Which Is Better Straight Sets Or Pyramid Sets?

January 9, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “which is better straight sets or pyramid sets?”. This is a controversial topic as many people have differing experiences related to this.

There are some people who find straight sets work better for them. Other people have found more success in their training by utilising pyramid sets. This article will explore this nuanced topic and provide you with some useful insights.

Which Is Better Straight Sets Or Pyramid Sets?

Overall, it will largely depend on your personal experiences. Lifters are divided when it comes to this topic. On the one hand many bodybuilders use pyramid style training. On the other hand straight sets are used with a lot of success for improving strength in programs such as starting strength, stronglifts 5×5, etc.

One of the benefits of straight sets is that it allows you to get a lot of quality volume in with your working weights. With pyramid style training you will generally work up to a top heavy set at your working weight.

One of the advantages of pyramid sets is that you will generally be more thoroughly warmed up as you approach your heaviest set. You will have built up solid volume already at the lighter weights and greased the groove well.

Pyramid training tends to lend itself to slightly faster progressions on the top set. This is because it is easier to increase reps and weight on one working set than it is for multiple straight sets with the same weight.

Straight Sets Are Very Effective For Beginners And Intermediates

For beginner and intermediate lifters, straight sets are an excellent choice for making rapid strength gains as well as very good gains in muscle mass.

This is why programs such as Starting Strength prescribe the 3 sets of 5 approach of straight sets with working weight on the big compound exercises. Sets of 5 have been shown to be highly effective at building strength.

Performing 3 sets of 5 and making progress over time through progressive overload will lead to substantial gains in strength. This is providing that all the other variables are taken account of – sleep, diet, recovery, etc.

For more advanced trainees, straight sets are not as effective when it comes to gaining additional strength. It becomes very difficult to make progress in this fashion once you get to an advanced stage.

Specialised training programs utilising pyramids with varying percentages of your one rep max and even wave pyramiding can prove to be very effective. This will allow the advanced trainee to keep making progress and not get burnt out.

Why Do So Many Bodybuilders Use Pyramid Training?

You may have seen many bodybuilders using pyramid style training in their video footage and wondered why. I believe many bodybuilders use this style of training to ensure that their muscles are worked really well with light weights through to heavier loads.

Pro bodybuilders in particular have already established a great mind muscle connection and have developed lots of thick, dense muscle mass. This allows them to really reap the rewards of doing just one heavy top set in their pyramid as the main focus.

Other people who lift weights generally haven’t established this same mind muscle connection. Straight sets with working weight can help a lot of people to get used to a certain weight and effectively master it.

Mike “The Machine” Bruce for example is a big advocate of mastering a weight. He believes in sticking to a certain weight for at least a few workouts until you have dominated that weight. Then progress to a heavier weight from there.

It must also be said that advanced bodybuilders tend to do countless exercises in their training routines hitting each muscle from many angles. Therefore doing too many sets with their working weights for many exercises could prove to be overkill.

Bodybuilders generally perform the bigger movements in particular with a pyramid style approach. 

Ramping vs Pyramiding

A good middle ground between the two is known as “ramping”. Ramping involves doing multiple sets of the same number of reps with increasingly heavier weights, all the way up to your heavy top set.

This is in contrast to pyramiding. With pyramiding, as you increase the weight you decrease the reps. The aim with each set of the pyramid is to ensure that you muscles are well worked and nice and warm for the top set.

One of the advantages of ramping is that it is easier to monitor. It is very straightforward to remember to do the same number of reps as you go up in weight. Also you can decide how many reps you keep fixed when ramping. 

Lets say that you want to do ramped sets of 6 reps. For strength purposes anecdotally, many people have found this to be slightly more effective than a standard pyramid.

It is another tool that you can use in your training. The best way to determine whether pyramiding or ramping works best for you is to try them both. Ensure that you implement them into different training blocks and then you can see which one works best. 

Final Thoughts

Which is better straight sets or pyramid sets? In the end it comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. In general, straight sets are more useful for beginners and intermediates.

Pyramid style training can be very effective for advanced trainees. You have a choice between ramped sets or pyramiding up in weight by lowering the reps as the weight gets heavier.

 I would recommend trying both styles of training in different training blocks. This way you can gauge for yourself how your body responds and the effects on your strength and size. 

There are proponents in the fitness community of each style of training. Whatever you choose, you have to commit to it for the long term and then you will see results.

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Is It Good To Always Do Supersets?

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