Favorite Workout of the Week: Weight Vest Speed Pyramid

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Stew Smith Weighted Vest Push-up
Weighted vest push-up (Stew Smith)

It is no secret that my fitness articles on Military.com find many ways to utilize the PT Pyramid. The pyramid training protocol is a versatile training system that contains the perfect workout with an easy and progressive warm-up, a challenging peak of performance and a steady cooldown built into the sets and reps.

The pyramid has a way of taking you to a happy place as you learn to disassociate from the pain cave when you reach your perceived limitations. Yes, the PT Pyramid is that good.

This workout of the week is no different. It left many of my athletes feeling like they did something new and challenging all by adding a weight vest (20 pounds) and a no-rest factor.

Here is how it works:

This is an upper-body, two-exercise pyramid done while wearing a weight vest of 20-25 pounds, or 10 kilograms. The goal is to go up the 1-10-1 pyramid doing only pull-ups x 1 and push-ups x 2.

This 19-set workout will yield 100 pull-ups and 200 push-ups. The no-rest factor was the killer addition to this pyramid. You could “rest,” but you have to rest by running 400 meters at a steady pace (not a sprint). Many found that after a two-minute run (or bike), that was sufficient “rest” to come back and get the next set completed.

The one thing I do not recommend is to do this workout for time. Most timed workouts tend to cause poor technique as the sets and reps get higher and more challenging. Turn off the stopwatch and focus on technique, breathing for recovery and running 400 meters if you need to rest between any sets.

This killer chest, back and arms workout looks like this:

Set 1: 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups

Set 2: 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups

Set 3: 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups

Set 4: 4 pull-ups, 8 push-ups

Set 5: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups

For most who can complete the Murph workout, this is a fairly good warmup and can be done in only a few minutes. You also can add stretching as needed between sets to help you loosen up during these early sets of the pyramid.

The middle 10 sets are the meat and potatoes of this workout and will challenge most people and may require a short recovery run between some sets.

Keep going up the pyramid until you get to set 10: 10 pull-ups and 20 push-ups.

By now, you will be feeling the added 20-25 pounds, but keep going in reverse order of the pyramid from nine back down to one (doubling the push-ups each set as before). You have accumulated 55 pull-ups and 110 push-ups at this point, so you are more than halfway done with the sets and reps of the pyramid.

However, if you are starting to fail completely and missing most of the required repetitions, try the double ladder option versus the pyramid. Instead of going down the pyramid for 9-1 in nine sets, try doing the back side of the pyramid in reverse and starting over at one and building back up to set nine to complete the full pyramid.

You still get the same number of repetitions, but you can use the beginning sets as a short recovery before you repeat the max rep sets of the pyramid. Call this option the Double Ladder instead of the Pyramid. Both work great!

You will find this workout will leave your chest and arms more pumped up even though it looks like every other pyramid you have done. The reduction of rest time and addition of active rest with running makes all the difference in this workout when you compare it to other versions.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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