Ask Stew: Mixing Weights with PT

Capt. Nate Zermeno, commander of the 720th Ordnance Company completes barbell rows during the EOD 133 Memorial Workout (Photo Credit: DJ Borden)

All too often people add calisthenics at higher and higher repetitions into their workout week along with weight training without realizing this is causing upper body burnout. Here’s how to arrange weights and calisthenics to avoid burnout:

Stew, I came across your article when researching how to get better at pullups.

I think I could jump into your PT progression series and start with the PT pyramid on Monday and Wednesday and maybe for now do a super set PT on Friday, until I get a good foundation and try for the max rep PT, when I feel I can add that in.

My question is: if I am doing a PT pyramid on Monday and Wednesday, and then a PT super set on Friday. Can or should I mix in weighted workouts on the Tuesdays and Thursdays, or just one day? Maybe Saturday? Or will I be over doing it by trying to do weights on certain days in addition to the three days of heavy calisthenics during the week?  Basically, I want to get better at doing a bunch of pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups (and I like your progression series) but I don't want to give up being able to do weights like bench press and military press, etc. as well...

You can mix in weights but not the same muscle groups that involve pullups, pushups, dips. This is kind of volume of calisthenics needs a day in between for recovery.  Otherwise you will be ding upper body exercises 5-6 times a week.

If you still want to lift, add in bench press, pulldowns, rows, military press and other auxiliary lifts on the same day as the pyramid or superset.  Call it a two-a-day program or use the pyramid and super set as a warmup to the lifts that same day and workout. One thing that you have to understand with the differences of these exercises is that lifting weights (heavier) is for strength and power.  Calisthenics start off as a strength exercise for your first few repetitions, but if you want to do hundreds of repetitions in a workout, this strength exercise has to become an endurance exercise.  Your calisthenics goal is more of a muscle stamina focus than pure strength.

Here is the way we would arrange a week of calisthenics and weight training:

Monday: PT Pyramid mixed with a run or swim in the morning.  If you have time and energy to complete the following weight room set after the above, then go ahead, or just do the lift portion in the evening or at lunch.

If you want to lift legs on the days in between that is fine.  Don’t skip leg day!

Pullup / Pushup / Run Pyramid 1 pullup — run 30m 2 pushups, run 30m 2 pullups, 4 pushups, run 30m 3 pullups, 6 pushups, run 30m, 4 pullups / 8 pushups, run 30m, 5 pullups / 10 pushups  = Pyramid sets 1–5 Rest with abs 2 minutes

Pullup / Pushup Pyramid 6–10 (same as above but 6-10/ 12-20) BUT fireman carry or farmer walk in between pullup / pushups Rest with abs 2 minutes (plank pose)

PT pyramid 10–6 (same as above — in reverse) BUT bear crawl or farmer walk in between Pullups/ Pushups Rest with abs 2 minutes

PT Pyramid 5–1  (same as above — in reverse) BUT bear crawl or farmer walk in between Pullups/ Pushups

Run or swim 20-30 minutes if time allows Weight Room Later

  • Repeat 4 times
  • (2 push / 2 pull / 2 full body exercise / cardio circuit)
  • Tabata interval - 5 min (20 sec sprint/ 10sec slow) — bike/ elliptical/row
  • pulldowns 10,10 (wide, reg grips)
  • bicep / military press 10-15 (two exercises – 1 movement)
  • bench press 10–15
  • hang clean 5–10
  • KB swings 20

The Tabata interval is optional.  If you want to push the fast cardio interval part of cardio training, then add it.  If you want to focus on strength more – skip it. This is a good mix of full body, pushing, core calisthenics, with short cardio events, followed by similar events in the weight room.

On the days in between your upper body calisthenics / weight cycles, mix in run, ruck, swimming with fins and / or some weight training or leg PT for the legs.  No need to do another upper body day today with lifting upper body today when you have upper body calisthenics on the day before and after.  That is a combination that will eventually bring negative results if done for longer periods of time.

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