Ask Stew: PT Pyramid Mixed with Weight Training

Sailors attached to the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC19) participate in the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). (U.S. Navy photo/Dylan McKay)
Sailors attached to the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC19) participate in the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). (U.S. Navy photo/Dylan McKay)

The PT Pyramid is a classic GO TO workout system that continues to help people build a solid base of stamina and endurance with common calisthenics testing exercises today. By design it is a warmup, max out, and cooldown all built into one efficient system. It is also a great way to monitor progress on the occasion it is attempted.

It is recommended not to the only system you use, if fact, you should mix in cardio activity (long distance and short/fast) and strength training. This question comes from a young man who loves the pyramid and prefers to make changes to it depending upon the muscle group worked, used as a warmup or cooldown, or push himself to maximum effort levels: 

Stew,

I have been doing the PT pyramid since I first read about it at 15 years old.  Now at 25, I can look back and say that it has been instrumental in high school sports, staying fit in college, and in my current federal law enforcement job. I am curious about other ways to use it, perhaps with a split routine with half of the workout being calisthenics and half being weight training exercises.  Any suggestions on how to make those substitutions?  Thanks, Agent Smith

I too have been using the PT pyramid for decades. In fact, I did exactly what you are asking this week on an upper body day. This is a pretty long work out so you can break it up as needed as I had to finish the cardio portion during lunch in a second session. The goal is to start the PT pyramid off like you normally do:

1 – Do the first half of the PT Pyramid as a warmup: Set 1: 1 pullup, 2 pushups, 3 abs of choice, 2 dips Set 2: 2 pull-ups, 4 pushups, 6 abs of choice, 4 dips. Set 3: 3,6,9,6 Set 4: 4,8,12,8 Set 5: 5,10,15,10… Keep going up the pyramid (6,7,8,9) until set 10:  10 pull-ups, 20 pushups, 30 abs of choice, 20 dips

Now you should be sufficiently warmed up.  It is up to you but you can mix in some dynamic stretches in between sets, or add in a ½ mile run every 5th set like the below workout does.

NOTE: if you cannot complete a full 1-10-1 pyramid, just go up to 5 or 6 and that is the end of your “warmup”.

PT Pyramid: Pullups/pulldowns x 1, Pushups x 2, Abs of choice x 3, Dips x 2 – 1-10-1 (but go as high as you can – repeat in reverse order BUT with weighted exercises)

Exercise pyramid 10 steps

Every 5th set run 400m at goal mile pace

REVERSE ORDER:  Now for the back side of the PT PYRAMID – add weights and make them get heavier (as possible / desired) as you progress down the pyramid – Set 11-15 will be relatively light as the repetitions are still pretty high, but the last 5 sets can be heavier weights.  Here is a sample of the exercises you can select, the repetitions, and weight you can try:

Set 11:  10 Pulldowns or weighted pullups, 20 bench press, 30 weighted abs of choice, 20 military press

  • Sample weight – 120lbs pulldowns or 20lb weight with pull-ups, 135 lbs on bench, 15lb medicine ball for twisting abs, 30 lbs DBs for military press.

Set 12: 9 weighted pullups, 18 bench press, 27 abs of choice, 18 military press Set 13: 8 heavy pulldowns, 16 bench press, 24 abs of choice, 16 military press Set 14: 7 weighted pullups, 14 bench press, 21 abs of choice, 14 military press Set 15: 6 heavy pulldowns, 12 bench press, 18 abs of choice, 12 military press Cardio break for 5-10 minutes – run, bike, elliptical, etc – Now go heavier if possible. Set 16: 5 weighted pullups, 10 bench press, 15 abs of choice, 10 military press Set 17: 4 heavy pulldowns, 8 bench press, 12 abs of choice, 8 military press Set 18: 3 weighted pullups, 6 bench press, 9 abs of choice, 6 military press Set 19: 2 heavy pulldowns, 4 bench press, 6 abs of choice, 4 military press Set 20: 1 weighted pullup, 2 bench press, 3 abs of choice, 2 military press Top it off with a Lightweight Shoulders routine

And a Run 1.5 mile timed

The later cardio pyramid we added was the following bike and swim pyramid: Bike pyramid:  Keep rpms at 75-100 and start off at resistance level 1 for 1 minute. Increase the resistance by 2 levels every minute for 10 minutes.  THEN repeat in reverse order.  This takes 19 minutes.

Swim Pyramid: Swim 100m warmup any stroke and stretch. Swim 200m with a mix of freestyle and any stroke for 100m each Swim 300m timed any stroke Swim 400m with fins with alternating 50m of freestyle and back flutterkicking Swim 500m with fins timed

As you can see there are countless ways to do pyramids. They are also known as drop-sets or increasing intensity and distance each set workouts.  Enjoy the new addition to your routine.

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