PT Pyramid — TRX Variation

Guardsmen exercise with a TRX suspension system.
Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers exercise during the state’s inaugural Fit for Life annual training. (Spc. Lisa Crawford/U.S. Army photo)

If you do the PT Pyramid enough, you will find it to be a great challenge at first, and you can mark your progress each time you do it. There is a warmup, max-out and cooldown in every PT pyramid. However, if you want a change of pace and a way to make a tough workout even tougher, try adding the TRX and replacing some exercises with the following options:

As with the original PT pyramid, each set will look like this:

  • Set 1: One pull-up, two push-ups, three sit-ups (or TRX rows, atomic push-ups, rollouts)
  • Set 2: Two pull-ups, four push-ups, six sit-ups (or TRX options)
  • Set 3: Three pull-ups, six push-ups, nine rollouts

Keep going up the pyramid until you fail or stop at level 10, and then repeat in reverse order.

Many people ask whether you should repeat the 10th set again or do it only once. The math works like this: if you do a 1-10-1 pyramid, the repetitions equal 100 repetitions. If you are doubling and tripling the push-ups and abdominal exercises, then you will have 200 and 300 repetitions by completing the pyramid. It is up to you if you want to do an Egyptian pyramid (1-10-1) or an Aztec pyramid (1-10-10-1).

* Note: You may want to adjust the exercise options on the push-ups and sit-ups, as doing a full pyramid equals 200 push-ups and 300 sit-ups (or TRX push-ups/rollouts). You may want to limit the number of TRX rollouts to less than a total of 50 if you are new to this exercise and select other abdominal exercises of choice throughout the pyramid.

Another option for abs of choice is to do the plank pose for the appropriate number of seconds -- so 30 reps of abs of choice could be replaced with 30 seconds of plank pose.

Pull-ups: Replacing pull-ups or TRX rows may not be the more difficult option. However, when you fail at pull-ups, you can do the remaining repetitions of each set with the TRX row to complete the pyramid workout. Also, if you cannot do any pull-ups, the TRX row is an excellent replacement to the pull-up.

TRX Atomic Push-ups: With your feet in the straps about 12 inches off of the floor, get into an elevated push-up position. Do a knee up followed by a push-up and repeat. These are tough, and you may want to go back to the normal push-up for some sets. Maybe try the TRX on odd sets and the regular push-up on even sets when you first try this variation.

TRX rollouts: With your forearms in the straps below the elbow, get into the plank pose with the straps in a vertical position. Use your hips and core to get back to the standing position. Repeat for the repetitions required. Once again, do not do all sets with the TRX rollout in place of sit-ups or crunches.
Enjoy the progression. The TRX or a weight vest will add significantly to the difficulty to the PT pyramid if you need it.

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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