Move It Monday: Pyramids

by tinareale on August 20, 2012

As much as Mondays generally hurt with the earlier wake-up calls and “business-as-usual” days, I always love coming here and sharing some new workouts with you.

move it monday

Today I want to do a little climbing with you – increasing the intensity with a new workout approach and mixing up your training with something a little different. Some of you may use pyramids regularly. If so, then hopefully these two workouts will give you a little variety for your routine. If you’ve never done pyramids (or even heard of them), then I hope it will give you another tool you enjoy to add to your fitness arsenal. Let’s talk PYRAMIDS!

What is pyramid training? In sum, you increase a variable of the workout each set or round to gradually build the intensity over the course of the workout.

Let’s look at an example in a strength workout. You originally plan to complete 3 sets of an exercise for 10 reps each. With pyramid training, you will choose to increase the variable of your training load each working set by adding more weight…and using a different number of reps each set.

  • Set 1 = 15 reps at a light to moderate weight
  • Set 2 = 10 reps at a moderate heavy weight
  • Set 3 = 6 reps at a heavy and challenging weight

Each set includes an increase in the amount of weight used, with the number of reps dropping accordingly to have the appropriate challenge each set.  You could even reverse the pyramid by completing a 4th or 5th set by returning to the previous higher reps at the moderate or lighter weight load. Whew! By the time you reach the end, what started off so easily becomes quite the feat to complete!

You can use this training scheme for any strength workout of your own, or give this one a try!

strength pyramid

Warm-up adequately before the workout with some dynamic moves for the upper and lower body or light cardio. Complete each exercises separately, completing all sets before moving to the next exercise and resting approximately 60 seconds between sets.

Start at 12-15 reps of a light to moderate weight. You may use dumbbells or barbells (with the exception of the Arnold press), whichever you prefer. For the second set, use a moderate weight for 8-10 reps. For the final set, use a heavy weight for 5-6 reps. The final 2 reps of each set should feel challenging.

Do pyramids work for cardiovascular training? You betcha! And wouldn’t you know it? I have a favorite pyramid interval workout to share with you today, as well!


For cardiovascular training, I enjoy using pyramids with intervals by keeping the rest period the same, then gradually increasing the intensity for each working interval completed. Like in the workout above – each rest interval remains one minute, yet the working intervals increase from 1 minute to 5 minutes over the course of the workout. Then, as shown in the workout, you can always reverse the pyramid in the opposite direction for an added challenge.

Let me know if you give either of the workouts a try!

Your Turn – Ever done pyramid training? What was your best workout this past week?


1 MizFit August 20, 2012 at 7:09 am

Love. The. Pyramiding!!!

2 Glenneth August 20, 2012 at 7:20 am

love the pyramids! pinned both of these so i can find them again. thanks for always sharing such great workouts with us!

3 Meredith @ DareYouTo August 20, 2012 at 7:26 am

I love the idea of pyramids. Haven’t done them with weights but sometimes toy with the speed of my speed intervals. I like the idea of making a pyramid of the length of those intervals – I’ll give it a go! Thanks

4 [email protected] August 20, 2012 at 7:41 am

I used to always do pyramids on the treadmill…must give it a go again! Just as an aside…you have any good bike workouts? A HIIT that you could link me to?

5 tinareale August 21, 2012 at 7:29 am

I would say any cardio workout I post should be adaptable to any form of cardio. I try to make them all flexible for whatever type of training each person prefers. :)

6 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers August 20, 2012 at 7:48 am

I like pyramid sets. I noticed strength gains for bench press when I rotate in some pyramid training.

7 Tessa at Amazing Asset August 20, 2012 at 7:50 am

Pyramids are great… always keeping you moving and your body guessing as to what is coming next! I haven’t done one in a while though, so yours is saved for later this week :) Thanks Tina!

8 Athena @ Fitness & Feta August 20, 2012 at 7:52 am

Was introduced to pyramids when I won the training plan from you — love them! And now I use them all the time. Last week my fav workout was the mini circuit workout from the bootcamp plan, was a great one to teach in class — it really passes the time and it’s fun!

9 Lindsay @ Lindsay's List August 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

Use pyrmaids all the time!! love them!

10 Kim @ Redefining Kim August 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

I love using pyramids for both weight training and cardio. Pyramids during longer cardio sessions help to break things up and keep me interested.

11 Heather (Where's the Beach) August 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

Every time I think of pyramids I think of Cathe’s Pyramid Upper/Lower workout. I also really liked her pyramid HIIT.

12 tinareale August 21, 2012 at 7:30 am

Haha! Gotta love Cathe. She has so many graet workouts and ideas. I steal moves from her workouts all the time for exercises since she does some cool spins on things and good functional moves at times. The Cathe crush continues! ;)

13 misszippy August 20, 2012 at 9:06 am

Great way to workout! Thanks for sharing the ideas. I love to do a pyramid track workout–something about knowing I’m going to go back down makes it mentally easier on the way up!

14 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots August 20, 2012 at 9:07 am

Great workout! P.s. I loved today’s bootcamp workout, it was awesome one of my favorites!

15 [email protected] August 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

I usually try to do somewhat of a pyramid training when doing intervals. Rather than working at the same intensity for the same amount of time each repetition, I try to either increase the intensity, or go at it for a longer period of time (even if just 30 seconds more) to switch it up further. At this point, its really difficult for me to go for my max intensity for more than 2 1/2 minutes, but I’m working on it!

16 Yellow Haired Girl August 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

I like pyramiding! I do it with weights more often than cardio …

17 Paige @ Your Trainer Paige August 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

I always forget to integrate pyramids into my routine! Pinning that cardio workout :) hope you have a good day!

18 Jesica @rUnladylike August 20, 2012 at 10:50 am

I really like the speed pyramid workout. I can’t wait to try that!

19 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions August 20, 2012 at 10:58 am

Earlier in the year (when I still had access to a pool), a lot of my swim workouts were pyramid style. I’d add a lap to each set (originally 2, 3, 4, but I got up to 3, 4, 5 doing that style) and then come back down (3, 2 or 4, 3). It really made the workouts a lot more interesting, and the promise of things getting easier definitely helped me push through the tip of the pyramid!

20 Alyse August 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I love doing pyramids. You had one in the first BBB, which was the first time I ever did one.

mmm. Arnold shoulder press. I’d love it one of those popped up in a BBB one day. ;-)

21 tinareale August 21, 2012 at 7:31 am

hehehhehee…. ;)

22 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I love pyramid training on the treadmill – it’s so much more interesting than running at a steady state.

I haven’t explored it too much with strength training though, I’ll have to give it a try!

23 [email protected] August 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I love doing pyramids too! LOVE ‘em. Great way to get stronger (and faster)!

24 Stacy @ Stacy Eats August 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Need to add more pyramids to my weight-lifting!

25 Michele @ Nycrunningmama August 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm

YES!!! LOVE pyramid workouts – you hit it on the head – they are SO much fun and they make the workouts FLY by…plus they totally kick your butt :)
My favorite is a treadmill workout – 10 min @ Marathon Pace, 2 min recovery, 8 min @ HMP, 4 min recovery, 6 min @ 10k pace, 6 min recovery, 4 min @ 5k pace, 8 min recovery, 2 min @ mile pace, 10 min recovery.

26 tinareale August 21, 2012 at 7:32 am

That sounds insanely tough…and fun!

27 Angela @ Happy Fit Mama August 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I am a pyramid fan! Makes the time fly by and it’s a great workout. Love!

28 purelymichelle August 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I have only done pyramids workout a few times! they are nice challenge for sure, need to do them more.

29 Stephanie @ My Freckled Life August 22, 2012 at 10:43 am

What great pyramid workouts! I’ve heard of them in strength training before, but for some reason I’ve never really thought about incorporating it into my cardio. What a great idea!

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