Q: A friend of mine e-mailed me about your 3D Power Pyramid Program. He said he’s making great gains with it in both muscle size and strength. He explained it, but I wanted to come to the source to see if you think it’s right for me. I’ve been training for about 3 years, and I weigh about 160 pounds. My genetics are closer to Steve’s [smaller ectomorph] than Jonathan’s [more of a mesomorph]. Should I go for it?
A: That is an excellent program and one of our most popular because it’s balanced for both size and strength. It’s a simple two-way split that has you train four days a week—with Wednesdays and weekends off. Plus, you cover all of the 3D Positions of Flexion for each target muscle…
The “pyramid” is on the first exercise, the big midrange move like bench presses—you add weight to each set and rest two to three minutes between so your reps go: 8, 6, 3-4. Before those heavy work sets, you do one to two progressively heavier warmup sets.
Those warmup sets are even more important, especially for you. Why? Because, if you understand the size principle of fiber recruitment we often harp on, you know that medium-weight sets train the slow-twitch endurance fibers and the fast-twitch high-glycolytic/high-oxidative fibers (endurance-oriented fast-twitchers, which hardgainers have a lot of).
The pure fast-twitch fibers don’t kick in until the end of an all-out set. Hardgainers don’t have a lot of those pure anaerobic fibers, but they still need a few sets to exhaustion to train those (remember, you want to build every layer of growth possible if you want to look like a bodybuilder).
Now to answer your question: Yes, that’s a great program for you, but we suggest a few rep-range alterations…
1) Do two progressively heavier subfailure warmup sets with 50 percent and 75 percent of your first work-set weight. Your warmup reps should go 15, 12. Note: These sets shouldn’t be difficult, but you should feel a slight burn as you finish the last two reps of each set. (Don’t skip these sets or reduce the rep counts, as they train your dominant fiber type to a degree.)
2) For your first work set pick a weight that allows 12 reps, but stop about two reps short of failure—at 10. This set should be hard, but not brutal. You should feel the target muscle burn at the end.
3) Add weight to your second work set and go all out to failure, getting 8-9 tough reps. (If you don’t get at least 8, the weight is too heavy; go down at your next workout.)
4) Add weight again for your third and final work set, getting around 6-7 reps, plus as many semi-stretch-point X-Rep partials as you can crank out.
Because of your leaner hardgainer status, you need slightly higher reps to get enough tension time to sufficiently stress the high-glycolytic/high-oxidative fast-twitch fibers (your dominant fiber type) along with the pure fast-twitchers, which come into play at the end of your two all-out sets. Higher-rep sets work better for Steve (on the right) than Jonathan…
More mesomorphic types, like Jonathan (on the left), can use the 3D Power Pyramid Program as it’s listed in the Freak-Physique Stretch-Overload e-book (pages 13-22), as they tend to respond to lower reps (we’ve talked about the study that verified that in previous e-zines). In fact, although the writer of the following e-mail didn’t say it, we would guess that his body type is closer to Jonathan’s than Steve’s…
I’m 31 years old and started lifting weights shortly after I graduated from high school. I didn’t put on much muscle weight due to improper eating and training. I recently decided to do the Power Pyramid Program because I was looking for both mass and strength—and that’s exactly what I got. I went from 195 to 215 in two short months [almost 20 pounds of muscle in eight weeks]! My bench press went from 340 to 405, squats from 460 to 515 and deadlifts from 375 to 435. I’ve never felt better, and my strength and power are unbelievable. Thank you.
The pyramid technique works, and after reading that quote you may want to try the program as it’s listed in the Freak-Physique Stretch-Overload e-book, without the alterations we laid out above. No problem. We’re all about experimenting. After five weeks, downshift your intensity for a week (subfailure workouts), then give it another go, but this time with the alterations. See which way gives you the biggest mass-building bang. (We’re betting on the altered version because of your hardgainer status.)
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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