PT Progression Series: #1 — The Pyramid

Everyday someone asks about improving in fitness tests. Many people have issues with not just performing on an entry level fitness test (join military, police, fire), but also progressing in a manner that will enable them to perform well at Boot Camp or Police and Fire Academies. Here is an email from a concerned student who is preparing to join the military in the next year: Stew, How do I get better at pullups, pushups, and situps? I know I should do more of them but how do I arrange workouts so I am going to see progress frequently (weekly / every other week)? This is a great question because we all have to start somewhere and then we progress into being PT animals eventually. The good news is that you have a year to train but you need to start now. I am going to make my next several articles focus on the PT Progression Method. It all starts with building a foundation and then advances in the following workout arrangements.

The PT Pyramid is what I call a Foundation Workout. If you can get to this level you are now in a position to progress to PT Progression #2 and #3. When you fail. This is a series of answers concerning a question about getting better at pullups. The Super Set is also considered a Foundation Workout similar to the PT Pyramid where the goal is to increase the weekly total volume of your repetitions in pullups. Build a PT Pyramid like this: Set#1: 1 Pullup. 5 situps… (No rest — your rest is the muscle group rest you get by doing other exercises) Set#2: 2 pullups. resort to knee pushups and keep moving with the workout. To get better at your specific PT test. PT Progression Series #2: Super Sets Part #2 of the PT Progression Series is the Super Set. max-out. and situps for both fitness testing as well as bootcamp. 2 Pushups. 15 situps…and so on. pushups. situps in order to get better at taking calisthenic fitness tests. then resort to negatives or flexed arm hangs for the number of seconds instead of repetitions. try to repeat in reverse order back to what you did at Set #1. 10 situps Set#3: 3 pullups. and 500 situps / core exercises. Once you get to level 10 and back down to 1 again you will have done 100 pullups. Continue up the pyramid until you fail. (250 situps / 250 seconds in plank pose). pushups. If you find that you cannot do ANY pullups. It helps the user build a solid foundation of calisthenics and increases volume so you will improve your previous limits. 4 pushups. Having a solid foundation by using both the PT . One way to balance out your core is to replace situps with plank pose on the way down the pyramid or alternate each set and do even sets plank and odd sets situps. cooldown all rolled into a single workout program. police or fire academies.The PT Pyramid: Build a foundation with this workout that has a warmup. 200 pushups. 6 pushups. If you fail at pushups. It is a great way to check progress as well.

Super Set. every OTHER day. pushups. This way you can work on the ability to transition from the PT to running portions of the test which is a big issue for many PFT takers and makes running more challenging if all the blood is trapped in the upper body before you start the run the 1. Eventually you may fail at these predetermined number of these sets. crunches for situps. test you can make a super set like this: Repeat 10–15 times Pullups — 50% of your max reps (so if you can do 10 pullups — only do 5 per set) Pushups 10–15 (if your current max is at least 40 do roughly 25% of max per set) Situps 10 — but focus on your goal pace. or flexed arm hang for pullups for the last few remaining sets of the program. Do not do them on back to back to back days like many . For instance. situps. A super set is nothing more than a circuit but made with a set number of repetitions and a range of sets for you to shoot for in the workout. pushups. You can do the PT Pyramid.5. to ace the pullups. NO REST — Your rest is resting muscle groups by doing other exercises Another option: Repeat 5–10 times pushups 10 situps 10 wide pushups 10 crunches 10 tricep pushups 10 plank pose 30 seconds Pullups — 50% of your current max reps test score Add a new progression! Add running in each set by running anywhere from 100 yards or a 1/4 mile. but that is fine. you only want to work with this higher level of volume in the upperbody exercises of pullups. and the Max Rep Workout PT Progressions all once a week if you wish. 2 or 3 mile timed runs.Pyramid and the Super Set will enable you to build your muscular endurance by increasing your daily volume in smaller sub-max rep sets. Only do the Super Set every other day at the most. situps. Consider it ―resting with running‖. Keep pushing and resort to knee pushups for pushups. BUT. Do 10 situps in 15 seconds if you want a total score of 80 situps in 2 minutes.

70–80 pushups / situp range. like I said earlier. Once you have mastered the PT Pyramid and the Super Set and can handle workouts with volume of 100 pullups and 200 pushups. most people were in the 20+. 1–10-1 pyramid will be easy to do. But. PT Progression Series #3: Max Rep Sets Workouts Part three of the PT Progression Series is to build upon a foundation that you have created over the past few months. 300 reps of abdominal exercises — consider that an UPPER BODY day that you need 48 hours to fully recover before you repeat that workout. pushups. then it is time to test your new found strength. Eventually you will see negative results if you do daily PT workouts of the same muscle group. This is very similar to the Murph done by Crossfit gyms but instead of doing .people mistakenly do. return in reverse order. situps tests. The Max Rep PT is ideal for those who are stuck in the 10–15 pullup. 300 situps workout then plan is to get these numbers in max rep sets. 200 pushups. In a 5–6 week period of doing this workout just once a week as shown below. This workout will increase your muscle stamina and endurance which is really the goal of mastering PT tests. you need a foundation of fitness before trying this workout. Each week or so you should see your progress moving up the pyramid increase. The new goal to achieving the volume of PT reps that you are used to is now to get those numbers in as few sets as possible. 100+ range on the pullup. Eventually. 100+. It is recommended to only do this workout once a week but you can combine like this during your week: Mon — PT Pyramid — Build your way up to your max effort on pullups and pushups. It maybe time to push that to new levels and go for a 12–15 high pyramid. Start adding harder ―rest‖ elements into the super set circuit. Anytime you are doing 100 pullups. Saturday — Max Rep PT — I recommend taking a PT day off before trying this 100/200/300 rep workout in as few sets as possible for best results. 200 pushups. Get some ideas from Circuit Training article. for our standard 100 pullups. For instance. Wed — PT Super Set — Keep working the volume so you get your goal reps for the day just as you have been doing for the past several weeks.

400 pushups.5 mile run you need to run a 90 second quarter mile. Ultimate progression: If you are kicking everybody’s butt in this workout and complete it in three sets. I have only seen three guys do this many reps in five sets which was the time most of the other guys did 100.200. Most advanced PTers can do this in the 4–5 range.) PT Progression Series #4: Running and PT Mix Part four of the PT Progression Series is about adding the final segment of most fitness tests into the calisthenics workouts — RUNNING. (By the Way — these are NON-KIPPING PULLUPS — Military grade pullups ONLY. moving straight to the 2 min pushups and situp sets without rest other than a sip of water if you need to hydrate. The record in our Spec Ops training group was 185 pullups. You can make a pyramid out of this one or make it one tough super set but each ―rest‖ period in between sets is a run of a variety of distances. The best I have ever seen is three sets. In more than 15 years of doing this workout. You should be able to transition from the the PT section into the running test easily and know by the way you are breathing. but can also help you in simulating other exercise . Add in running a 1/4 mile each set at your goal mile pace you want for the timed run. striding how fast you are going. if you want a 9 minute 1. replace with an exercise you will be tested on like situps. Optional Progressions to this Max Rep PT: Try doing the workout with a weight vest. This takes practice though. swinging your arms. 400 situps in FIVE sets. For example. If it takes more that 10 sets. keep doing and see how many reps you can get in FIVE sets. These type of workouts not only help your body learn how to transition from PT exercises to running. stop at ten and live to fight another day. Learning to run at your goal pace is critical for optimal performance and you must practice it so often that it actually becomes ―muscle memory‖ when you run. Focus on maxing out the pullups. 300 reps respectively. Goal: See how few sets you can do this 100/200/300 workout.300 squats.

run 30-40m — 20 pushups. For instance if you are fairly advanced try: Repeat 10 times Pullups 10–15 Pushups 25–40 Situps or plank pose/second — 25–40 Run 1/4 mile at goal pace Running goal pace means if you are doing a 1/4 mile run and you are striving for a 9 min mile and a half or a 12 min 2 mile run. I call this the Obstacle Course Simulation Workout Progression but it’s goal is to help you with the PFT exercises. I would recommend turning some of these situp sets into plank pose where each second at plank pose (up pushup position after pushups) counts as 1 rep of situps. Here is an all-time favorite that can progress into a workout even the toughest people cannot finish. You can return and go back down the pyramid completing the 100/200/300 total repetition challenge OR try a new progression. The goal if you keep going past level 10 is to see if you can keep moving and go to level 20. combat conditioning courses. Here is how it works: (NO REST Workout) Set:#1: Do 1 pullup — run 30-40m —do 2 pushups / 3 situps — run back to pullup bars Set #2: 2 pullups —run 30-40m—4 pushups / 6 situps — run back to pullup bars Keep moving forward up the pyramid to set #10: 10 pullups. . 640 situps. This is a total repetition workout of 210 pullups. and other job related challenges. 30 situps Now here is where it is up to you and your fitness level. If you continue moving up the pyramid there is no need to return down the pyramid. 420 pushups. you have to run each quarter mile at 90 seconds (1:30).events like obstacle courses. This is best if using an outdoor pullup bar and an area to run a short distance. One Way Pyramid to 20: Keep going up and see where you fail. Super Set with Running: Another option is to do a sub max Super Set with running longer distances at your goal pace.

or fire fighting training. 4 pushups. 15 situps… RUN 1 MILE…Start pyramid on Set 6 — continue to Set 10. fireman carry a partner. or any other creative method you can think of adding that will assist in your preparation for military. etc.It is recommended to only do these high volume workouts once a week and make your other two upper body workouts lower in volume but still focus on pace and transition from running and PT. 3 situp Set 2: 2 pullups. do a farmer walk with heavy weight. See why transition from PT to running is so important. and 8 count pushups. kettlebell swings. Harder Progressions: Now add more difficult exercises to the PT Pyramid. Run 1 mile Continue pyramid on set 11 –15 Run 1 mile Optional to finish pyramid at 16–20 or return in reverse order. but add a short run of 40-50m (meters) and make this place the location for your burpees. Make them a 1:1 ratio of . 10 pushups. 8 pushups. PT Progression Series #5: Hardcore Full Body Movements with PT/Run PT Progression #5 is the PT and Advanced Movements Workout: You now are ready to advance to full body movements in between sets of pullups and pushups and even replace pushups with more dynamic exercises like burpees. 9 situps Set 4: 4 pullups. push presses. push presses. 6 pushups. Work your way up a pullup pyramid to 20. low crawl. 8 count pushups. police. 2 pushup. 12 situps Set 5: 5 pullups. 6 situps Set 3: 3 pullups. Traveling to and from the pullup bar and the PT area will now require you to bear crawl. PT Pyramid with More Mileage: Every 5th set run a mile fast pace: Set 1: 1 pullups.

This is your time to get creative but make sure it is something you will see again in your training future. Some great ideas are: fireman carry. crab walk. You now have to pick another method to travel. you can no longer run from pullup bar to PT area. farmer walk. Use the first 5 sets as a warmup / run. Remember if you go from 1 to 20 sets in a pyramid that is 210 reps of pullups and any other exercises you select. Don’t forget your situps and plank poses as they make great ―rest‖ exercises when needing an active rest. low crawls. lunges. Here is where it gets harder. wheel barrow race. . or tire flips. overhead carry of many pullups you do. After set#5. bear crawls.

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