Understanding the Modified FREE WEIGHT Pyramid System

Understanding the Modified FREE WEIGHT Pyramid System – If you are new to working out with free weights (dumbbells), it’s important to note the very specific patterns when using a pyramid system. The Bottoms Up! workout by Joyce Vedral, Ph.D. is a “modified” pyramid system.

You may be more familiar with the standard pyramid system for weight training – 5 sets of repetitions, increasing the weight during set 1 to 3, and then dropping down the weight for sets 4 and 5.

pyramid weights

Modified Pyramid System – EXAMPLE

  • Set 1: Perform 12-repetitions using 3-pound free weights
  • Set 2: Perform 10-repetitions using 5-pound free weights
  • Set 3: Perform 8-repetitions using 8-pound free weights

As you can see for each “set”, the weight is increased while the number of repetitions decreases. Joyce’s modified pyramid does not allow the muscle to become exhausted. This system combined with intersets (below) allows for a continuous aerobic workout with minimal or no breaks in between intersets.

Sets and Intersets (Twin Sets)

A “set” is a specific number of repetitions for a given exercise and is performed without a rest.

An “interset” is the combining of two exercises of complimentary body parts. The two exercises are performed back to back without taking a rest. Joyce’s Bottoms Up! workout utilizes the modified pyramid system and the exercises are performed in sets and intersets.

The Bottoms Up! workout utilizes INTERSETS, alternating exercises, for the following routines:

  • Thigh-Hip Buttock Routine
  • Abdominal Routine
  • Chest-Shoulder Routine
  • Biceps-Triceps Routine
  • Back-Calf Routine


Read BEFORE You Proceed

There are many reasons why I like the Bottoms Up! workout by Joyce Vedral, Ph.D. First, in the book, Joyce goes into depth about what to expect physically and psychologically when starting this program. She talks about various starting weights, water-weight fluctuation and what you will see and feel as you workout to this program. Reading the information she provides gives some insight as to what to expect before you start.

It is extremely important to read Bottoms Up! from cover to cover. And, never jump right in with any workout routine without consulting with your doctor and doing your own research.

“The ideas, procedures, and suggestions contained in the book, Bottoms Up! by Joyce L. Vedral, Ph.D. AND any comments or suggestions shared in my  blog, Facing MY FAT, are NOT intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision.

Reps and Weights

The Bottoms Up! book will provide suggestions on how many repetitions to perform for each exercise. Example: for the Lower Body Workout – Perform three (3) sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for all thigh exercises (using weights, modified pyramid style) AND three sets of 15 to 25 repetitions (no weights) for all hip/buttock exercises. Since this is an interset routine, alternate the thigh exercise with the hips/buttock exercise, performing 3-sets total of each exercise.


EXAMPLE of the first (1.) INTERSET for the THIGH-HIP/BUTTOCK

  •  Plie squat – 12 to 15 Repetitions (example: 3-pound free weights)
    • 15 to 25 Standing butt leg extension (no weights)
  • Plie squat – 12 to 15 Repetitions (example: 5-pound free weights)
    • 15 to 25 Standing butt leg extension (no weights)
  • Plie squat – 12 to 15 Repetitions (example: 8-pound free weights)
    • 15 to 25 Standing butt leg extension (no weights)


EXAMPLE of the first (1.) INTERSET for the CHEST-SHOULDER

  • Flat dumbbell press – 12 to 15 Repetitions  (example: 3-pound free weights)
    • Seated Side Lateral  (example: 3-pound free weights)
  • Flat dumbbell press – 12 to 15 Repetitions  (example: 5-pound free weights)
    • Seated Side Lateral  (example: 5-pound free weights)
  • Flat dumbbell press – 12 to 15 Repetitions  (example: 8-pound free weights)
    • Seated Side Lateral  (example: 8-pound free weights)


Facts and Tips

Soreness is Normal
You will get sore when working out with free weights. I’ve been using weights for over three years and I am getting sore from doing the Bottoms Up! routine. You may find that you are using muscles that you seldom use and soreness is a natural result. Working through the soreness is necessary to change the shape of your body. Per Joyce, “Under no circumstances are you allowed to take a week off to recuperate. If you do, you will be back to square one.” 

Refer to the book, pages 70-70 to determine your starting level. I considered myself in “aerobic shape” and so I started with 6, 8 and 10-pound weights. As of today, I am unable to fully complete some of the upper body exercises with my 10-pound weights. And, I thought I was in shape!

Up to 15-second “rests” are acceptable between intersets but not required for someone who is more advanced. The workout is designed to go nonstop because the exercises are paired for minimum fatigue. As you become more accustomed to the routines and stronger as a result, you may be able to move through the routines without a rest. Listen to your body while trying not to exceed a 15-second rest in between intersets.

Vickie’s View
This workout was published in 1993 and several things have changed since then. Important tips when doing any exercises are: 1) NEVER extend your knees past your toes when doing lunges and squats and 2) ALWAYS hold-in your stomach when picking up and setting down your weights as well as the entire time you are doing ANY exercise (upper/lower/abdomen/calf). 

Drink water, remember to breathe and avoid sitting for hours or laying down AFTER your workout. Walk or stretch to loosen up your muscles.

Understanding the Modified FREE WEIGHT Pyramid System

New and pre-owned copies of the Bottoms Up! book can be purchased from: Thriftbooks.com, eBay, Amazon and many other Internet venues. DVD’s are available too; however, I am working out to the softcover book.

To read my other posts and pages regarding this workout routine, go to: Bottoms Up!

Join me this year, 2017, as I take on the Bottoms Up! workout challenge. Start NOW – Sign-up with your email address to follow my blog.

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