PT Progression Series: Combining Hardcore Full-Body Movements with PT/​Run

A specialist gets tactically fit by flipping a tire.
Spc. Daniel Peebles, radio and computer technician with the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), flips a tire during a tactical PT class on Sept. 7, 2010 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (Courtesy photo)

The PT Progression Series is a series of answers about how to get better at pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups for fitness testing, boot camp and police or fire academies.

Part 5 of the PT Progression series is the PT and Advanced Movements Workout.

You now are ready to advance to full-body movements between sets of pull-ups and push-ups and even replace push-ups with more dynamic exercises like burpees, push presses and eight-count push-ups. Traveling to and from the pull-up bar and the PT area will require you to bear crawl, low crawl, fireman carry a partner, do a farmer walk with heavy weight or any other creative method you can think of adding that will assist in your preparation for military, police or firefighting training.

PT Pyramid with More Mileage

Every fifth set, run a mile at a fast pace:

  • Set 1: One pull-up, two push-ups, three sit-ups
  • Set 2: Two pull-ups, four push-ups, six sit-ups
  • Set 3: Three pull-ups, six push-ups, nine sit-ups
  • Set 4: Four pull-ups, eight push-ups, 12 sit-ups
  • Set 5: Five pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups ...
  • Run one mile. Start pyramid on set 6. Continue to set 10.
  • Run one mile.
  • Continue pyramid on sets 11-15.
  • Run one mile.
  • It's optional to finish the pyramid at 16-20 or return in reverse order.

Harder progressions: Now add more difficult exercises to the PT pyramid. Work your way up a pull-up pyramid to 20, but add a short run of 40-​​50 meters and make this place the location for your burpees, eight-count push-ups, push presses, kettlebell swings, etc. Make them a 1:1 ratio of how many pull-ups you do. 

Remember if you go from one to 20 sets in a pyramid, that is 210 pull-ups and any other exercises you select. Don't forget your sit-ups and plank poses, as they make great "rest" exercises when needing an active rest.

Here is where it gets harder. Use the first five sets as a warmup/run. After the fifth set, you no longer can run from the pull-up bar to the PT area. You now have to pick another method to travel. Some great ideas include a fireman carry, farmer walk, lunges, bear crawls, low crawls, carrying weight overhead, wheelbarrow race, crab walk or tire flips. This is your time to get creative but make sure it is something you will see again in your training future.

Watch this video to see how you can design your own advanced pyramid circuit.

Complete PT Progression Series

  • PT Progression Series #1: PT Pyramids: Do this workout every other day. No workout is good to do daily for long periods of time. It is best to do this foundation workout only three days a week.
  • PT Progression #2: Superset: This is another sub ​​max-effort foundation workout to increase the volume of your PT exercises. It is recommended to add this type of workout and replace a pyramid workout once a week so you only total these upper-body workouts only three times a week. Learn how to design a superset effectively.
  • PT Progression #3: Max-Rep Set Workout: Once you have mastered the PT pyramid and the superset and can handle workouts with a volume of 100 pull-ups and 200 push-ups, then it is time to test your newfound strength. This workout will increase your muscle stamina and endurance, which is really the goal of mastering PT tests. Find out how to push your numbers even higher.
  • PT Progression #4: PT/Run Workout: You can make a pyramid out of this one or make it one tough superset, but each "rest" period between sets is a run of various distances. Learn the best way to add running to the next generation of progression.
  • PT Progression #5: PT and Advanced Movements Workout: Add tougher exercises into your pyramids and supersets, such as burpees, push presses, bear crawls, etc.

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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