Workout of the Week: Pull Day With a Swim Bonus

A sailor holds a deadlift.
Lt. Kelli Wise, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, holds a deadlift aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Curtis Burdick)

If you like to do deadlifts and pull-ups, you'll love this pulling day combination focused on pulling heavy things off the floor, walking with them, and pulling yourself over a pull-up bar or around (also known as the USMC College boy roll).

This workout is especially useful if you need to find ways to improve your deadlifts and pull-ups, which can be necessary for a wide variety of the military's fitness tests.

This workout is a classic way to mix in some challenging military tests, obstacle course events, and exercises used throughout the military. The advanced combination of pulling weight off the ground using a hip hinge movement -- a deadlift -- and pulling yourself over a bar represents two of the most difficult exercises. But they're also the most effective in creating true strength and durability for any tactical profession.

Kick this workout off with a warm-up of a pyramid style mix of pull-ups and kettlebell Romanian Deadlifts (KB RDL).


Pull-ups/KB RDL run pyramid 1-10
50m runs in between set

You'll end up with 55 total rep of pull-ups and RDLs, mixed with short, easy runs. Add dynamic stretches to fully prepare yourself for the upcoming runs and lifts.

You can also opt to do straight-back toe touches during the warm-ups instead of lifting heavy kettlebells.


Run 1 mile fast or bike/row 10 minutes

Repeat 5 times:
Max pull-ups
5 deadlifts

10 hanging knee-ups

Run 1 mile fast or bike/row 10 minutes

Repeat 4 times:
1 college boy roll
100m farmer walks with 45 lbs. weight in each hand
800-meter run or 5-minute bike

Note: The college boy roll is a movement to get over the first obstacle in the USMC obstacle course where you must perform a half pull-up then pull your hips to the bar. Then, flip over the bar in a reverse rotation to clear the first obstacle.


Bike, row or easy jog option for 20 min or swim if you need more time in the water.

The grip workout alone in the above sets is challenging enough. But if you are preparing only for events of the Army Combat Fitness Test, the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test, and the Marine Corps Obstacle Course, the land-based section is probably enough.

But if you need to add in a swimming portion to such a workout for a future in Dive School, RECON or SEAL training, you need a good way to mix in the techniques of strength and durability with treading and swimming.

Try the 50-50 workout as a bonus to the land-based workout above. And if you are struggling to swim 500 meters non-stop or get winded after a few laps, you can try the 50-50 swim workout below four to five days a week.


Swim 500 meters

Repeat 10 times:

Swim 50 meters free at 6-8 strokes per breath
Swim 50 meters combat swimmer stroke (CSS) goal pace (minimum rest)


10-min water tread or aqua jog and stretch

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