Pyramids

505kg, sumoman

1114 lbs

When I first started lifting weights I did full lifts. I didn’t get much from them. Maybe this was due to ignorance. I did Weider, York, HIT, etc. They all worked equally ineffectively. Then I got fed up and made a power rack, then I made 40 of them. I tested them by putting heavy weights on them and lifting heavy weights. The only way I could lift heavy weights was by doing partials. After testing the racks for 7 years I got very good at partials. My trap bar lift had previously been at 130 kg, but without any practice on the full lift I now did 180 kg. This convinced me that there was something to doing partials.

In fact for full all round strength a variety of lifts, ranges of motions, speeds etc. needs to be practised. That’s pretty much by definition.

Now at age 50 I don’t do the superheavy partials a lot because there’s only so much more I can get out of them, I do however still do partials because I haven’t maxed out on all ranges of motion and I like to maintain my superheavy partial strength. The above lift was very productive for me, it enabled me to pick up cars, do yoke walks, flip tyres… my max was 525 kg the above is 505 kg, that’s 96.1% of my all time best so that’s okay, maybe at a push I could reach or exceed my previous best.

Pyramids

Doing pyramids has gone somewhat out of vogue according to Zatsiorsky and others but a lot of lifters still do them. A recent pyramid on my parallel grip dead went like this;

  1. 142 kg × 10 reps
  2. 162 kg × 5 reps
  3. 182 kg × 3 reps
  4. 202 kg × 1 rep

Now if my max is 192 kg × 10 reps this means I start with 73% of my 10RM (63% of 1RM). If my 1RM is 227 kg then I am finishing with 89% of 1RM. The argument against this ascending pyramid is that it leads to fatigue for a max, but this assumes the lifter can perform a max for that session. A student of periodisation will tell you that lifters cannot perform maximally at each session. Instead maximums come at the end of cycles. A Bompa cycle goes;

  1. Anatomical Adaptation
  2. Hypertrophy
  3. Maximum Strength
  4. Conversion to Specific Strength
  5. Maintenance

This is another way of saying that cycles go from general to specific training.

At number 4 the cycle reaches a max (a specific max). You might ask why a lifter cannot just start with a sub-max weight but perform with it maximally and add weight each session until he exceeds his previous best, the answer is that the lifter will burn out well before he gets near his previous best.

The majority of a lifter’s sessions will be not be maxes of any sort, probably 90-95% of my time is spent not maxing out unless I am doing small lifts like curls or raises where I might push close to a max now and then.

This is where (ascending) pyramids come in. Rather than exhausting myself on each set I will do sets that are heavy enough to work the muscles but light enough so that really good form is practised. This is the key, it is rather like the sub-max sets that weightlifters do a lot of. The idea is that working with heavy weights and mechanically effective form will lead to big weights via mechanically effective form and efficient working of muscles. It works for weightlifters and anyone else.

Willpower

I recently had an interesting discussion with a young man. He believes he is Royal Marines material and acts and talks like an officer despite working in a factory and never having been in the army. He also believes he is brilliant at everything. His brilliance, he explained, was due to his ‘tremendous willpower’. Apparently he has more willpower than any man who has ever lived and he explained that he could beat me at armwrestling, ‘no question about it’.

I retorted jokingly that he could presumably also beat the World’s Strongest Man at being strong, to which he replied that yes he could.

It turned out that he wasn’t joking and was deadly serious, that his tremendous willpower would enable him to beat the World’s Strongest Man.

Naturally I laughed at this as it was apparent to me that his slim skeleton would never enable him to support the weights that the World’s Strongest Man would need.

A colleague of mine remarked that if this young man used his tremendous willpower he could also become a member of the Royal Family. This sounded funny but in retrospect is probably more likely than the young man becoming the World’s Strongest Man, after all the young man might have a slim chance of marrying a Royal… the chance is certainly greater than that of the young man achieving the skeleton and musculature of a gorilla.

The moral of this story is that it certainly helps to have willpower as this is what makes one do things, but it doesn’t mean that a fellow should believe impossible things. Believing in impossible things stops one achieving the possible. It also makes one appear ridiculous.

Well that is enough for this post, I am now going off to marry a Royal.

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