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Reverse Pyramid Training

author image Brian Connolly
Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Brian Connolly is a certified nutritionist and has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a licensed yoga and martial arts instructor whose work regularly appears in “Metabolism,” “Verve” and publications throughout the East Coast. Connolly holds advanced degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and the University of Virginia.
Reverse Pyramid Training
Reverse pyramid training, also known as the Oxford technique, involves successive sets of decreasing weight amounts. Photo Credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

The Oxford technique – also called reverse pyramid training – is a type of weightlifting routine that starts with heavy weights and gradually decreases weight with each successive set. Designed as the opposite of the DeLorme pyramid technique, the Oxford technique attempts to diminish muscle fatigue while improving the intensity of your exercise. Recent research has shown encouraging results in support of the Oxford technique.

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The reverse pyramid training uses a descending scale of weight amounts. This allows you to start heavy and gradually decrease your lifting weight with each successive set.

Getting Started

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the first set consists of 10 reps at 100% of the exerciser's 10 Repetition Maximum Weight (10RM). The second set consists of 10 reps at 75% of the 10RM weight. The third set consists of 10 reps at 50% of the 10RM weight. You can maintain a high intensity by resting only 30 to 60 seconds between each set.


A study published in a 2010 issue of “World Journal of Sport Sciences” gauged the results between pyramid and reverse pyramid training techniques. The study, which involved 34 nonathletic women, involved regular blood samples after exercise to determine the serum cell injury indices and muscle growth factors. While both methods were found to be efficient at developing strength, the Oxford technique was found to create a higher enzyme response during muscle activity.

Safety Concerns

Weightlifting is an intensive strength training activity that can result in a variety of sprains, strains and injuries. Talk to a doctor before engaging in any weightlifting to make sure you are healthy enough for intensive exercise. Where possible, ask a gym employee or personal trainer to instruct you on the finer parts of each exercise to reduce the risk of injury from improper technique. Use a spotter when feasible, warm up for five to 10 minutes before lifting, and stretch during or after exercise.

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