Doing the same, straight-set formula over and over for your workouts will kill your momentum and lead to plateaus. Your muscles won’t have the stimulus needed to grow without different challenges. Because they offer a couple different principles at work — pre-exhaustion (to an extent), plus variable rep ranges — pyramid sets are a great way to put together a workout.
So named because you work your way up toward heavier weight but fewer reps (ie, 20 as your pyramid “base” and 4-6 as the top), pyramid sets provide you the opportunity to work both on hypertrophy and strength. You’ll be under the bar for heavier weight than normal for your shorter sets. It also gives your body a new test: strength under fatigue, which is part of the pre-exhaustion principle that can help lead to bigger gains.
Below is a standard leg workout, followed by the pyramid version of it. If you’re stuck with the same routine, you should definitely consider throwing in a few weeks of pyramid-style lifting to shake things up.
STANDARD LEG ROUTINE
Romanian Deadlifts, 4×12
Leg Press, 5×12
Hamstring Curls, 4×8
Seated Calf Raises, 4×15
Now, take this routine (or yours) and give it the pyramid treatment, going through five sets and starting with high reps to medium-range to short-and-heavy. You’ll note we removed deadlifts; on a day this intense, you’ll want to split up deads and squats whenever possible. And remember to challenge yourself as you lower your rep ranges — throw on as much weight as you can to get the next number of reps.
PYRAMID LEG ROUTINE
Squats: 20, 15, 12, 10, 8
Leg Press: 20,15, 12, 10, 8
Leg Extensions: 25, 15, 10, 12
Hamstring Curls: 15, 10, 5
Calf Raises: 25, 20, 20, 25 (the calves are a bit different — they need high reps for stimulation.)