By Joyce Vedral, Ph.D.
Time and again, people ask me, “Joyce, what is the secret of your system. Why is it that after trying so many other weight-training programs, after using your workouts for four weeks I see amazing changes in my body?” Well, it’s the best kept andthe worst kept secret. It’s called “The pyramid system!”
Why do I say it’s the best and worse kept secret and what is the pyramid system? It’s the best kept secret, because most beginners are never told to use it. In fact, I do believe I’m the only fitness expert giving away this secret right from the start. On the other hand, it’s the worst kept secret, because if you walk into any bodybuilding gym, you’ll see every single bodybuilder using that system- not a few of them, I repeat, every single one.
Now please don’t press the little x button-thinking, “Oh, she’s talking about bodybuilding. I don’t want to look like an Ox. Let me run.” No. What I’m saying is, bodybuilders use this principle because it is the most effective in muscle making- the most time-efficient. That is to say, you get the most result for your time input. What do I mean by the most result?
You are working out to get tight and toned. The body is made up of skin, bone, fat, water and muscle. It’s the muscle that gives the body it’s “tone,” and it’s definition. So you need muscle- even “mini-muscle,” but you need muscle and the only way to shape and sculpt muscle is by working out with weights the right way- using the pyramid system.
Now what is the pyramid system. In the pyramid system, you add weight to each set- starting with the lightest weight for your first set, a middle weight for your second set, and your heaviest weight for you third and final set. But you reduce the repetitions in order to cope with the weight. Light could be very very light, as in one pound, middle could be only two pounds and heavy could be three. As the person gets stronger, he or she raises the overall weights. Let me give you an example.
- Set 1: 12 repetitions -1-pound dumbbells
- Set 2: 10 repetitions -2-pound dumbbells
- Set 3: 8 repetitions - 3-pound dumbbells.
Very soon, you would be using 2, 3 and 5 pound dumbbells, then 3, 5 and 8 pound dumbbells, and then5, 8 and 10 pound dumbbells and so on.
The psychology of the pyramid system is simple. You never get bored- and at the same time, you continually challenge your muscles. In the bargain, there is a natural stretch in the first set- so those people, myself for example, and almost every bodybuilder I know-who is too impatient to waste time stretching, get a natural stretch before each exercise. Of course, you could still do your normal stretches, but see the safeguard in the forced doing of one light set to start with!
But there’s more to the pyramid system than that. With this system, you’re better able to keep count of your sets. You rarely if ever lose count because the moving from one weight to another provides a natural counting system. In addition, with the pyramid system, you don’t dread rasing your weights when the weights become too easy, because you know only one of the sets will be raised. For example, say you are using 1,2 and 3 pound dumbbells. You know that now you will be using 2,3 and 5 pound dumbbells.
You’ve already handled 2’s and 3’s so why couldn’t you handle 5’s and for a mere 8 repetitions, of course you could. So you do the 5’s. Then a few weeks later, when the 3’s seem too easy, you think, I can raise to 8’s for my final set. I’ve already been doing the 3’s and 5’s with no problem. Why not do 8’s for a mere 8 repetitions. And so it goes. You keep raising you weights. Most of the women I’ve worked with are now up to 10, 12 and 15 and many are up to 12, 15 and 20. Men go higher of course. They usually start with 5, 8 and 10 and go up as high as well, the sky!
Before I end this discussion, I want to explain something. What I’ve described here as the pyramid system has come to be called that by bodybuilders over time- when actually it is technically the “modified” pyramid system. The “true” or “full” pyramid system requires an additional two sets to be done.
In other words, the true pyramid system looks like this:
- Set 1: 12 repetitions - 1-pound dumbbells
- Set 2: 10 repetitions -2 pound dumbbells
- Set 3: 8 repetitions - 3 pound dumbbells
- Set 4: 10 repetitions - 2 pound dumbbells
- Set 4: 12 repetitions - 1 pound dumbbells.
But the true pyramid system is used by bodybuilders only for very special purposes- which I’ll discuss with you in another article. For now, suffice it to say that when you hear a bodybuilder say he uses the pyramid system, he’s talking about the one discussed in the major part of this article. It is no longer called “modified.”
Now a word about how heavy you will go and for what body parts.
If you’re just starting out, to keep your life simple, you should go very light and use the same weights for all body parts. But buy some weights ahead of time because you will get stronger very fast. You can get weights at a very reasonable price by calling around exercise equipment stores in the yellow pages. You can get them for between 30 and 50 cents a pound! But as you get to know what you’re doing, you will notice that some body parts are stronger than others. We’ll talk about this in another article.
Joyce Vedral, Ph.D is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. She will personally answer your e mail and give you free fitness advice by going to her website at http://www.joycevedral.com/
Article Categories: Women’s Fitness & Health Issues