Weekly Workout: PT Pyramid Progressions (Up or Down)

Members of Pacific Air Forces’ A-staff perform scissor kicks at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, during a morning “beach PT session.”

If the PT pyramid (pullups x 1, pushups x 2, abs x 3) is too difficult or too easy, there is a simple way to adjust fire to help you reach your goal of an upward or downward progression. The TRX is a tool that allows for this scaling of the workout to fit multiple fitness levels.  Here is a classic PT workout with exercise options to help you do it and progress toward your fitness goals.


Scaling Down The Classic PT Pyramid

The PT Pyramid 1-10-1 – If this workout is too difficult (100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 abs in a total of 19 sets) , then consider not going all the way to 10 as your primary answer to adjusting this workout. Or you can do pulldowns, Dumbbell rows for pullups after you fail.  You can also do knee pushups, if you fail at pushups. The abs can be broken up into multiple exercises such as plank poses per seconds equaling a repetition, crunches in place of sit-ups, knee ups, or flutter-kicks for example.  Personally, I like to do plank poses in the TRX for time.  Each second in plank = a repetition on the pyramid.

How to use the TRX to adjust to make this workout easier:

When you fail at pullups, replace with TRX rows or TRX bicep curls to work the pulling muscles. Make sure you lean back to challenge yourself with the TRX. If you need it to be easier, adjust the angle of your body closer to vertical to scale this exercise for your abilities. Note:  In these videos, I like to add in a squat to work the legs as well.  That is optional.

How to use the TRX and other methods to adjust to make this workout harder:

If 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 abs of choice is an easy day workout, here are some ideas how to make it a little tougher and add a challenge:

  1. You can always go higher than 10 on the pyramid. Try 1-12-1 and that will equal 144 pullups.
  2. You can always add a weight vest.  A vest of 10-20 lbs can challenge the ability to do 100 pullups.
  3. Try the TRX Atomic Pushup in place of pushups or maybe start off with 100 TRX pushups / 100 regular pushups. 
  4. You can also add in dips (x2) or military press (x2) to enhance the pushing exercises in different planes of movement.  This will in turn challenge pushups too.
  5. TRX abs are much tougher than sit-ups or crunches.  Selecting any ab exercise using the TRX will challenge your ability to easily complete 300 reps of core exercises.  TRX rollouts, planks, side planks with weight vest are some of the many ideas available. The best way is to select a variety of core exercises vs just doing 300 of the same exercise as it requires more to work all the core muscles than just situps / crunches.

Progressing with fitness training is a process and sometimes can be done with workouts you have done for years or workouts you have never considered due to your current conditioning. Get creative and strive to try new or old workouts, but with scalable options to help you get through it. The main rule is to select exercises that work the same muscle groups (upper body pulling, pushing, core) for this specific PT Pyramid.

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