Workout of the Week: Half Calisthenics and Half Weighted Movements

(U.S. Army/Spc. Tynisha Daniel)

Consider the PT and Weight Pyramid option if you want to combine weight training with your calisthenics program. During the fall, many of you will make the transition to more gym and lifting workouts instead of staying outside to do higher repetitions of calisthenics and cardio.

For more than 20 years, Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization has been a method many people use to engage all the elements of fitness throughout the year. Being a well-rounded athlete has long been a requirement for many military jobs, but those skills are also now being tested as part of the many new tactical fitness tests adopted throughout the military.

Tests are no longer just calisthenics and running.


PT Pyramid 1-10 (stop at 10)

Pull-ups x 1

Push-ups x 2

Abs of choice x 3 (sit-ups, flutter kicks, knee-ups, leg tucks, plank per second, etc.)

Dips x 1

Run 400 meters each set (optional)

As with any pyramid, the sets and reps look like this:

Set 1: pull-up 1, push-ups 2, abs of choice 3, dips 1 rep

Set 2: pull-ups 2, push-ups, 3, abs of choice 6, dips 2 reps

Keep going up to set 10, as this is when the calisthenics warmup ends:

Set 10: pull-ups 10, push-ups 20, abs of choice 30, dips 10 reps.

At this point, transition into part two of the workout where you will do the pyramid in reverse order. As the repetitions decrease, the weight slowly increases until you build up to nearly what you can do in a 1-rep max (1RM).

The 400-meter run is optional for each of the 10 sets of the calisthenics section. The goal is to do all of the calisthenics and cardio without much rest between sets, as each exercise and event will be an active rest.

This is a level of conditioning that may take you some time to build. If that is the case, rest as needed between sets and skip the run if you are not used to running 10 sets of 400 meters, mixed with a decent volume of calisthenics.

Part Two: Weights with Increasing Weight

The back side of the pyramid is a perfect way to decrease the repetitions but increase the weight. Start off with a weight vest of 20 pounds (typical weighted pull-up tactical fitness test weight) and see whether you can handle the 10 to 1 reverse pyramid.

Here are the exercises that are similar to the calisthenics movements, just heavier:

Weight Reverse Pyramid 10-1:

Weight vest pull-ups or pull-downs x 1

Bench press x 2 (even sets only)

Weight vest push-ups x 2-3 (odd sets)

Plank pose x 5 seconds each set (10 = 50 seconds or 5 = 25 seconds)

Biceps curl or military press x 2 (odd sets)

(all weights get heavier as reps decrease each set)

-- No running between sets, rest as needed

Set 10: Weight vest pull-ups or pull-downs 10, bench press 10, plank pose 50 seconds

Set 9: Weight vest pull-up or pull-down 9, weight vest push-ups 18, plank pose 45 seconds, biceps curl or military press 18

Set 8: Weight vest pull-up or pull-down 8, bench press 8, plank pose 40 seconds

Keep going down the pyramid until you reach the heaviest set 1:

Set 1: Weight vest pull-up or pull-down 1, weight vest push-ups 2-3, plank pose 5 seconds, biceps curl or military press 2

Add weight if the reps get easy or reduce weight or take off the vest if you are failing to get the reps of the set. Another option is to replace pull-ups with heavier pull-downs. Adjust the weight as needed for each set.

Even though this is an upper-body day, you can do the same with a leg day. Do a similar calisthenics workout with a squat and jogging warm-up pyramid. On the back side of the pyramid, get heavier with selected exercises (kettlebell movements, squats, deadlift, etc.) on each set until you complete the back side of the pyramid.

If you do not have weights, do the first half of the pyramid without a weight vest and the back half of the pyramid with a weight vest. There are many ways to make the PT pyramid harder if you have progressed out of the standard 1-10-1 PT pyramid. You are only limited by your imagination.

The beauty of the pyramid is that it always offers a warmup, a peak to the workout and a cooldown. By adding weights, you get an extended warmup with a new peak of heavier lifting on the backside of the pyramid workout.

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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