Reverse Pyramid Interval Training on the Heavy Bag

I just uploaded my video called “Reverse Pyramid Interval Training on the Heavy Bag”, which is part of the training I’m doing to keep in shape.

I’ve been doing a lot of this type of training lately both in class and by myself. The main reason is that I don’t want to burn out. Here’s why:

As the Tabata Protocol on the heavy bag is my benchmark for my personal conditioning, I need to work on anaerobic conditioning. This is fine, because I enjoy that a lot more than aerobic training. However, doing Tabata too often wipes you out. It’s so intense that you need a long time to recover 100% from it. If you don’t take that time (and especially if you have a high training workload), you head straight into overtraining and injuries. And that’s where I was almost at after four weeks of increasing my training sessions in both volume and intensity.

I felt tired a lot and started having excessive tension in my legs, aches, and other pains. Stretching didn’t help, neither did sleeping more. In other words, I was overdoing it. So I decided to take a different approach. Enter reverse pyramid interval training. The concept is relatively simple:

  • The work-rest ratio is 1:1. This means that each round, you work just as long as you rest.
  • Duration per round starts at 15sec and then you add 5sec every round until you hit one minute. So round one is 15sec work/15 sec rest. Round two is 20sec work/20sec rest. And so on until you do a 1 minute round.
  • Intensity is around 80% of your perceived maximum. Tabata protocol means going at 100%, no holding back. Here, you try to go at around 80%, maybe even 85% of that. If you crank it up more than that, you’ll look like crap after five minutes of working out and then you’re not even halfway through. Now’s not the time to do that this is sub-maximum interval training, not maximum.
  • Be consistent. “Work” means you consistently work as if you’re sparring or actually fighting in the ring or cage. Rest means just that: resting. Personally, I prefer to go relatively easy in the first couple rounds to avoid injuries and I crank it up near the end, but that’s just me. However, I don’t take breaks during the work part, nor do I waste too much time running around the heavy bag. I imagine I’m fighting a tough opponent who keeps me busy.


There are other ways of doing this type of interval training but this is the way I like to do it. Here’s what it looks like:

This type of interval training is actually pretty sneaky in how you suddenly start getting tired. It’s a reverse pyramid, meaning, the smallest part of training comes first. Then you add a bigger piece on top of it and so on until you come to the last and biggest part. By then, you’ll be pretty tired which makes this a great way to train your mental endurance as well. If you do this in a sparring format, it’s even harder because while your partner is working, you don’t really get a lot of rest as you still have to defend. So be careful not to injure each other.

Looking at my performance, some comments:

  • My conditioning is a lot better now. I did four rounds as a warm-up before this part and afterward, I was OK. I felt it, yes, but I could have kept going.
  • My flexibility has improved. It’s still not good enough but my hips are finally rotating better into the kicks again. The machine gun kicks are also improving.
  • My defense needs more work. I noticed I’m dropping my hands again when I strike and don’t cover up enough with the striking shoulder and opposite hand. It’s not terrible but neither is it good enough. Gotta work some more on that.

If you want to try this out, build up to it. Don’t just jump into interval training, but work methodically toward the high-intensity levels. Not doing so is a recipe for disaster. Don’t ask me how I know… :-)

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  1. You’re taking the challenge past Easter?

  2. Hey i know this post has been here for an eternity in internet time. But I just want to say that back when I read it in 2013 I started using this, just cause i wanted a little something to do extra in the gym. It wasn’t until a couple years later, when i wasn’t doing it, that i realized how much my conditioning had been bolstered by doing this a couple times a week. When my strength and size gains were returning from extended times off, but my runs and conditioning weren’t coming back the same is when I noticed! Now that i have access to a bag again, I’ll definitely be getting back after it! But thanks thanks thanks for this from yesterday me and tomorrow me!

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