Shifting Training Focus from Calisthenics to Weightlifting

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Soldiers perform in the sprint-drag-carry portion of the Army combat fitness test.
Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Sustainment Troops Battalion, 25th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, participate in the Army combat fitness test on April 14, 2021, on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. (Spc. Michael Bradle/U.S. Army photo)

In a recent article about making workouts as you transition from one cycle to another, the focus was on how to fit different workouts into a proven 20-year periodization system that is designed especially for tactical athletes. The pyramid allows for a building warm-up routine that mixes calisthenics and light weights into a short and fast running program.

The autumn workout cycle is a special mix of the previous summer high-rep calisthenics and cardio workouts and the heavier lift cycle of the winter. During the fall, we reduce the mileage and repetitions of running and calisthenics while adding a progressive buildup of lifting and load bearing to prepare for the next few months of winter lifts.

Here is a new mix of warmups, peaking lifts and short fast running mixed together in the classic pyramid format:

Run 1 mile -- warmup jog

Push-up and squat warm-up pyramid with 100-meter runs in between.

How this warmup looks:

Set 1: 1 push-up, 1 squat, run 100 meters

Set 2: 2 push-ups, 2 squats, run 100 meters

... keep going up to 10 push-ups and 10 squats for a total of 1,000 meters running and 55 push-ups and 55 squats).

If you find this easy, continue up to 15 or 20, though you may find this no longer is a warmup and quickly turns into a workout after 10 sets.

Tire flip or deadlift, kettlebell swings, pull-up pyramid 1-10 and 10-1.

This is the standard PT pyramid just with different exercises for the first 10 sets. The first five sets of any pyramid typically is a warmup, so go light on any weight being used.

Pyramid 1-10:

Pull-ups x 1

Push-ups x 3 or burpees x 2

Deadlift x 1

Bear crawl or farmer walk to and from pullup bar to deadlift area

How this section of the pyramid looks:

Set 1: 1 pull-up; 3 push-ups or 2 burpees -- travel 25-50 meters by bear crawl or farmer walk (or fireman carry) to the deadlift area. Do 1 deadlift (*light work on technique). Run back to the pull-up bar.

Set 2: 2 pull-ups; 6 push-ups or 4 burpees -- travel 25-50 meters by bear crawl or farmer walk (or fireman carry) to the deadlift area. Do two deadlifts. Travel back to the pull-up bar (run).

... keep going up to 10 pull-ups, 30 push-ups or 20 burpees, 10 deadlifts (light).

Once you reach level 10 (set 10), change the main lift exercise and one of the calisthenics options. Remember this one goes in reverse order from levels 10 to 1.

Pyramid 10-1:

Pull-ups x 1 (add weight if possible)

Push-ups x 3 or TRX push-ups x 2

Kettlebell swings x 3 -- bear crawl or farmer walk to/from pull-up bar to kettlebell area (25 meters).

How this section of the pyramid looks:

Set 1: 10 pull-ups, 30 push-ups or 20 TRX push-ups, travel 25-50 meters by bear crawl or farmer walk (or fireman carry) to the kettlebell swings area. Do 30 kettlebell swings (*light; work on technique). Run back to the pull-up bar.

Set 2: 9 pull-ups, 27 push-ups or 18 TRX push-ups, travel 25-50 meters by bear crawl or farmer walk (or fireman carry) to the kettlebell swing area. Do 27 kettlebell swings. Run back to the pull-up bar.

Set 3: 8 pull-ups, 24 push-ups or 16 TRX push-ups, travel 25-50 meters by bear crawl or farmer walk (or fireman carry) to the kettlebell swing area. Do 24 kettlebell swings. Run back to the pull-up bar.

... keep going up to 1 pull-up, 3 push-ups or 2 TRX push-ups, 3 kettlebell swings.

Run 1 mile easy

Optional cardio: Depending on what you need to work on the most, get some load bearing in with rucking and/or get a mile one swim with fins.

Ruck 30-60 minutes or swim one mile with fins.

This type of workout still focuses on muscle stamina, but starts to mix in strength components throughout the workout with weighted pull-ups, harder push-ups (TRX or burpees) and kettlebells or deadlifts.

This is a full-body workout that typically is done after an easy mobility day, cardio only day or rest day.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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