How to Get the Most Out of Weights and PT Workouts

Senior airman prepares for the clean-and-jerk.
Senior Airman Jelani Acevedo-Morales, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Elements team member, prepares for a clean-and-jerk at Hurlburt Field, Florida, April 7, 2014. (Staff Sgt. John Bainter/U.S. Air Force)

I received an email from an Army soldier who is interested in still scoring well on the Physical Fitness Test naturally, but also mixing some weights and other resistance training into his weekly routine.

For those of you who like to lift weights only, it is recommended to lift weights, stretch and do cardiovascular activities (bike, swim, jog, etc.) to complete the workout. Mixing these components into your routine will build strong muscles and bones, create joint flexibility, and develop your heart and lungs into more efficient oxygen-moving organs. The workouts that mix calisthenics with weights training are common circuit training workouts, but I add a challenge of muscle burnout to keep the PFT scores high.

For example, one of my favorite circuits only takes about 20-30 minutes and will work out your upper body unlike other routines:

Upper-Body Weight/PT Circuit Workout
Pull-ups max reps until failure
Dips max reps until failure
Sit-ups max in 2:00
Bench press 50% max reps plus 2 negatives
Push-ups max in 1:00 -- resort to knee push-ups, too
Pulldowns 50% bodyweight max reps
Sit-ups max in 2:00
Military press max reps (dumbbells 10-20 pounds)
Biceps curls max reps (10-30 pounds)
Triceps extensions max reps (10-20 pounds)
Sit-ups max in 2:00
Cardio of choice 20-30:00 or repeat above if you can

* Only do this workout once a week. It is very challenging on your body to fail this many times in a workout.

Here is another upper-body workout I like to do. It will work opposing muscle groups with a weight exercise and a PT exercise while resting with a cardio and abs routine:

* Repeat five times

-- Pull-ups -- max reps

-- Bench press -- 5 reps of 50%-75% of maximum single lift

Only do once

-- Run or bike 10 minutes

-- Sit-ups -- max reps for two minutes

Repeat five times

-- Push-ups -- max reps in one minute

-- Pulldowns -- 10, 10 (regular, reverse grips nonstop)

Only do once

-- Run or bike 10 minutes

-- Sit-ups -- max reps for two minutes

* Choose weight that should challenge you on the last two reps. Do this workout 1-2 times a week, with 2-3 days between repeating upper-body workouts.

One of the best cardio, weight and PT mixes I like to do is with the legs:

-- Repeat three times

-- Run or bike five minutes fast

-- Stretch legs

-- Squats with no weight -- 20-30 reps

-- Leg press -- 10-15 reps

-- Lunges -- 10-20 reps per leg

-- Leg extensions -- 10-15 reps

-- Leg curls -- 10-15 reps

Jog or bike 10-15 minutes for cooldown. Stretch legs well.

* Choose a weight that should challenge you on the last two reps. Do this workout 1-2 times a week, with 2-3 days between repeating leg workouts.

These are just some ideas of how to mix PT with weights. It makes the weight room more fun and will help your PFT scores as well. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article