with your exercise routine? Doing the same exact exercises all the time can cause burnout and even halt your progress. Try switching things up with pyramid training, which can be used to increase strength, muscle definition, and endurance.

What is pyramid training?

Pyramid training is centered on one primary movement, say, a push-up or squat. You take that movement and then conduct an increasing or decreasing (or sometimes both) number of sets, and then vary the resistance and rest breaks based on your fitness goals. In simple terms: You’re doing the same exercise while increasing and decreasing intensity.

There are three types of pyramids you can try: strength-based, hypertrophy-based, and endurance-based. It sounds a little intimidating, but let’s break it down:

Building strength is best done with heavier resistance and lower sets to keep you from putting too much stress on your joints. Because you’ll be maxing out your strength, stick with a range of between 1-5 reps. You’ll also want to keep the resistance the same throughout the pyramid to improve your body’s ability to handle the load.

For push-ups, choose a variation that’s going to be extremely difficult for you, which will depend on your current fitness level. If you find traditional push-ups a challenge, stick with those. If push-ups are a piece of cake for you, try tricep or one-arm push-ups.

Perform as follows:

  • 5 reps (hard variation)
  • Rest 2 minutes (to allow for full recovery)
  • 4 reps (hard variation)
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • 3 reps (hard variation)

Continue down to 1 rep for completion of pyramid.

Hypertrophy is the enlargement of a specific muscle group due to an increased training volume. This is what you’d use when your goal is something like larger, more defined biceps. Hypertrophy is best achieved with a medium level of resistance and a range between 8-12 reps. For hypertrophy, you’ll also want to stick with the same resistance throughout the workout.

For a push-up, this would be when you use the variation you can comfortably do for 8-12 reps. You’ll also want to shorten your rest breaks down to between 30 seconds and a minute to maximize the training benefits.

Perform as follows:

  • 12 reps (medium variation)
  • Rest 30 seconds–1 minute
  • 11 reps (medium variation)
  • Rest 30 seconds–1 minute
  • 10 reps (medium variation)
  • Rest 30 seconds–1 minute

Continue down to 8 reps for completion of the pyramid.

Endurance is your ability to perform a set action for a long period of time (think running a marathon versus sprinting). This type of training works well within pyramid training because performing a pyramid will test your body’s ability to recover rapidly in between each set. The easiest way to incorporate endurance into your session is to cut down on the length of your rest breaks. You‘ll need a lightly challenging resistance, something you can do for 10-20 reps with a short rest break of 30 seconds max, such as push-ups on your knees or against a wall. For endurance-based work, I’d also recommend working your way back up the pyramid.

Perform as follows:

  • 20 reps (light resistance)
  • 30-second rest
  • 19 reps (light resistance)
  • 30-second rest
  • 18 reps (light resistance)

Continue down to 15 reps and then work in reverse by adding a rep back to each set, like this:

  • 15 reps (light resistance)
  • 30-second rest
  • 16 reps (light resistance)
  • 30-second rest
  • 17 reps (light resistance)

Work your way back up to 20 reps to complete the pyramid.