tuesday trainer – pyramid sets

May 1, 2012 in Blog, Colorado 2012, Friends, Guest Post, Tuesday Trainer, Upper Body, Workout by lindsaymwright

My GP today needs NO introduction…but I’ll give her one anyway.

Janetha is my friend.  Like a real friend.  She’s one of the reasons I started blogging – to motivate, inspire and share our lives!  We have SO much and SO little in common…it’s the most perfect mix. 

Janetha, thank you for believing in me!   I love you very much!

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Hey there, Lindsay’s readers! It’s me, Janetha G, all the way from meals & moves.

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I am thrilled to be taking over Tuesday Trainer this week. When TT was just a (fantastic) idea in Lindsay’s brain, she came to me and asked if I would want to pair up with her to do the weekly feature. I am not a legit trainer and I also am a very good procrastinator, so I told her to embark on that endeavor on her own and I would have her back along the way. And look at it now! 29 weeks later and Tuesday Trainer is all the rage. That was my plan all along.. wait ‘til it got big and then jump in and take all the credit. That’s how you get ahead in life, folks. Take note.
This week’s Tuesday Trainer theme is pyramid sets—specifically upper body pyramid sets. I first learned about pyramid sets when I did Body-for-LIFE back in 2008. Twelve weeks of pyramid sets three times a week did wonders for my muscles:

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In twelve weeks, I lost nearly 10% of my body fat while building lean muscle mass all thanks to the pyramid set workouts. Okay, and eating clean, but the muscle part was all thanks to the pyramid set-style weight lifting!
What’s a pyramid set, you ask? (Pretend you asked…) Let me tell you!
You can do a pyramid set with any exercise that involves reps and weight resistance. A standard “straight set” consists of lifting the same weight (say, 10 pound dumbbells) for the same number of reps (like twelve) for the whole time (say, three sets) and we’d call this “3 sets of 12 at 10#”.
For a pyramid set, you vary the amount of weight you are lifting as well as the number of reps per set. You start the set with a light weight and do lots of reps, then you gradually move up the pyramid and increase the amount of weight you are lifting while decreasing the number of reps in the set. Here, let me show you this rad picture I drew in Paint:

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Get it? No? Need an example? Let’s take my move: biceps curls. We are going to do four sets of biceps curls: pyramid style. It would look like this:

  • 12 reps @ 10# dumbbells
  • 10 reps @ 12# dumbbells
  • 8 reps @ 15# dumbbells
  • 6 reps @ 20# dumbbells

By that last set, you should be trying SUPER HARD. It should be tough. You need to be taxing those muscles!
Let’s talk about the RPE scale for a minute. RPE stands for “rate of perceived exertion” and the scale goes from 1 to 10. 1 is no effort—like sitting on the couch watching old school reruns of Family Feud with Richard Dawson (love that man!) and a 10 is ALL OUT EFFORT—like getting chased by a lion, tiger, AND bear all at the same time and you are running for your life.

Get it?  Good.
So, when it comes to the RPE scale and pyramid sets, you want to measure your exertion for each set using the RPE scale. Let’s use the biceps curls I mentioned above for an example:

  • 12 reps @ 10# dumbbells – Level 5 or 6 on the RPE scale
  • 10 reps @ 12# dumbbells – Level 7 on the RPE scale
  • 8 reps @ 15# dumbbells – Level 8 on the RPE scale
  • 6 reps @ 20# dumbbells – Level 9 or 10 on the RPE scale

Basically, you want to be trying harder and harder as you move up the pyramid so by the time you are done with the last set you can’t even lift your water bottle to quench your thirst.
Now, you know what a pyramid set is and how to use it according to the RPE scale, but you may be wondering why you’d want to work out like this. And even if you aren’t wondering why, I am going to tell you. You saw that coming.

Benefits of Pyramid Sets

  • Muscular endurance. The first set allows your muscles to warm up for the heavier sets to come and increases endurance with the high amount of reps.
  • Quicker strength gains. It the last couple of sets—the heavy ones—you are pushing your body outside of its comfort zone by lifting a weight heavier than you usually would, making your muscles grow stronger more quickly.
  • Activates both slow & fast twitch muscle fibers.  Slow twitch fibers are activated at the bottom of the pyramid through aerobic respiration. This is good for endurance but not for strength. Fast twitch fibers—which rely on stored glycogen–are activated at the top of the pyramid through anaerobic activity which creates strength gains.
  • Prevents a plateau.  The wide range of weight used and reps completed keeps things fresh. It’s important to keep your body guessing! This prevents your body from adapting to a certain standard which can cause a plateau.
    Like I said, you can do pyramid sets with any move that involves weight resistance.

lindsayslist.co-tuesday_trainer

This week we are focusing on upper body pyramid sets—here’s the Tuesday Trainer workout!

The Workout

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The Moves

Bicep Curls – Janetha, mealsandmoves

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Rear Delt Fly – Deb, SmoothieGirlEatsToo

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Lateral Raise – Tamara, fitknitchick

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Pushup Progression – Lindsay, lindsayslist.co (filmed on Green Mtn, CO)

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Pushup Progression – Laura, girlsgonesporty

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Pushup Progression – Lindsay, cottercrunch

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Double Row – Paige, runningaroundnormal

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Dumbbell Skullcrushers – Michael, myfrugalfitness

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Skullcrushers with Hip Bridge – Lindsay, leangreenbean

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Deltoid Press – Casey, cswfityoga

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Plank with Row – Helen, biscuitsarenothealthy

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What a GREAT week!  Thank you, Janetha, for taking over!  And thank you, fellow trainers, for providing her with the moves! 

A few things before I go…

  • Go enter this Probar giveaway on the BLEND site.
  • Go read this post, then MAKE that ice cream!
  • Go read this post and then hire me as your trainer!
  • Join Janetha’s latest challenge for May!  MOVE MORE!  Go here for info!

splendid…lindsay