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Reverse Pyramid Training – Mike Matthews vs Leangains

Christian Pinedo


What’s up you guys Christian here.

In this article, we’re going to go over reverse pyramid training. Specifically, we’re going to talk about two different styles of reverse pyramid training.

Yes, there are different types of reverse pyramid training and we’re going to talk about both, the pros and cons of both styles, and finally, we’re going to talk about which reverse pyramid training style is best for you depending on you and your goals and your schedule.

So let’s get started.

What is Reverse Pyramid Training – Both Styles

Alright so to get a better sense of both styles of reverse pyramid training, I’m going to talk about them both separately. First up is Style A.

Style A comes from Mike Matthews (pictured below).

Most people don’t know this, but in his Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger book (also pictured below), the way his workouts are set up is a form of reverse pyramid training.

He doesn’t call it that in his book exactly, but he does in a blog post which I will share with you in a second.

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He has a book called Bigger Leaner Stronger, which is more aimed towards beginners. This RPT style workout is more aimed towards the intermediate to advanced lifters which we’ll talk about more in a second as well.

First we’ll talk about style A, then we’ll talk about style B, compare them, the pros and cons of each and which style you should choose to follow.

Style A – Mike Matthews’ Reverse Pyramid Training Style

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Here’s how Mike’s style of reverse pyramid training looks like:

  • You start off with 2 “Power Sets”– These two sets are meant to be very heavy. About 90-95% of your 1 Rep Max (1RM)- All sets are in the 2-3 rep range- This should be a compound lift (Deadlifts for example).
  • Then you move onto your “Myofibrillar Sets”– There are usually 2 exercises here, both for 2-3 sets each- Still meant to be heavy but using 80-85% of your 1 Rep Max (1RM)- All sets are in the 4-6 rep range- This should be still be a compound lift (Barbell Rows for example).
  • Then you move onto your “Sarcoplasmic Sets”– There are usually 1-2 exercises here, both for 2-3 sets each- These are meant to be lighter weight, 70-75% of your 1 Rep Max (1RM)- All sets are in the 8-10 rep range- This should be still be a isolation lift (pull-ups, or 1-arm DB Rows)

As you can see, as you progress through the entire workout, the weights get lighter.

As you’ll see in style B, the Leangains method of reverse pyramid training, the weights get lighter set by set. More on this later.

And so this is how the entire workout was laid out.

So let’s say this is chest day.

You would do to power sets of bench press, for example, in the two to three rep range.

Once you’re done with the bench press of these two heavy sets, then your next exercise, weighted dips for example, you would do them with a slightly lower weight than you used in the last exercise.

This is still reverse pyramid training, because you’re starting off heavy in the workout and ending light.

Now lets go over the pros and cons of this style of training.

Pros of Reverse Pyramid Training Style A

The great thing about this style is that it’s basically hitting all the rep ranges.

In his BBLS book, he calls this style of training power bodybuilding, and he calls it this because this is basically hitting all types of hypertrophy with the different rep ranges.

Progressive overload and lifting heavy those are two of the most important factors of strength gains and muscle growth.[1]

The Power and Myofibrillar sets cover these two aspects given that you try and increase the weight over time (progressive overload) and lifting with the correct 1RM given (lifting heavy).

Then the “bodybuilding” aspect of this style of training comes from the “Sarcoplasmic” sets.

If you know don’t know much about hypertrophy:

There are two types:

  1. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is more for strength. It involves that ACTUAL increase in the muscle itself.
  2. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy increases the volume of the fluid in the muscle itself.This type of hypertrophy is more for increasing the size of the muscle itself, not necessarily making it stronger but making it bigger, for a short period of time (the pump).

And because he’s hitting all the rep ranges, power bodybuilding, that’s a pro of this style of training.

If you noticed, the last two forms of sets are called “myofibrillar” and “sarcoplasmic” sets for this very reason.

Here’s what Mike had to say about both forms of Hypertrophy:

Now don’t think that sarcoplasmic growth is worthless. It has a place in an advanced weightlifter’s routine, but it should not be the focus.

Another positive about this style of training is that NONE of the sets are taken to failure, which means you can still train five days per week without the workout being too taxing on the body.

So because none of these sets are taken to absolute failure, and the workouts are pretty quick, you can still train five days per week if you want to.

He does have 4 & 3 day workout routines with this style of training but you can still work five days per week without over-training.

Cons of Reverse Pyramid Training Style A

The con of this style of training is that it is NOT beginner friendly.

He only recommends this style of training for intermediate to advanced lifters.

If you want a beginner style workout from Mike Matthews, he would have you read his first book, Bigger Leaner Stronger.

He recommends that you do the Bigger Leaner Stronger version first before moving on to the Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger reverse pyramid training style of workout.

Style B – Martin Berkhans’ Leangains’ Reverse Pyramid Training Style

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Now we’re going to talk about style B.

Style B is the Leangains Method, from Martin Berkhanand his reverse pyramid training style of working out.

Leangains is known for intermittent fasting (Martin was the first person in the fitness space to talk about intermittent fasting) and reverse pyramid training.

Martin’s style of training has been popularized by Kinobody, but that’s neither here nor there.

The difference between style B and A is that leangains is set by set while Mikes entire workout is in a RPT fashion.

This is a view for the entire workout


This is a view for 1 set for 1 exercise

For example, let’s say your first exercise is the bench press for 3 sets with a goal of 8 reps:

  • – Those reps should’ve been very hard to get. It should be in a AMRAP (As many reps as possible) fashion.
  • This set, you reduce the weight by 5% or 10%.– You get 9 reps with 195lbs (subtracted 5% from first set).
  • – Rest 3 minutes before moving onto next exercise with the exact same setup.

So hopefully you can see the difference in between the two styles. Now let’s go over the pros and cons of this style.

Pros and Cons of Reverse Pyramid Training Style B

Before we get into the pros and cons, there’s one thing that you need to know about the leangains style of workout.

All of his exercises and sets follow a AMRAP rep scheme which stands for As Many Reps As Possible.Because his workouts are AMRAP, that means the workouts are a lot harder.

They’re taken to failure which means that you can only do this style of training for three days per week which some may see this as a pro, some may see this is a con.

If you were to do this style of training to failure five days per week, that’s a lot of training to failure which is way too taxing on the body.

Depending on how much time you have per week to work out, most will see this as a pro, as do I.

I like this style because I am very busy and I have a lot of stuff to do so I can still get a lot of benefit from this style.But for some of you, you may like to work out more times per week.

If you have a lot of more free time, it’s honestly dependent on your schedule but we’ll get more into that in a second.

Mike Matthews Response to Both Styles of RPT

I actually asked Mike Matthews himself since he has a lot of articles on training and he backs up a lot of his stuff with research.

I asked him on his article about Reverse Pyramid Training and he basically said there’s no really definitive reverse pyramid training study out there.He said that they’re just different types of periodization which is still a great progression model.

So he said to try whichever one works out best for you.

So try both is basically his answer that’s what I asked him in his website and that’s what he responded with.

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At the time of asking the question, I hadn’t read much on Leangains, which is why I asked about Greg’s RPT method. I now know that Greg from Kinobody had popularized Martin Berkhans’ method which is why I don’t mention him much in this article.

Which Style of Reverse Pyramid Training Should You Follow?

I say try both.

If you’re really really busy, I recommend the leangains method.

It’s a great book (it’s only $9) for his book that’s explains way more in depth about RPT.If you have a lot of time and you’re big fan of Mike Matthews and you know his content, I highly recommend Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger.

Like I said earlier, I don’t have a lot of time throughout the week so I like doing the Leangains method.

To be honest, I switch between both of these every 6 months or so depending on my schedule.

The Bottom Line on Reverse Pyramid Training

So the bottom line on reverse pyramid training you guys is that both styles are great

Again, the BBLS method (style A) is not beginner friendly so if you are not a beginner, do not try it because it will be way too taxing for you.

The Leangains method is a little more beginner friendly. It doesn’t really say exactly who should be using it but I think a beginner could do benefit from it.

But yeah, I hope you guys liked this long, detailed article.

Let me know how you like these types of articles.

If you liked this article, make sure to share it with your friends and leave a comment below if you have any questions!

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Christian Pinedo

Hey there, Christian here. I'm a former fat guy who just wants to help you succeed in your fitness journey. I share my own experiences and experiments right here on this site. Let me know how I can be of help by leaving a comment below. If you want to learn more about my 50 lb weight loss journey, click here.

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