The 'Palindrome Workout' That Shakes Up Your Fitness Routine

Don't get lost in the monotony of standard rep schemes — shake things up with a pyramid workout.
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Bored with the same old three sets of eight to 12 reps? In honor of 'Palindrome Week' (each date this week is a palindrome — cool, no?), we asked Samantha Ciaccia, certified strength and conditioning specialist, to create a fun 'Palindrome Workout' — better known as a pyramid or ladder workout.


With this workout (which you can do year-round, not just this week), you trade out your old rep scheme with an ascending/descending sequence to challenge your strength and endurance in a whole new way. It's a palindrome workout because, for example, your reps will look something like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1.

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The best part? You can do pyramid training with any piece of fitness equipment or keep it simple by using your own body weight. Ready to learn more? Here, Ciaccia breaks down how to integrate pyramid training into your exercise regimen.

What Exactly Is a Pyramid Workout?

In a pyramid workout, you steadily increase (then decrease) the intensity or reps throughout your workout, Ciaccia says. Think of the pyramid as a ladder that you ascend or descend. When you go up the ladder, you gradually increase reps, time, weight or some combination of the three. When you climb down, you decrease.

The idea behind pyramid training is the overload principle, which states that in order to achieve fitness gains, you must boost the physical demands on your body. Basically, if you want to see continuous improvement, you need to push your body outside its comfort zone (in a controlled way) and continually challenge your muscles. And with the constant change of reps, weight and/or time, pyramid training does just that.


What Are the Benefits of Pyramid Training?

Pyramid training is a fun way to keep your workout interesting and motivate yourself during your workouts, says Ciaccia. That's because there are endless ways to do it. You can use fitness machines, dumbbells or your own body weight.

Plus, you can adjust the format to accommodate any fitness goal. If it's strength you're after, do a shorter ladder with heavier weight. Want to improve muscle endurance? Try a longer ladder with more reps.


Since pyramid training involves constant change, it's the perfect remedy for a workout rut. And varying your exercise structure and fatiguing your muscles in new ways can help you combat a workout plateau, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Read more: 13 Benefits of Weight Lifting That No One Tells You About


A Body-Weight Pyramid Workout for Beginners

Below, Ciaccia has designed a simple cardio-based, body-weight pyramid workout to get you started using a 10-rung ladder structure. Just remember to start with a warm-up and end with a cooldown.


Do: One rep of each exercise, then for each subsequent round, increase the number of reps until you reach 10 reps (the "top of the pyramid"). Then work back down, gradually decreasing reps until you're back at one rep per exercise.

  • Lunge jump
  • Push-up
  • Speed skater

Move 1: Lunge Jump


  1. Start in a lunge with your left foot forward, right foot back and knees bent to 90 degrees.
  2. Swing your arms back for momentum, then jump straight up, switching lead legs mid-air.
  3. Land with your right foot in front, knees bent to absorb the impact.
  4. Go straight into the next rep.

Note: One rep means doing a jump on each leg (left and right).

Move 2: Push-Up


  1. Begin in a plank — hands under shoulders, body in a straight line from head to toes.
  2. Bend your elbows (pointing out at a 45-degree angle to your body) to lower your chest to the floor.
  3. Press back up to a plank.

Move 3: Speed Skater

  1. Stand with most of your weight in your left foot. Push off your left foot to leap to the right.
  2. Land on your right foot with your knee slightly bent and allow your left leg to swing slightly behind your right.
  3. Repeat to jump to the left.


Note: One rep means doing a jump on each leg (left and right).

Now try it for yourself and create your own pyramid workout! From strength to endurance to cardio workouts, pyramid training can be integrated into any fitness routine, says Ciaccia. When creating your own pyramid workouts, consider your goals and experiment by adding time, weight or reps.

Read more: The Perfect 20-Minute HIIT Workout You Can Squeeze in Anywhere




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