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Bench Press Pyramid Calculator

Created by Michael Darcy
Reviewed by Anna Szczepanek, PhD and Adena Benn
Last updated: Jan 18, 2024

If you're looking to plan a pyramid chest workout, our bench press pyramid calculator might be of help. This training method, named after the renowned Egyptian constructions, is among the most popular. Many avid gym-goers probably have already used it, even without realizing it.

Doesn't sound familiar? Don't worry! The article below will explore the principles of bench press pyramid workouts. You'll also learn how to increase your bench press with this program. 💪
Let's get to it!

What is a bench press pyramid?

Imagine that you're mountain hiking. ⛰️ It's easy initially, but the closer you get to the top, the more challenging it becomes. After you reach the peak, you start to descend. While the journey is less demanding, fatigue makes the last steps heavy.

The above description depicts what a bench press pyramid workout feels like. The general principle is that the difficulty changes as you progress. Specifically, your bench press reps decrease as the weight increases, and vice versa.
The load is typically based on your single repetition maximum (1RM) and its percentages. If you don't know what that is, the one-rep max calculator can help you.

Bench press pyramid workout types

Since you act as your own guide, you can revert the order or go on only half of the journey - there are a few types of pyramid chest workout out there. The ones you can find in the bench press pyramid calculator are:

  • Ascending - You start at the bottom and work your way up, decreasing your bench press reps but adding plates to the barbell.
  • Descending (reverse) - It's like an ascending bench press pyramid workout, but the heaviest set is first, and you progressively reduce the load.
  • Full (triangle) - It combines both above options. Beginning with lighter weights, you build up to the heaviest bench press pyramid set and then decrease the intensity.
  • Full reverse - You start with the heaviest lift and gradually reduce the load. However, then you must climb the pyramid again.

⚠️ Pay attention to the bench press pyramid percentages. While reverting the ascending pyramid is fine, the same doesn't generally apply to the full one, as the resulting load would be inappropriate.

How to increase bench press? Benefits of bench press pyramid

You may be wondering what the benefits of the bench press pyramid are. Below we list some of the pros:

  • Combining varying loads and number of reps results in increased training volume, which is necessary for muscle growth. It can be a potential solution if you're wondering how to increase your bench press.
  • The varying ranges in the bench press pyramid give you a combination that can stimulate both strength increase and hypertrophy.
  • If you choose the ascending or full pyramid, the warm-up is naturally included as you gradually prepare your body for the heavy load.

It may be helpful to note that the ascending pyramid is usually considered better for strength training. On the other hand, the descending variant more often leads close to muscle failure, which is essential for growth.

🙋 Remember to take care of your nutrition. Protein deficiency or consumption of too much alcohol can considerably impair muscle growth. The alcohol units calculator can help you see if you follow the guidelines.

Example: bench press pyramid calculator in practice

Let's consider an example of what to expect from the bench press pyramid calculator.
A frequent gym-goer, John, compared his Wilks score with his friend, which motivated him to improve. He had hit his plateau with regular training some time ago, so he decided to try a pyramid chest workout plan.

🔎 Wilks coefficient is used to compare lifters regardless of their weight and gender differences. If you want to learn more about it, visit our wilks calculator!

He tested his 1RM to be 95 kg (209.44 lbs). After some reading, John decided to do a descending pyramid comprising of 3 sets. He input this into the bench press pyramid calculator and saw the following result:

Bench press pyramid chart for John.




% 1RM


6-8 x

80.8 kg (178 lbs)



8-10 x

66.5 kg (147 lbs)



10-12 x

57 kg (126 lbs)


As you can see, there are also bench press pyramid percentages, so John knows exactly what's awaiting him in each set!


Does the bar count as weight in the bench press?

Yes, the bar mass is included in the bench press weight.
Most racks use typical Olympic barbells weighing 20 kg or 44/45 lbs. You need to add this number to the total load from the plates to find out how much you lifted.

How do I calculate bench press percentage?

To calculate your bench press percentage:

  1. Determine your one-rep maximum (1RM). You can:
    • Test it practically; or
    • Calculate it, knowing the weight and the number of repetitions in one of your sets.
  2. Divide the weight you use by 1RM.
  3. Multiply the result by 100% to find your lift percentage.

What should be my max for the pyramid workout?

It depends on the type of pyramid and the number of sets and repetitions but the maximum weight is usually between 80% and 100% of your one-rep maximum. Your goals also affect it; for example, if you focus on strength, you want to lift more.

How do I determine how much to lift in a pyramid workout?

To determine how much to lift in the bench press pyramid sets:

  1. Find your one-rep max (1RM).
  2. Decide how many sets you'll do and the maximum percentage of 1RM you'll lift.
  3. Starting from 50%-60%, add 5-15% to the consecutive sets until you reach the desired percentage.
  4. Multiply the numbers from step 3 by your 1RM to find the load for each set.
Michael Darcy
Pyramid type
Number of sets
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