How to Mix Practice Skills into Your Workouts

A Basic Crewman Training student demonstrates underwater knot tying.
Instructors watch a Basic Crewman Training student demonstrate knot-tying skills during water proficiency training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Menzie/U.S. Navy photo)

If you need to pass specific skill tests, you should consider adding skill-building to your workouts. The classic PT Pyramid is a great workout that you can add in running, knot tying and breath-holding (to simulate underwater knot tying), if such a test is in your future. Here is a way to add skill-building into your training, preparation and practice:


Exercise pyramid 10 steps

In standard pyramid form, start with the first set of one pull-up, two push-ups and three sit-ups. The second set is two pull-ups, four push-ups and six sit-ups. Keep increasing each set by multiplying the set number by the number next to the exercise above (x1, x2, x3). After the fifth set (five pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups or 15 seconds of plank pose), run one mile for time. When you arrive back, try to tie any or all of the following knots:

Knot tying: You can add practicing skills like tying the square knot, clove hitch, right angle knot, bowline and the becket's bend to your workout. (You can practice any other knots you may need to know as well.) Once you master the knot, try it on a breath hold. See whether you can tie more than one knot on a breath hold.


Knot line workout

The workout looks like this in chart form:

Pyramid 1-5 (pull-ups x1, push-ups x2, sit-ups x3)

  • Run one mile
  • Knot tying one minute

Pyramid 6-10 (pull-ups x1, push-ups x2, sit-ups x3)

  • Run one mile
  • Knot tying one minute

Pyramid 10-6 or 11-15 (pull-ups x1, push-ups x2, sit-ups x3)

  • Run one mile
  • Knot tying one minute

Pyramid 5-1 or 16-20 (pull-ups x1, push-ups x2, sit-ups x3)

  • Run one mile
  • Knot tying one minute

You can scale the pyramid to fit your fitness level and push yourself to new levels. You can opt to repeat in reverse order and do x1 to x10 back to x1 PT Pyramid or keep going up one way and try to push yourself to x1 to x15 or x20 sets.

The latter design is for very advanced muscle stamina athletes. But keep in mind that the x1 to x10 and back PT Pyramid is not easy; if you can complete the full PT Pyramid as written, you end up with 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 sit-ups/abs options.

You can do the PT Pyramid in the pool if you have a pull-up bar or power tower on the pool deck. Just replace the mile run with a 500-meter swim.

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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