Doing a reverse pyramid style workout is one of many ways to increase your abilities in calisthenics as well as increase your strength. You can do a half pyramid and go from 1-10 for instance and use it as a warmup like this: Run 25m 1 pushup, run 25m 2 pushups, run 25m 3 pushups…up to 10. This is a good way to warmup prior to a higher repetition callisthenic workout or a heavier weight training workout focused on upper body exercises like bench press or military press.
Or go from 10-1 and use it as a challenge to push heavier weights each set. If you want to reduce the number of sets you can try 10,8,6,4,2 (or odd numbers). Or start off at 5,4,3,2,1 with increasing max weight at those repetitions.
The High Volume PT Option
I remember the first reserve PT pyramid I ever did. The 25 to 1 Pushup / Variety of Core Exercises Pyramid completes the downward slide of a pyramid 25,24,23,22…all the way down to 1. Basically, you get to rest with an equal set of core exercises in between the pushup sets. This totals 325 pushups or whatever exercise you select. After completing 325 pushups and a variety of core exercises (situps, flutterkicks, leg levers, crunches, plank pose – second per repetition, etc.) I realized this reverse pyramid was a good way to increase your volume, but could use some variety by adding more exercises to the sets. Here is one of a countless number of ways to add in more exercises, more sets, weighted or non-weighted exercises into the pyramid method:
Full body Reverse Pyramid (Weights and PT)
25,24,23,22,21: Pushups, Core exercises of choice, Squats (bodyweight) 25 of each, 24 of each, 23 of each…22,21… 20,19,18,17,16: Dips, Pullups or Pulldowns, Core Exercises of choice, Lunges / leg
20 of each, 19 of each, 18 of each…17,16… 15,14,13,12,11: Pullups, Military Press, Plank Pose 1 min per set
15 of each / plus 1 min plank, 14 min of each / plus 1 min plank…13,12,11… 10,9,8,7,6: Pullups, Bench Press, Dead Lift or Squats (heavy weights as desired)
10 of each, 9 of each, 8 of each…7,6… 5,4,3,2,1: Bench press, Squats or Dead Lift, Weight Pullups or Heavy Pulldowns (heavy weights as desired)
Go heavy with 5 reps of each, 4, reps of each…3,2,1
Depending on your strength abilities will depend on what kind of weight you can do at these repetitions. The goal is to find a weight that you are barely able to accomplish at these repetitions each set. If too easy, increase the weight next set. If too hard and you fail to reach the reps required per set, decrease the weight a bit to get the reps as displayed.
This reverse pyramid was what we did this week and is just one of many ways to mix in several options of exercises to do a full body workout. Consider pulling, pushing, leg, core, and full body exercises throughout the sets.
Other Reverse Pyramid Options: 20 -1 Reverse Pyramid = 210 total repetitions
15-1 Reverse Pyramid = 110 total repetitions
10-1 Reverse Pyramid = 55 total repetitions
After the reverse pyramid, pick a cardio option and cooldown for 15-20 minutes at a moderate pace on a jog, bike, elliptical, or swim.
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles onMilitary.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.