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My Three Favorite Workouts To Crush Fitness Tests (Pyramid, Super Set, Max Rep Sets) and How to Use Them

Stew Smith

My Three Favorite Workouts To Crush
Fitness Tests
(Pyramid, Super Set, Max Rep Sets)
and How to Use Them

It is no secret that I will recommend most people to do one or more of the three workouts above to improve scores on PT Tests and help enhance muscle stamina overall.  Depending on the individual, I may also recommend to try a short term overload process called the Pullup / Pushup Push.  Typically, this person is in the beginner / intermediate zone that gets the overload recommendation as that controlled program will yield big results quickly, BUT after the two week challenge the three favorites come into play in a more balanced every OTHER day approach.

Sample Classic Week of the PST Prep (Article / Video)

The Pyramid

The PT Pyramid - You can mix countless exercises with this workout, but first you may learn this method with the basic pullup, pushups, situps (or squats if doing Murph in 19 sets).  The 1-10-1 Pyramid (or 1-10 double ladder) will do what you seek - build strength-endurance (aka muscle stamina) to enable you to reach higher repetitions in calisthenics exercises and testing specifically.  Here is how it works:

This particular exercise choice will yield 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats (aka Murph) in 19 sets.  If you need to work on situps - replace squats with situps as we have been doing that since the 1980s.  

Set 1: 1 pullups, 2 pushups, 3 squats
Set 2: 2 pulups, 4 pushups, 6 squats
Set 3: 3 pullups, 6 pushups, 9 squats...keep going up to set 10

Set 10: 10 pullups, 20 pushups, 30 squats...Then repeat in reverse order from 9 back down until 1 (set 19). 

If you cannot complete 19 sets, use the pyramid as an assessment tool and go up until you fail at 1-2 events and repeat in reverse order. Square your top set achieved to figure out how many reps you did of pullups - multiply x 2 for pushups reps, multiply x 3 for squats / situps total reps. 

This is a workout that is in just about all of my programs, but if you really like this one you can do it as much as every OTHER day if you do not want to follow any programming that mix in other methods, added lifts, running (sprint, goal pace, etc), swimming, and rucking. 

The pyramid is by far the most versatile and complete workout I have ever done as it naturally has a warmup, max out, and cooldown built into it. In fact, I have written over 100 different types of pyramid workouts and put them into my new book. Running, swimming, biking, calisthenics, weights, and a mix of every method of training there is can be used with the pyramid:  

Kindle / Amazon Book Also Available

The Super Set / Circuit

The Super Set / Circuit is a sub maximum effort workout that build volume similarly to the pyramid without the smaller sets.  A sample super set / circuit looks like this if we used the same exercises as above. Let's say you can do 15 pullups, 75 pushups, and 75 situps - this is a good zone for you with a super set workout: 

Repeat 5-10 times
Pullups 10
Pushups 25-30
Situps / Squats - limit time to 1 min but work on your pace especially for situps shooting for 20-25 reps in 30 seconds.  Mastering this pace will yield 80-100 reps in 2 minutes fitness tests.

Add Weight to Calisthenics Option:
*Consider adding a weight vest (10-20lbs) if you are stuck in the mid teens on your pullups and mid 70s on your pushups with this workout (ONCE A WEEK).

The Max Rep Set Workout

The Max Rep Set Workout is for more advanced athletes who are stuck somewhere between that intermediate / advanced level of performance on calisthenics fitness test events. For instance, if you are stuck at the same level as the above 15 pullups, 75 pushups, 75 situps athlete, this is ideal for you to do once a week.  I have seen people push off a plateau using this workouts once a week (with other sub max upper body workouts every other day) and get in the 20s on pullups, 100/100 zone on pushups / situps in a month's time. Here is how it works:

100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 situps (or squats)
Do these in as few sets as possible. I would not attempt this workout if you cannot get the rep numbers in under 10 sets, but the goal is to see if you can build the stamina to achieve these numbers in 4-5 sets.  I have seen some athletes get the 100,200,300 in 3 sets a few times in the 25 plus years I have been using this workout. The Max Rep Set Workout is not for beginners but ideal for intermediate seeking advanced level scores. 
You will be doing a lot of max rep sets here...
Here is how it works:

Do a max rep set of pullups, then pushups, the situps in 2 minutes. Remember there is a difference between muscle failure and muscle fatigue.  The goal is to push each set until you fatigue and not completely fail. Here is how I like to do this workout:

Pullups max reps of 20 (hopefully a few more) but I feel like I could do maybe 1  more and a stop.
Go right into pushups with minimal rest the same way limiting your pushups to a 2 minute time limit or you starting to fail. Avoid shaking when trying to get that last rep - that is muscle failure and it will wipe you out for the rest of the workout if you hit it. 
Then do 2 minutes of situps - focus on a pace that is just beyond your current level. For instance, if I could do 75, I would shoot for 20-25 in seconds pace. That will yield a higher score in between 80-100 if you can build your conditioning to handle that pace. 
Keep track of your reps above and repeat the three exercise circuit again. Notice if you get close to previous set's numbers.  If you are way off - that is a muscle stamina problem.  Keep using the above methods to build that weakness. 
Gold Standard.  If you can get the 100,200,300 reps done in 4-5 sets you are there. If it takes you 6,7,8 sets keep doing it and if it takes you more than 10 sets, don't attempt for a while again and focus on the other two workouts above.

Workout Week Organization:

The way I arrange these workouts is I place the pyramid on Day 1, followed by a leg day / cardio day (Day 2). I place the Super Set on Day 3, followed by a mobility day or cardio (Day 4) with some legs depending on energy levels / soreness. ON Day 5 or Day 6 try the Max Rep set workout. Sometimes that extra day off before doing another upper body day can help you with bigger number sets on Max Rep workouts.  That day 5 can be a cardio only day or leg day depending on what you did on Day 4. 

Other Program / Training Options

Which Program IS RIGHT FOR ME?

Special Ops Programs
Military Programs
Law Enforcement / Fire Fighter Programs




Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. 

Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :

 Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

Questions?  Just email me at

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