We know that you need to gradually increase volume in order to build muscle. Regardless of the movement you are doing, the rep range you are doing, or your diet, you need to progress in the gym to stimulate hypertrophy. One of the best ways to do this efficiently is to add a finisher at the end of your normal workout. These finishers won't take long at all, but they're a great way to accumulate more volume.
Two Intense Workout Finishers
Finisher #1 – Pyramid Progressions
Pyramid Progression is a rep scheme to use with two or three movements. It is effectively a type of density training, allowing for a lot of work done in a short amount of time. You will perform each movement, starting with 1 rep each. You will then add 1 additional rep per round, until you reach failure on each movement. Here is an example:
- Chest Flyes – 1 rep
- Lat Pulldown – 1 rep
- Chest Flyes – 2 reps
- Lat Pulldown – 2 reps
Continue this pattern until you reach failure on the movements. Lets say you reach failure on Chest Flyes at 8 reps. Since you haven't failed with Lat Pulldowns, you'd finish off Lat Pulldowns with the maximum reps possible in the set after the 8 Chest Flyes. Don't use any rest-pause techniques on these, and the only rest you should take is the time it takes to switch between movements.
When Should You Use Pyramid Progressions
Like I stated earlier, this is a finisher. I wouldn't recommend placing them at any point in a workout, but the end. Also, these are best suited for workout plans that combine antagonist muscle groups together in the same session. Lastly, I prefer isolation movements for these to avoid contribution from other muscles as you start to fatigue. Here is a great split if you plan on utilizing Pyramid Progressions:
- Chest/Back – My examples of Chest Flyess and Lat Pulldown work great
- Legs – Use a movement for your Quads and your Hamstrings
- Delts – Use a movement for your Anterior Deltoid and your Posterior Deltoid
- Arms – Use a movement for your Biceps & Triceps
Due to the intense nature of these, I wouldn't use a Pyramid Progression in every workout. Instead, I'd limit it to 2-3 Pyramid Progression sets each week.
Finisher #2 – Pendulum Sets
A Pendulum Set is a another exercise technique to use at the end of a workout. This is an intense finisher that pounds one movement pattern for a set time. Set a time frame and the amount of reps you want to hit on each set. My favorite is a 7/7 set up: 7 minutes on the clock and 7 reps on each weight you use. Choose one movement and start with a weight that is relatively easy. Here is an example with Lat Pulldowns:
- Start with 70 lbs, hit 7 reps
- Go up to 80 lbs, 7 reps
- 90 lbs, 7 reps
- 100 lbs, 7 reps (lets say you fail here)
- 90 lbs, 7 reps
- 80 lbs, 7 reps
- back to 70 lbs, 7 reps
- after you finish the 70 again, you build back up until you fail again
- Repeat until your time is up
Do not rest-pause when you are ascending with the weights. You want to do straight sets each time until you fail on a straight set. In the example, failure was reached at 100 lbs. Lets say that person hit 5 reps on that 100 lb set. Rest-pause to get the extra 2 reps. Once you need a rest pause to hit all 7, that is when you start to descend in weight. You can rest pause as much as needed on the way back down to the original weight. Once you hit your original weight, you ascend again without rest-pausing until that failure set, which is usually a lower weight the 2nd time around.
As for rest time, you only want to rest as long as it takes to change the weight for your next set. The only time more rest is called for is when you descend back down to your original weight. At this point it's a good idea to catch your breath and let your muscles recover a bit so you can actually ascend in weight again.
When To Use Pendulum Sets
These are best suited for this type of split:
- Upper Push
- Upper Pull
Also, I highly recommend you use machines for these, since you are going to be completely exhausted and the machine can actually help you keep relatively good form. I would only use one Pendulum Set per week. Here is a good layout that I have my clients use occasionally:
- Week 1 – Incline Chest Press (hitting Chest, Delts, & Triceps effectively)
- Week 2 – Leg Press (Quads and Glutes)
- Week 3 – Supinated Seated Rows (hitting Upper Back, Lats, Rear Delts, and Biceps)
- Week 4 – Lying Leg Curls (nailing the Hamstrings and Glutes)
Get In The Gym & Kill It!
The time to read and educate yourself is now over. Now it's time to take action and try these out for yourself. Remember to use a weight that allows you to perform each exercise safely and effectively. Also, don't overdo it with these. Remember, these are just additions to your workout program. They are not magic bullets that can replace traditional hard work with the weights!
Let me know how you feel after using these with a comment! Also, don't forget to share this article with your friends on social media!
About The Author
Milo Martinovich is a Personal Trainer and co-owner of MM Fitness, a private personal training studio.
He trains people in his region, as well as around the world with online coaching services!
You can contact him at -