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My PT Pyramid Story - Do You Remember Yours?


My Pyramid Story

The PT Pyramid is a classic workout for sure. I remember my first time doing a pyramid workout with calisthenics over 30 years ago on Farragut Field at the Naval Academy. 

Farragut Field is well known for being a big practice field (drill and athletics) with pullups along the Chesapeake Bay and named for Admiral David Farragut of "Damn the Torpedoes - Full Speed Ahead" fame. 

It was the classic PT 1-10-1 Pyramid of working your way up to level 10 and back down to one with the exercises of Pullups x 1, Pushups x 2, and Situps x 3 in 19 sets.  I remember my goal with this first pyramid was to just hang with the upperclassmen that were leading the PT.  They ran through each set so fast that I think I was still on my way up and they were wrapping up their final set.  The pyramid worked like this:

Set 1: Pullup 1, Pushups 2, Situps 3
Set 2: Pullup 2, Pushups 4, Situps 6
Set 3: Pullups 3, Pushups 6, Situps 9...Keep going up to set 10:

Set 10: Pullups 10, Pushups, 20, Situps 30...Then repeat in reverse order and this will give you 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 situps. 

I realized that if I wanted to succeed at calisthenics fitness testing, I needed to up my game so this pyramid became a staple of my training (every OTHER day) for several weeks. It was not long before I went from barely passing a fitness test with 60 pushups in 2 minutes, 65 situps in 2 minutes, 10 pullups, to 120 pushups, 100+ situps, and 25 pullups.  Consistently doing workouts like this that yielded 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 situps were helpful with that improvement. 

My next goal was then to turn this powerlifting football player into more of an endurance athlete with running and swimming. Taking the pyramid to the pool and creating Swim PT was helpful as well. Then adding sets of running to each step of the pyramid took my running to other levels and helped with getting used to running and swimming while doing high rep calisthenics. Next thing I knew, I was able to score above average on the BUD/S PST:  My best scores were: 

Swim 500yds: 8:30 (pre-BUDS) and 6:40 (post BUDS)
Pushups 140  (standards were easier back then)
Situps 110
Pullups 25   (33 post BUDS)
1.5 Run 8:35 (8:15 post BUDS)

That was the start of my education with the Pyramid Training Routine and ever since it has been part of my training in some way. You have to get creative with the pyramid by adding exercises, events, and changing the numbers as you progress or just can get a bit monotonous. 

I got really creative with the 101 Best Pyramid Training Workouts and my new favorite is the Calisthenics UP the Pyramid and Weights DOWN the Pyramid routine. It works like this:

The first 10 sets are calisthenics only and can be treated like a warmup basically.  I like to add in a 400m jog every set of the first 10 sets as well. 

For instance the sets work like this:

Set 1: 1 Pullup / 1 knee up (KU), 2 Pushups, 2 dips
Set 2: 2 pullups / 2 knee ups, 4 pushups, 4 dips...keep going up to
Set 10: 10 pullups / 10 knee ups, 20 pushups / 20 dips

Once you have completed set 10 you have some options depending on your abilities and facilities:

Set 11 (9 going back down):  9 Weighted Pullups or pulldowns or rows,
9 bench presses or TRX atomic pushups, 18 bicep curls into military presses

The goal of sets 11-19 or 9-1 on the backside of the pyramid is to add weight according to your abilities. Consider going heavier weighted as the reps get smaller on this reverse ladder (or backside of the pyramid) every OTHER set.  The final five sets can push into heavier weight if capable and available and build up to near 1RM level weight. 

Many have opted for the KB swing in place of the bicep/military press combo or the hang clean and press option as well. The fun part about the pyramid is you can build some decent volume and one day what used to be a full workout for you will be a warmup - seriously.  That is when you know you are building the type of strength-endurance (muscle stamina) you need to crush the type of fitness challenges in future selection programs or every day life. 

Are you ready to UP YOUR GAME?

101 Best Pyramid Training Workouts

Yes - you can use the pyramid is just about every type of training.  I find ways to add it to the warmup, cooldown, calisthenics, weight training, TRX, Kettlebells, Dumbbells, running, swimming, and biking.  Check out the 101 Best Pyramid Training Workouts now available at or you can find it on Amazon in book and kindle format as well. 

Kindle Available NOW!
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101 Pyramid Training Workouts BOOK

Kindle / Amazon Book Also Available

We all need to keep training regardless of your personal and professional goals, but we also need new ideas to keep workouts fresh and get a complete workout:

The Pyramid offer a Warmup, Max out, Cooldown all with a pyramid routine.

It is the Perfect Workout System! 

If you are looking for the perfect workout and serious about adding pyramid workouts to your training success, this 101 Pyramid Training Workouts I just released helps you get a complete workout: Warmup, max out, cooldown all with a pyramid routine and more! Check out the 101 options to add to your training routines today - Buy NOW - Now Available!!

This book is for every one who wants to be a PT animal!

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