Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT) – A New Way To Lose Fat And Build Muscle?
The concept of RPT was first introduced to the world by Pavel Tsatsouline in his book “Ultimate Guide For Lean Gains” published in 2007. The idea behind RPT is simple; you perform one exercise per day with different exercises performed at different intensities. You alternate between two or three days per week. The goal is to increase your weight each week while decreasing your bodyfat percentage.
In the following years many other researchers have been studying RPT and its effects on various populations. Some studies show positive results while others do not. However, most of them agree that it works and that it helps in increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat levels.
What Is Reverse Pyramid Training?
A reverse pyramid training program consists of performing one exercise per day with different exercises performed at different intensities. You perform these exercises at a lower intensity than what you would normally use during your regular workouts. The purpose is to decrease the amount of time spent resting and increase the amount of work done throughout the workout. This is achieved by using a heavier weight than that used in regular “full strength” workouts and performing a shorter amount of repetitions for each set.
Your goal is to increase the weight that you lift each week. You are going to perform two or three different sessions per week. Each session will consist of one exercise performed at a time. You should schedule your training sessions at least 48 hours apart from each other so that your muscles have enough time to recover and grow stronger.
Also, you should schedule your sessions after a meal so that you have enough energy to complete them.
You will perform three different types of sessions each week: light, medium and heavy. The appropriate name for these sessions comes from the amount of weight that you use.
In a light session you will use up to 50% of your one rep maximum (1RM). For example, if your best bench press is 200 pounds, then you can use up to 100 pounds during your light session. For the medium session you will use between 50% and 70% of your 1RM or in other words, between 50 and 70 pounds in the previous example. Finally, for the heavy session you will use between 70% and 90% of your 1RM.
In the previous example this would mean using between 70 and 90 pounds during your heavy session.
Does RPT Really Work?
The concept of RPT was first introduced in 2007 by Pavel Tsatsouline and I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about it. However, after reading a couple of scientific studies showing its effects on different population of people I started to look into it more. What I found surprised me. It seems that RPT is a solid strategy to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Let’s see how it works.
One of the main theories behind this method is the concept of Mitochondrial biogenesis. The mitochondria are the “power plants” of our cells and play a key role in the fat burning process. During your light sessions, you are using low weight and high repetitions in order to increase the number of mitochondria in your muscles. This means that your muscles will become more efficient at burning fat during your normal training sessions.
Another theory behind this method is the Training-Sleep-Muscle (TSM) connection. Our muscles grow when we are sleeping. It has been scientifically proven that most of the muscle building process happens while we sleep. During the light sessions, you are keeping your body active preventing your body from going into a complete rest mode and making sure that your muscles keep growing while you sleep.
So, does reverse pyramid training work?
Yes, it does. In fact, it has been proven to be more effective than normal weight training when trying to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
Reverse Pyramid Training For The Skinny Guy
If you are a skinny guy, then you need to start with lower weight and higher repetitions in order to stimulate the production of muscular mitochondria. I would start light, with a weight you can lift for at least 20 repetitions. This will enable you to train four times a week. Below you can see a sample 4-week plan that you should start immediately.
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Bench Press 1 5 80 Light Dumbbell Flye 2 8-10 20 Light Barbell Curl 2 10 40 Light Tricep Extension 2 10 40 Light
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Barbell Back Squat 2 5 105 Medium Barbell Deadlift 1 3 120 Medium Barbell Bench Press 2 5 95 Medium Barbell Row 2 8-10 55 Medium
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Barbell Curl 2 10 45 Light Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 2 8-10 30 Light Lying Dumbbell Extension 2 10 30 Light Single Arm Low Cable Row 2 10 Each Side 20 Light Single Leg Press 2 15 70 Each Side
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Barbell Bench Press 2 6 110 Medium Barbell Row 2 8-10 55 Medium Deadlift 1 3 130 Medium Barbell Curl 2 8-10 40 Medium Close Grip Bench Press 2 6 90 Medium
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Front Squat 2 4 125 Heavy Dumbbell Flye 2 8-10 20 Light Barbell Military Press 2 5 112.5 Heavy Barbell Curl 2 8-10 40 Heavy Single Leg Press 2 15 70 Each Side
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Dumbbell Bench Press 2 10-12 40 Light Barbell Incline Press 2 8-10 30 Light Lying Tricep Extension 2 10-12 30 Light Barbell Bent Over Row 2 8-10 55 Light
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Front Squat 2 3 132.5 Heavy Dumbbell Flye 2 8-10 20 Light Barbell Military Press 2 4 122.5 Heavy Lying Tricep Extension 2 8-10 30 Heavy Barbell Curl 2 8-10 40 Heavy
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Barbell Back Squat 2 5 112.5 Medium Barbell Deadlift 1 3 135 Medium Barbell Bench Press 2 5 100 Medium Dumbbell Flye 2 8-10 20 Light Barbell Bent Over Row 2 8-10 55 Light
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Barbell Bench Press 2 6 112.5 Medium Barbell Row 2 8-10 55 Medium Deadlift 1 3 145 Medium Dumbbell Flye 2 8-10 20 Light Barbell Curl 2 8-10 40 Medium
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Rest Between Sets Front Squat 2 3 142.5 Heavy Dumbbell Flye 2 8-10 20 Light Barbell Military Press 2 4 122.
Sources & references used in this article:
Diagnosis and management of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, part 2: implementation of multidisciplinary care by K Bushby, R Finkel, DJ Birnkrant, LE Case… – The Lancet …, 2010 – Elsevier
The ultimate guide to weight training for basketball by R Price – 2014 – books.google.com
The ultimate guide to weight training for cheerleading by R Price – 2014 – books.google.com