The PT Progression Series is a series of answers about how to get better at pullups, pushups, and situps for fitness testing as well as bootcamp, police or fire academies.
Part 3 of the PT Progression Series builds upon a foundation that you have created over the past few months. Once you have mastered the PT Pyramid and the Super Set and can handle workouts with volume of 100 pullups and 200 pushups, then it is time to test your new found strength. This workout will increase your muscle stamina and endurance which is really the goal of mastering PT tests. The Max Rep PT is ideal for those who are stuck in the 10–15 pullup, 70–80 pushups / situp range. In a 5–6 week period of doing this workout just once a week as shown below, most people were in the 20+, 100+, 100+ range on the pullup, pushups, situps tests. But, like I said earlier, you need a foundation of fitness before trying this workout.
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. For instance, for our standard 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 situps workout then plan is to get these numbers in max rep sets. 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, return in reverse order. Each week or so you should see your progress moving up the pyramid increase. Eventually, 1–10-1 pyramid will be easy to do. It maybe time to push that to new levels and go for a 12–15 high pyramid.
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. Start adding harder “rest” elements into the super set circuit. Get some ideas from Circuit Training article.
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. This is very similar to the Murph done by Crossfit gyms but instead of doing 300 squats, replace with an exercise you will be tested on like situps. Focus on maxing out the pullups, moving straight to the 2 min pushups and situp sets without rest other than a sip of water if you need to hydrate.
Optional Progressions to this Max Rep PT:
Try doing the workout with a weight vest.
Add in running a 1/4 mile each set at your goal mile pace you want for the timed run. For example, if you want a 9 minute 1.5 mile run you need to run a 90 second quarter mile.
Goal: See how few sets you can do this 100/200/300 workout. The best I have ever seen is three sets. Most advanced PTers can do this in the 4–5 range. If it takes more that 10 sets, stop at ten and live to fight another day.
Ultimate progression: If you are kicking everybody’s butt in this workout and complete it in three sets, keep doing and see how many reps you can get in FIVE sets. The record in our Spec Ops training group was 185 pullups, 400 pushups, 400 situps in FIVE sets. In more than 15 years of doing this workout, 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, 300 reps respectively.
(By the Way — these are NON-KIPPING PULLUPS — Military grade pullups ONLY.)
The Complete PT Progression Series:
PT Progression Series #1: PT Pyramids: Do this workout EVERY OTHER DAY. No workout is good to do daily for long periods of time. It is best to do this foundation workout only three days a week.
PT Progression #2 is the SUPER SET: This is another sub-max effort foundation workout to increase volume of your PT exercises. It is recommended to add this type of workout and replace a pyramid workout once a week so you only total these upper body workouts only THREE times a week. Learn how to design a SUPER SET effectively.
PT Progression #3 is the Max Rep Set Workout: Once you have mastered the PT Pyramid and the Super Set and can handle workouts with volume of 100 pullups and 200 pushups, then it is time to test your new found strength. This workout will increase your muscle stamina and endurance which is really the goal of mastering PT tests. Find out how to push your numbers even higher.
PT Progression #4 is the PT / Run Workout: 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. Learn the best way to add running to the next generation of progression.
PT Progression #5 is the PT and Advanced Movements Workout: Add tougher exercises into your pyramids and supersets such as burpees, push presses, bear crawls, etc.