Workout of the Week – Full Body Pyramid Plus Running/Swimming

USMC recruits train to earn the title US Marine at MCRD San Diego.

This week there is a new pyramid method that was experimented with by a group of future military members. The goal today was to do a group workout, keep people moving the entire time, work as many different body parts and movements as possible, be scalable for varying levels of fitness, and practice running at an individual’s goal mile pace.

The pyramid has many elements in it that will help with a variety of fitness tests events (pushups, pull-ups, running) as well as other movements that will challenge the entire body.

Full Body Pyramid / Run 1-10-1 

  • Pull-ups x 1
  • Pushups x 3
  • Push Press x 2
  • KB swings x 2
  • Squats x 2
  • run 1 mile every 5th set

EXPLANATION:  Typical Pyramid Method with a 1 to 10 back down to 1 (19 total sets) but with changes:

Pull-ups x 1 - As with nearly every PT pyramid, one of the most challenging exercises is the pull-up.  The pyramid enables the user to slowly warm up and progress until failure, then repeat in reverse order as a cooldown – accumulating many repetitions along the way. For instance, the 1-10-1 pyramid equals 100 pull-ups. 

Pushups x 3 – Multiplying each set of the pyramid by THREE is a tough challenge.  If many are having issues with that, drop it to x 2 instead.

Push Press x 2 – Go up the pyramid by 2 reps each set – totaling 200 if the full 1-10-1 pyramid is completed. Using dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, or kettlebells do overhead presses. When they get tough, use your legs to help lift the weight over your head in a “push press” fashion.

KB swings x 2 - Go up the pyramid by 2 reps each set – totaling 200 if the full 1-10-1 pyramid is completed.  If you do not have kettlebells, try with dumbbells swinging the weight from your hips to over your head. 

Squats x 2 – Go up the pyramid by 2 reps each set – totaling 200 if the full 1-10-1 pyramid is completed. These are bodyweight exercises, but if you want to challenge your group or some in the group have them do with weight as above options.

Workout Specifically Explained: Set 1:  1 pull-ups, 3 pushups, 2 push press, 2 KB swings, 2 squats.

Set 2: 2 pull-ups, 6 pushups, 4 push press, 4 KB swings, 4 squats. Set 3:  3,9,6,6,6, Set 4: 4,12,8,8,8 Set 5: 5, 15, 10,10,10  - THEN run 1 mile at your goal pace for a timed run (or at least try to match the pace for at least the first ½ mile). Sets 6-10:  Continue using the same x 1, x 2, x3 multiplication scheme until set 10 – Run 1 mile again. Sets 9-6: Continue in reverse order – after set 5 or 6 – run 1 mile again. Sets 5-1: Continue in reverse order – Run 1 mile again. (optional if you only have time / able to do 3 vs. 4 miles).

In the end, this high-volume workout can net 100 pullups, 300 pushups, 200 squats, KB swings, and push presses as well as 3-4 miles of running.  Obviously, this is not for beginner level, but you can start people out with the pyramid – let them go up to level 4-5 and back down for a fraction of the volume of the full thing.

Lightweight Shoulders – This is a classic lightweight shoulder exercise done with 5 lbs. dumbbells that helps with shoulder stability.

Swimming is optional.  If you are preparing for a future in a military profession that requires swimming, you should be in the water preparing to handle these type of workouts.

Swim: 500m warmup – Making the typical test distances a “warmup” has a profound mental game it plays with your confidence later when taking fitness tests for real. Repeat 5 times 100m swim fast free 50m CSS goal pace (CSS = combat swimmer stroke-this is optional but needed for spec ops level candidates. - tread 1 minute – try to tread 1 minute with no hands as your “rest”. - pullouts 10 – these are muscle ups on the pool’s edge where you pull your body out of the water so your hips are touching the edge of the pool. Try not to kick up and go all the way under the water on the down.

Additional: optional Swim 10 min Tread 10 min - no hands Dynamic stretches in chest deep water 10 min to loosen up the body. See Mobility Day for ideas.


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