Prepare for Special Ops Testing With the UBRR Pyramid

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UBBR Upper Body Round Robin
Cadre from the Special Operations Recruiting Center administer and grade competitors during the 'UBRR' or upper body round robin event, September 6, Fort Bliss, Tx. The UBRR is a common form of a physical fitness test in the Special Forces community. (U.S. Army photo by: Staff Sgt. Thanh L. Pham)

There are many ways you can incorporate the pyramid training method into your workout. Pyramids or ladders (half of a pyramid) are my favorites, especially when used for warm-ups and cool-downs within a workout.

The pyramid is a fantastic tool to increase calisthenics repetitions for fitness tests. The backside of a pyramid or reverse ladder (10,8,6,4,2 or 5,4,3,2,1) is a classic way to increase weight and build strength.

The Upper Body Round Robin is one of the toughest tests. You may only see this when doing high-level special ops unit selections. The Upper Body Round Robin can be graded objectively, which makes it useful for splitting hairs in competitive programs. Be prepared to do this test with minimum rest in between events.

UBRR Pyramid -- Upper Body Round Robin Test

The Upper Body Round Robin is a challenging test used by some special ops units as an alternate way to test a candidate's upper body strength, speed, agility and cardiovascular endurance. You can prepare for this high-rep cardio workout with a couple of different pyramids to include all of the events into the program.

Here is the test:

The UBRR (Upper Body Round Robin)

1. 1 minute of push-ups

2. 1 minute of sit-ups

3. Max pull-ups, not timed

4. Max dips, not timed

5. Max reps of bench press at 80% body weight, not timed

6. 20-foot rope climb in body armor or weight vest (just 1 for this pass or fail event)

7. 1 minute toes to bar (kip-ups)

8. 4 x 25-meter shuttle run (max 24 seconds)

9. 5-mile run (max 40 minutes) or 5-mile ruck march (75-minutes max with 45 pounds of dry weight)

Here is how to mix in all the exercises into a pyramid program:

The Classic 1-10-1 Pyramid can be used with the following calisthenics

Pull-ups x 1

Push-ups x 2 (fast pace)

Sit-ups x 2 (work at a one sit-up per second pace)

Dips x 2

Go outside and do a quick 1-10 half pyramid of the following exercises:

Toes to bar x 1

Shuttle run 25 meters fast and back to pull-up bar in between sets of toes to bar (kip-ups)

Half Pyramid 1-10 with Bench Press and Rope Climbs (high reps)

Bench Press x 2 (2, 4, 6, 8,10,12,14,16,18, 20)

Do a rope climb in between sets (if possible). Focus on technique and use your feet with the J Hook.

If you are not getting double digits on your bench press yet, drop the x 2 to a x 1 and increase by 1 each set. The goal here is to get the maximum number of repetitions with 80% of your body weight.

Mix in a few rope climbs if available. If not, you can make up the rope climbs later. It is best to get used to active resting for recovery for this test as the rests are minimal at best. Pick one of the above exercises in the test that is not a pushing exercise (push-ups or dips) and use that as a "rest" exercise in between benches.

Cardio Time

After the pyramid and two half pyramids are complete, finish this workout with a 5-mile run or ruck. You will have to do this at a 7-minute mile pace to be competitive, though you need an 8-minute mile to pass. Same for the ruck, you will want to do a 10 to 12-minute mile pace, even though you need a 15-minute mile pace to pass.

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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