The PT Pyramid

by Stew Smith

I received a fairly basic question about PT Pyramids. I realized what some groups consider standard knowledge, others, especially young, future military members, may not know or understand. The PT Pyramid is a great way to build a foundation of fitness needed to ace any physical fitness test. The Pyramid program has a warmup, max out, and a cool down built into it, making it a very healthy way to exercise.

The pyramid described in this article is for pull-ups, pushups and situp workouts and can be done ANYWHERE. In fact, I do this workout at my local elementary school playground on monkey bars. This workout is a staple program in many of the eBooks found on the Military.com eBook Fitness Store and can be utilized with a variety of exercises from squats, lunges, any abdominal exercise, dips, and even running. As you advance you can increase the steps up to as high as you wish. At SEAL training, we did a pullup pyramid up to 15 and back down to one. That equals 225 pullups.

How the Pyramid Works

If you take a look at one of the pyramids, you will notice that it is numbered on both sides. It goes from 1-5 on one side, with the number 6 on the top, and then 5-1 on the other side. Each number represents a step in the pyramid. Your goal is to climb the pyramid all the way up, and all the way back down. So you can consider each step a "set" of your workout.

pyramid

At the bottom, you will find "pullups x 1, pushups x 2, situps x 3". What this means is that at each "set" or step of the pyramid, you perform 1 pullup for every step you are on, 2 pushups for each step, and 3 situps for each step.

You start at the bottom of the pyramid, at number one. For each set, you multiply each set number by 1 and that tells you how many pullups to do. You multiply it by 2 to get your pushups, and multiply by 3 for situps. You keep progressing until you get to the top of the pyramid, or your maximum effort at muscle failure. At step six you perform 6 pullups/ 12 pushups/18 situps. Now, you start working your way back down the other side and continue on step 5 on the way back down. So, you'll do 5 pullups/10 pushups/15 situps. Keep going until you work all the way back down to one. Listed below is a number summary of the pyramid:

Go Up the Pyramid:
(or half pyramid workout)

- Set/Step 1: 1 pullups/2 pushups/3 situps
- Set/Step 2: 2 pullups/4 pushups/6 situps
- Set/Step 3: 3 pullups/6 pushups/9 situps (Your first few set are basically a warmup)
- Set/Step 4: 4 pullups/8 pushups/12 situps
- Set/Step 5: 5 pullups/10 pushups/15 situps
- Set/Step 6: 6 pullups/12 pushups/18 situps (Here is where you may fail/max out)

Go Down the Pyramid:
(or reverse order pyramid)

- Set/Step 5: 5 pullups/10 pushups/15 situps
- Set/Step 4: 4 pullups/8 pushups/12 situps
- Set/Step 3: 3 pullups/6 pushups/9 situps (Finish cool down)
- Set/Step 2: 2 pullups/4 pushups/6 situps
- Set/Step 1: 1 pullups/2 pushups/3 situps

Other Creative Ideas:

Add: Dips to the exercises for additional triceps/shoulder burn. I usually do the same number of dips as I do pushups.

Add: Run 100 yd. or even 1/4 mile sprints to add a challenging cardio component. These will challenge you tremendously, and you will lose your energy quickly so bring Gatorade for blood sugar/electrolyte replacement and water to drink. 

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.


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