Size Matters: Build Muscles with Pyramid Sets!

That's a whole lotta man.

If (muscle) size matters to you, then you should consider taking advantage of pyramid sets.

The idea behind pyramid sets is pretty simple. Here’s how it works:

  1. The first set of an exercise is performed at a low weight for a large number of repetitions (12 – 15 reps in total).
  2. The resistance (or weight) in each subsequent set is increased, until a final set of heavy weight and very few reps is achieved.

For people just starting to exercise, they might try 3 sets of increasingly heavy weights and decreasing repetitions. For more experienced exercisers, five sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 and then 4 repetitions are suggested.

When I use pyramid sets for dumbbell bicep curls, for example, it looks like this: 12 reps of 35 lbs; 10 reps of 40lbs; 8 reps of 45 lbs; 6 reps of 50lbs; 4 reps of 55lbs. As you can see, I increase the amount of resistance and decrease the number of reps.

Really enthusiastic exercisers can even do a reverse pyramid, wherein they lower the amount of resistance once they’ve reached their maximum – and eventually return back to their starting weight.

Pyramid sets are great for building mass – and so I’d really only advise incorporating pyramid sets for those muscle groups that you’d like to increase in size. And no, your penis isn’t a muscle group.

Note: Maintaining proper form is critical when performing pyramid sets. Do not compromise your form when performing some of the heavy/low-rep sets.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Derek Pierce says:

    I’m definitely going to try this out! I already do it with my pushups, starting out with 20, then 12, then 8. I do that in 3 different hand positions. I can tell a difference in my chest after a month of sticking to my workouts. I just gotta keep motivated!

  2. And then there are breakdown sets- doing a set starting at higher weight and then continuing the set at lower weights until momentary muscle failure. These are best done with a partner on a cable-type machine, with your partner pulling pins as needed.

  3. So, what does a person do to get veiny like the guy in the photo? For that matter, who is the guy in the photo?

    I’m still working on maintaining good form for a regular 3 sets. I’m good for 2, but the third nearly kills. I think I’d have to drop weight to do pyramid sets.

    • try lowering the weight by a total of 5 lbs for the third set and do reps till temporary failure… then do three more reps… then 2… then 1… like davey says… good form is critical to proper muscle development.. it only takes one set of reps with too much weight and bad form to get [seriously] injured….
      ~ cheers…

  4. My switch to drop sets like Scott Herman recommends made a big difference a few months ago. I might try this as a next step to change things up.

  5. Bullwinklemoos says:

    Pyramid sets work wonders. I heard somewhere that Nebraska’s football team uses a program that uses pyramid sets, and they apparently have the biggest strength gains out of any college team.

    Actually- if you google their program, you should be able to find it.


  1. […] There are a many different workout techniques that can help jump-start the effectiveness of your workout. Like drop sets. Or negatives. Or pyramid sets. […]