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RPT (Reverse Pyramid Training)
The RPT rep scheme used in the RX Barbell Program will be either 2 or 3 sets. This style of training has it so that the first set is the heaviest with the least amount of reps and the last set is the lightest with the most amount of reps. Unlike the 3×5 and 5×5 rep scheme that a trainee may be accustomed to where there are a set amount of reps, the RPT method is designed so that you perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP). This AMRAP approach equates to a higher level of intensity. With RPT intensity is not an option for progress but rather a pre-requisite. In order to keep progressing, you’ll need to start getting accustomed to pushing your reps with the RPT protocol, especially on the top set.
In this program, RPT will only be used for certain strength-based compound movements. The movements that you may use RPT for are deadlift, back squat, front squat, push press, and push jerk.
With RPT there are two scenarios we need to go through to get you set up with having RPT being implemented in your program. The first scenario is transitioning from 3×5 or 5×5.
Transition from 3×5 or 5×5
Let’s use an example of a male athlete who is stalling in either the pre-intermediate or intermediate deadlift. In his last two deadlift workouts, he was unable to complete a 3×5 at 270 lb. with good form. He was able to get all the reps but his lower back was rounding on many of the reps and he feels like he is getting close to stalling or injuring himself. This would be a good time for him to transition into the RPT.
The first thing to determine is what weight should the top set be. This can be done in your spreadsheet (can be found here) in the section called “Transitioning from 3×5 or 5×5 to RPT”. Simply enter the weight lifted for the 3×5 or 5×5 and the reps completed (which should be 5). This will automatically calculate the ranges for the top set (and also the 2nd and 3rd set). It will be your choice to pick the weight in the range. As a default, I suggest that you start at the lower end of the range so that it gives your body enough time to acclimate to the new intensity and it will eventually allow for greater strength progress by practicing temperance with weight choices.
The second option for finding your top set is to do the calculation manually.
Progressing with RPT
Continuing from the example earlier, we have a 160 lb male who has a top set prescription of a 265 lb deadlift. His first deadlift RPT workout will look like this:
1. Warm-up sets.
2. Set 1: 3-5 reps at 265 lb.
3. Rest 3 minutes.
4. Set 2: 6-8 reps at 10-15% of 265 lb (i.e. anything from 230 lb to 243 lb).
The way you progress with RPT is each workout you go up on either weight or reps. If you reach the end or exceed the rep range for that set then on the next workout you’ll increase weight. The weight increases will range from 2.5 lb to 15 lb depending on what movement it is and how far along you are with your progressions. For example, you’ll have bigger increases with squats and deadlifts compared to a push press. If you do not reach the end of the rep range for a set then the next workout you’ll stay at the same weight and try to increase the reps.
In the first 1-3 months you’ll likely be increasing reps or weight on every set of RPT for a movement. The further along you progress you’ll start getting to the point where you’ll only progress with one or two of the sets. When that happens it’s nothing to worry about – it’s expected. The goal is of RPT is to increase at least one set on weight OR reps each workout. As long as you’re doing that you’re making progress.
- PC = Power Clean
- PS = Power Snatch
- BS = Back Squat
- BP = Bench Press
- OHP = Overhead Press
- DL = Deadlift
- PP = Push Press