Pyramid Training Workout using Bodyweight Exercises from John Sifferman

Pyramid training is an uncommon strength training technique that produces excellent results, especially when it comes to increasing training volume in an exercise program. Pyramid training has been around for a long time, and was commonly used by old-time strength greats. It’s too bad it isn’t utilized like it used to be. The way pyramid training works is by starting off at the base, and climbing one more step each time until you reach the top – then you descend back down the pyramid until the bottom. It’s a real challenge because of the total workload, and having to do each repetition with near perfect technique.

In a bodyweight exercise workout circuit, pyramid training works like a charm. Since you are only able to reach a certain point of each pyramid, it is a perfect fit for finding a good target effort rating. We can only ascend up so high, but we can always descend back down (because each set gets easier). This is why the military is also known for using pyramid training, especially with their special forces – it’s low-tech, high payoff, and doesn’t require much equipment when done with the body. Here is a great pyramid training workout using only a pullup bar and floor space:

Pyramid Training Workout Circuit Using Bodyweight Exercises


So, the pyramid training progression is:

Bodyweight Squats X 2 – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps
Mixed-grip Pullups X 1 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps
Pushups X 1 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps
Front Elbow Plank X 3-5 seconds – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5 sec.

You don’t have to go that high, of course, You could stop at 10 squats, 5 pullups, 5 pushups, 25 second plank hold, and work your way back down from there. You will know when to stop when you cannot climb another level – that’s when it’s time to work your way back down. In this way, pyramid training is great because it teaches you exactly when true fatigue is setting in. So, if you complete a pyramid training workout, you know that you have worked very hard.

Your Question of the Day is: can you think of another way that pyramid training could also be applied? Please post your comments below.

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional

One Response

  1. You can add cardio into your pyramid.

    Add Burpee’s or 100 yrd sprints into the mix.. Its a killer :)

    PS your YouTube video on Pull up technique is brilliant!!!!!!!

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