Precor Resistance Training Program #5 - Pyramid Workout

There are several types of pyramid workouts including ascending, descending, and variations thereof. As a result, there are literally thousands of possible combinations of reps, sets and weights that can be incorporated into a pyramid format. To keep you from feeling overwhelmed, this particular pyramid workout utilizes an "ascending pyramid" format and was designed to be straightforward and relatively simple to follow. It starts with light weight and high repetitions for the first set and then gradually moves to heavier weights and fewer reps for each successive set until the top of the pyramid is reached. This workout should be performed 2 to 3 days a week with a minimum of 1 day of rest between workouts, or 2 to 3 days if you are relatively new to weight training.

Workout Details:

Precor Machine: Any of the Precor Strength Training Systems *

Total Time: Approximately 60 minutes

Goal: To build muscular strength and endurance.

* This exercise is to be performed on either the S3.21 or the S3.45. It is not available on the other Precor consumer strength machines.

As an alternative to performing this exercise on a machine, it can be performed on the floor. Simply lay face down on the floor, keeping your toes in contact with the ground. Lift your upper body up as high as you can off the floor, including your arms. Nothing should be touching the ground except your torso and legs. Repeat the exercise.

Warm Up:

Machine: Precor EFX or similar cardio machine that is effective for increasing core body temperature.

Time: 5 to 7 minutes

Stretch: Following the warm up, perform some basic stretches for the arms, shoulders, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Level: 1-20

Workout Tips:


  • As you begin the resistance training portion of the workout, pay attention to your body as you exercise. Some muscle fatigue is normal, but if you feel any pain and/or discomfort, the exercise should be stopped immediately.
  • While performing resistance exercises, breathe normally and don't hold your breath. Inhale during the concentric phase (i.e., while the muscle is getting shorter) and exhale during the eccentric phase (i.e., when the muscle is getting longer).
  • Perform the exercises in a slow and controlled manner over a full range of motion.
  • As you become more comfortable with the exercise routine, challenge yourself by first increasing the number of repetitions, then the weight.
  • Consult a qualified health and fitness professional if you are a beginner or have specific questions.

Workout Outline:

Basics: After you have completed the warm-up, start the resistance training portion of the workout.

Weight: Use enough weight so that you achieve muscle fatigue during the last 1 or 2 repetitions in each set. In this pyramid workout, it will take some trial and error to pick the ideal weight for each set. As a rule, start with 50 to 65 percent of the maximum weight you can lift for 1 repetition (i.e., 1RM), and then increase this weight incrementally for each set until you are lifting about 75 to 90 percent of your 1RM for the last set. If you have questions about how much weight to lift or if you don't know your 1RM, err on the side of using too little weight to avoid injury and excessive muscle soreness.

Number of exercises: 12

Number of repetitions: Start with 12 to 15 repetitions and end with 4 to 6 at the top of the pyramid. As you become more familiar with the routine and format, you can alter the number of repetitions and weight so that you are performing only 1 to 3 repetitions for the last set. Keep in mind that there is no set rule that you have to perform the same number of reps per set for each exercise. Tailor the program to your own body and needs, and make sure you track your progress to achieve optimal results.

Number of sets: Four (4) sets per pyramid. As you become more familiar with the workout format, you can play around with the number of sets and pyramid format (e.g., by including a descending phase), but as a general rule, keep the number of sets between 3 and 10.

Amount of rest between sets: Approximately 30 seconds

Amount of rest between exercises: Approximately 1-2 minutes

Note: Some of the exercises may not be available on all Precor strength machines.

Body Part


Primary muscle(s) worked

Number of repetitions/set

Amount of weight per set
(% of 1RM)


Leg extension


Set 1: 12-15
Set 2: 8-10
Set 3: 6-8
Set 4: 4-6

Set 1: 50 to 65%
Set 2: 60 to 75%
Set 3: 70 to 85%
Set 4: 75 to 90%

Hamstring curl



Pectoral fly



Lat pull down

Latissimus dorsi, biceps

Low pulley row

Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids


Front deltoid raise

Anterior deltoid

Lateral shoulder raise

Medial deltoid

Upright row



Standing biceps curl

Biceps, forearm

Triceps kickback



Abdominal crunch

Rectus abdominus

Lower back

Back extension

Erector spinae

2-3 sets @ 10-15 reps/set

1 As long as you perform at least 1 exercise for each body part, you can vary the exercises on different days to add variety to your workout. For example, instead of a leg extension, perform a leg press, or instead of a pectoral fly, perform a decline press, etc.


Leg Extension
Muscles worked: Quadriceps



Hamstring curl
Muscles worked: Hamstring



Pectoral fly
Muscles worked: Pectorals



Lat pulldown
Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, biceps



Low pulley row
Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, biceps, posterior deltoid, rhomboids



Front deltoid raise
Muscles worked: Anterior deltoid



Lateral shoulder raise
Muscles worked: Medial deltoid



Upright row
Muscles worked: Trapezius, deltoid



Standing biceps curl
Muscles worked: Biceps, forearm



Triceps kickback
Muscles worked: Triceps



Abdominal crunch
Muscles worked: Rectus abdominus



Back extension
Muscles worked: Erector spinae


Workout courtesy of Jessica Smith, Fitness Consultant.