Up & Down The Rack: Study Compares Strength & Size Gains from Good Old Double-Pyramid and Reverse Loading
|Image 1: Persian Wrestling Champions, Tehran, Persia (Iran), September 1949
The "Great Pyramids" - Ancient, Yet Still Around
And while our understanding of the "muscle building magic" of protein powders and individual amino acids is ever-advancing, my latest investigations (for the "Step by Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine") into relevant (i.e. neither sports-specific, nor rehabilitative) research on strength training regimen for building size, gaining strength and losing fat did only confirm what I have been stating numerous times before: as far as training techniques are concerned, bro-science and the practical experience of generations of trainees is still way more valuable than the sum of all hitherto published studies (which are not too many, anyways ;-).
|Figure 1: I don't know if the rest was literally "lost in translation", but the information on the exact workout (exercises, sets and frequency) is missing - all we have are the details on the loading pattern ( adapted from Mirzaei. 2012)
Double Pyramid vs. Reverse Step Loading - Round 1: Wrestle!
In view of what I have stated before, i.e. the superiority of broscience, or, in this case I should say anecdotal evidence vs. proscience, it is interesting to note that Mirazei et al. resort to the same experiential resources, when they comment on the purported advantages and disadvantages of these training techniques:
The double pyramid consists of two pyramids, one inverted on top of the other. Most proponents of this pattern suggest that the last sets, are meant to improve power. On the contrary, because the fatigue may impair rapid recruitment of the fast-twitch fibers, the outcome of the last sets of this loading pattern will be development of muscle hypertrophy rather than power. In the reverse step loading, the load decreases rather than increases from step to step. Performance improvements are possible only when training capabilities have increased. Endurance improvements are much better achieved by step loading.And as it turned out, the growth and strength response of the young male wrestlers (age, 17.30 ± 2.42 yrs, height, 170.41 ± 6.14 cm, weight, 72.29 ± 13.18 kg, BF%, 12.36 ± 7.39 %) in the pyramid and reverse loading groups seem to actually support the notion that the good old pyramid, technique - performed in the Schwarzenegger'esque "up and down the rack" way - makes a very valuable strength and hypertrophy workout.
|Figure 1: Change in bench press and leg press strength, as well as changes in cross sectional area of the arms and thighs after 6 weeks of strength training using a double-pyramid or reverse loading scheme; note: there is no detailed information on the exercise selection and workout frequency available (data adapted from Mirzaei. 2012)
Training for strength involves heavy weights, training for endurance higher reps
If we put these results into perspective, there are two distinct take home messages, none of which should actually surprise you:
- The heavier weights used in the double-pyramid method elicit a favorable strength response.
- The higher reps in the reverse loading protocol allow for greater increases in muscular endurance.
Don't play soccer, if you want to become an NBA star!
|Image 2: Do You want to take advantage of both high(er) and low(er) rep work in your routine, but have no idea of how to incorporate that into your workouts? In this case you should go back to the last installment of the "Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine" for a few tips on how periodization can help you make continuous progress - strenght- and size-wise.