Ask Stew: Fitness Goals Using the PT Pyramid

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct their two-mile run during the Army Physical Fitness Test (Photo courtesy of

Goal-focused training is the best route to workout consistency, staying disciplined with nutrition and exercise selection. Creating focused fitness goals helps build good training habits even when you're not motivated some days.

The PT Pyramid is a good standard to not only create a workout that has a built-in warmup, max out and cooldown, but acts as a great assessment tool as well. Each week will bring progress. Whether your goals are military fitness, losing weight, getting stronger at pullups, or just increasing your general fitness and health, the PT Pyramid is a great place to start.

Here is a question about using the PT Pyramid and finding specific goals to use with it:

Hi, Stew, I'm using your pyramid workouts again and really enjoying it. Bit stuck on my goals though. How do you decide what goals to shoot for as you train? Thanks, Sam

It really depends on what you are trying to do. If you are attempting military service, you should know what that branch tests during basic training, as well as every six months. Also, you should realize things are changing within the military testing world as military fitness tests change to tactical fitness tests, as well as replace sit-ups with plank poses.

But for general health and wellness, the standard goal for the PT Pyramid is to make it up to 10 and back down to 1 with the following exercises:

Pullups x 1

Pushups x 2

Abs of choice x 3

Dips or military press x 2

*add in a short run every set as well (100m, 200m or even 400m) as you progress and get better at running.

I still use the PT Pyramid personally and professionally with students as a tool to build muscle stamina to help with PT tests. Even my kids started out training with the PT Pyramid, and they hit their goal of 1 to 10 and back to 1 after several months.

About the PT Pyramid

The 1-10-1 PT Pyramid is 19 sets of systematic progression. Each set you are on, you multiple the exercises above by 1,2, or 3 each set number. So, set 1 is 1 pullup, 2 pushups, 3 abs, 2 dips. Set 5 will be 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 abs, 10 dips … and so on.

These just so happen to be a significant part of many military and law enforcement testing events.

The total pyramid equals 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 abs of choice, 200 dips or military press.

On leg days, you can do the following exercises but add in a run with the pyramid:

1 squat -- run up/down hill or flight of stairs (or do a fast 100m run)

2 squats - run up/down

3 squats … keep going up to 10 and repeat in reverse order

This will equal 100 squats double or triple as you progress. Another way to add in some leg PT is to do a 3-4-mile run but, every minute or two, stop and do a step of the squat pyramid (or add lunges).

Eventually, you may want to test yourself with a military fitness test and see where you match up? See the links below for many options:

Army Fitness Test

USMC Fitness Test

Navy Fitness Test

Coast Guard Fitness Test

Air Force Fitness Test

Most Common Fitness Test in the World

Other Fitness Test Ideas

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Stew Smith has been in the tactical fitness industry for 20 years and has written workout books titled Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, The Special Ops Workout, The SWAT Workout and more. Check out his Archive of Articles for a large variety of military and fitness related topics as well.


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