Advanced Intermediate Workout Plan

Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT) Workout Plan

photo of man lifting barbell

If you are an experienced lifter and you haven’t tried reverse pyramid training yet you have been missing out! Reverse pyramid training is a great way to change up your workouts, get some fresh results, and shorten workout times. It builds strength and muscle and gets you out of the gym fast!

With that said, reverse pyramid training really isn’t for beginners. If you are wanting a way to get short workouts with quick results try StrongLifts.

RPT is most beneficial for recreational athletes looking to increase strength when they only have a few days a week to work with and short training time.

Reverse Pyramid Training Sample Workout

Before starting on this plan, it is highly recommended that you read more about how this type of program works. Don’t forget to warm up! Your warmup should consist of a few lighter sets, the heaviest being around 80% of your working weight.

Sample 3 Day RPT Split
Strength Focus
Monday
ExerciseTop SetSet 2
(reduce weight 10-15%)
Set 3
(reduce weight another 10-15%)
Deadlift4-6 reps6-8 reps8-10 reps
Overhead Press6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Weighted Chip-Ups6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Rows6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Wednesday
ExerciseTop SetSet 2Set 3
Bench Press6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Incline DB Press6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Bicep Curls8-10 reps10-12 reps
Tricep Extensions8-10 reps10-12 reps
Friday
ExerciseTop SetSet 2Set 3
Squat6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Hamstring Curl6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Leg Extensions6-8 reps8-10 reps10-12 reps
Calf Raises8-10 reps10-12 reps12-15 reps

What is Reverse Pyramid Training?

Reverse pyramid training is a method of training that involves using starting with your heaviest weight and lowest reps. After each set the weight is lowered and the reps are increased for the following set. Typically, the weight is decreased by 10-15%. RPT plans rarely have more than 3 sets per lift as the first set should have been very heavy and difficult to finish. In most cases it would be an AMRAP (as many reps as possible).

RPT is best suited for heavy compound movements such as squat, bench, and deadlift. This is mainly because lifting time is short so a lot of work needs to be done in a small time window.

RPT Progression

Reverse pyramid training progresses in two ways: weight or reps. Here is how:

  • For the first training session use about 85% of your one rep max.
  • If your top set target was 6-8 reps and you get 7 reps- the next training session you would try for more reps with the same weight. You will increase the weight slightly on the next session if you get 8 or more reps.
  • If you fail to get the minimum number of reps on any top set- lower the weight for the next session.
  • The same is true for your second and third set, although the weight will be lower than the top set.
  • Adjust all sets independently of each other. For example: if you only get more than the prescribed reps on the second set, increase the weight on the second set of your next session but leave the others the same.

Rest

Rest times in between sets should be around three minutes. More specifically, they should be however long it takes you to catch your breath and be ready to push maximum effort again. Typically, there is at least one day of rest between each lifting day when using a RPT style program.

barbell squats are a big part of reverse pyramid training

Benefits of Reverse Pyramid Training

RPT is a very solid cure for experienced individuals who are stagnant with their current training methods. Pushing to failure in this way will usually help trained individuals realize that they are capable of more strength and intensity than they were previously aware.

Strength and Size

In general, heavy, low-rep sets are great for strength and higher reps are better for putting on size. It’s a generalization as there are other factors, but RPT does a good job of bringing together both.

Intensity

The first working set is going to be the heaviest set of the workout. This is less taxing on the nervous system than multiple max out sets. It also means that the hardest part of your lift will be the very beginning. Give it your all!

Speed

RPT usually does not include very many sets as you only do a few different movements. This means you can be in and out of the gym quickly and still know you put in maximum effort.

Focus

RPT focuses on using the lifts that generate the most results.

Bulk or Cut

The stimulus provided by reverse pyramid training will work for bulking or cutting. Just remember that if you’re in a caloric deficit, recovery will be slower. Try to stick to 2 or 3 lifts if this is the case.

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale

Not Sure how many calories you need to bulk or cut? Check out our calorie calculator!

The Downsides to Reverse Pyramid Training

Any training program is not without its downsides. Here are some of the issues with RPT.

Intensity

Yep. You read that right. Although this is a benefit for some people it may be detrimental to others. This really depends on your personality. If you hate going to the gym every day because of this style of training- it probably isn’t for you.

Not for Beginners

This style of training requires a solid foundation of strength and even more importantly, a solid understanding of form. The intensity of the lifts will push your body to a point that form wants to break down. For the longevity of your lifting career, don’t lift this way with poor form.

Low Volume

Once again, this is a benefit for some people! However, if you are an experienced and trained individuals and already have a highly muscular frame- this might not be enough volume for you. If you are experienced but are needing a low volume strength period- this might be perfect!

It May Require Some DIY

Reverse pyramid training is more of a pattern for building your training program rather than a full program. As you can see above, there are templates you can work from. However, it should be fine tuned to match your training. You will need to decide for yourself what style works most for you (full body, splits, push/pull, etc.).

Sustainability

RPT has you training with weights and intensity that is beneficial for a short period of time. However, the training method is not sustainable as this eventually will decrease your ability to recover.

Maximum is Variable

Your max is highly variable based on the atmosphere you are training in. Your motivation, energy level, water intake, and more can cause this number to swing. Training so close to your max means that your ability to hit the required numbers can change drastically based on your surroundings.

Notes

Reverse pyramid training is not ideal for strength athletes heading towards meet prep as it requires pushing yourself to failure often. However, for recreational athletes this can be a perfect way to offer your body some time to recover and also change up the stimulus of training. This can shock your body enough to break strength plateaus and get the results flowing again.

Looking for some other type of training program? Check out the Workout Plans section of the website! Need something even more tailored to your goals? Fill out the form here.

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