Cart 0

Succeed in the PFT

stew smith

This week, I sent several emails to people seeking to ace their military physical fitness tests. In my closing, I always remind people not to give up and that they will "succeed by failing." Some people get it and understand that to improve with pushups, pull-ups, situps, and other high-repetition calisthenics testing exercises, you have to push yourself until you can't do any more reps. Then, you can try a few more of the easier versions like knee pushups, assisted pull-ups or negatives, and crunches respectively.

Once you get to that burning sensation, you are reaching the peak of the muscle stamina in your body. In order to gain more stamina and muscular endurance, you have to "push the envelope" at least one workout a week. The remaining workouts of the week need to be foundation-building workouts that enable your body to do many repetitions in several sets. Such workouts are circuits, pyramids, or supersets as listed below:

Supersets for Pushups and Situps

Repeat this cycle of exercises non-stop 5-10 times

Regular pushups - 10
Regular situps - 10
Wide pushups - 10
Reverse Crunches - 10
Close or Tricep pushups - 10
Double crunches - 10

If you do this five times, you will have done 150 pushups and abdominal exercises in less than 15 minutes! Now that's a good foundation-building workout. You'll reach failure no matter who you are, only if you continue this workout for 10-15 times. When you reach failure and your goal is to reach five sets, go to your knees for pushups if you have to. That is what I mean when I say, "succeed by failing."

You have to be able to tell yourself that you can do these workouts even when you have never done over 100 pushups in your life. By breaking it up into little sets nearly anyone can do the above workout. Even if you can't, you still succeed and will be stronger the next time you try it.

There is a mental aspect to this type of "failure" training. Your mind will tell you that you are ready to quit before your body will usually. You have to be able to disengage that thinking process and push yourself until you truly fail. You want to not only fail at pushups, but fail at knee pushups too! The same goes for pullups and pull-downs and situps and crunches too.

I have trained many people who were unable to increase their PFT scores for years, and by adding the supersets and pyramid two times a week, and a testing workout once a week, they were able to gain in all areas. Testing workouts should be goal-oriented and pushed to maximum repetitions during a certain a period of time. For instance, the SEAL trainees I work with will do the following workout to test themselves and fail each set:

Pullups - 100
Pushups - 200
Situps - 300

The repetition goal above is to be done in as few sets as possible alternating from one exercise to the next. The only rest you receive is when you workout the other muscle groups and moving from exercise to exercise. If you are not on that level of endurance, set your goals for half of that or even a tenth. Everyone fails at this workout -- even the most fit people I know. Try it -- you will get stronger by pushing yourself to failure once in a while.

Also see the pyramid workout article for other ideas on foundation-building exercise.

Have any fitness questions? Send them to me at

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published