New PT Pyramid (Calisthenics, Weights, Running, Carries and Crawls)

Master Sgt. Eric Rideaux, 9th Air Force, performs lunges using shoulder weights during a fitness demonstration for the Air Force's special operations community at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (Joe Yanik/U.S. Air Force photo)

Are your workouts humdrum? Break out of your rut and get creative with your exercise routine while preparing for the challenges of many military or special-ops training programs. Practicing calisthenics with added weight; high-repetition, body-weight calisthenics; lifting weights; running; carrying equipment; and crawling should be considered. 

Here is a new pyramid workout (derived from the PT Pyramid classic) we created this week that by halfway through, we knew we had a new program that will help us assess many of the tactical fitness elements in the future run-throughs:

  • Classic Pyramid 1-10-1 methods:
  • Weighted pull-ups x 1 (20-45 pounds)
  • Body-weight bench press or TRX push-ups x 2
  • Abs of choice x 3
  • Dips x 2
  • Biceps curl/military press x 2
  • Run 200 meters every set
  • Bear crawl 200 meters every fifth set

Pull-ups: Do weighted pull-ups as far up the pyramid as you can. When you fail, start to do regular pull-ups. If you fail at regular pull-ups, replace with TRX rows, pulldown or dumbbell rows. Go up the pyramid to 10, then back down to one. A total of 19 sets will equal 100 repetitions.

Bench/push-ups: Strive to do body-weight bench press up the pyramid as high as you can, then resort either to lower weight on the bench, TRX push-ups or regular push-ups. Double the pull-up numbers each set. Total repetitions equal 200 total bench, push-up combination repetitions.

Abs of choice: Do three times the number of abs that you do pull-ups each set. The total number of a large variety of core exercises equals 300 repetitions. Mix it up each set: sit-ups, crunches, flutter kicks, leg levers and plank pose. (One rep = one second in plank.)

Dips: Strive to do dips up the pyramid as high as you can, then resort to bench dips if you start to fail. Double the pull-up numbers each set. Total repetitions equals 200 total dip repetitions.

Biceps curls/military press: Do a combination exercise of a biceps curl with an overhead military press. If you start to fail, reduce the weight as needed. Total repetitions equal 200 total biceps/military press repetitions.

  • Every set (19 sets if you do 1-10-1), you will run 200 meters. You can run 100 meters away from the pull-up bar/weight room and 100 meters back if you prefer. This works well if you can have a place to run close to a pull-up bar/weight room or run on a treadmill for 40-60 seconds. *On the odd sets, run/shuffle the 200 meters with a sandbag (40-50 pounds) on your shoulder or head.
  • Every fifth set, bear-crawl 200 meters for a total of three sets of bear crawls.

This workout is an advanced workout if you try to complete the 1-10-1 pyramid, but the goal of using the pyramid is to use the beginning sets as a warmup, go up the pyramid each set until you fail (maybe six or seven levels), then repeat in reverse order back to one. A warmup, max-out and cooldown built into a workout challenges the movement of your body in a large variety of planes and motions.

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

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