Try Out These Killer Combo of Pyramids and Five-Minute Sets

Army reservist performs push-ups.
Army Reserve Spc. Shaun Marshall, a combat medic and ‘best warrior’ competitor from the 207th Digital Liaison Detachment, 412th Theater Engineer Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test for the 412th and 416th TECs' Combined Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, April 28, 2014. (Staff Sgt. Debralee Best/412th Theater Engineer Command)

Finding a challenging workout that pushes the mind and body but allows you to rest when needed (both mentally and physically) requires a fine line between pushing your maximum and overdoing it. Here is a workout that builds up quickly and peaks with several mental/physical challenges.

Push-ups/squat pyramid x 10: 

10 push-ups/10 squats -- jog 200 meters, 20/20 push-ups/squats, jog 200m, 30/30 push-ups/squats, jog 200m ... up to 50/50 -- stretch and prepare for five-minute sets below:

Five-minute sets: Do each exercise in any order you prefer and try to keep moving as best you can. Rest when needed, but the time does not stop for your set if you have to rest.

The goal is to see how many reps you can get of each of the exercises below in a total of five minutes (rest included).

  • 5-minute cardio warmup (jog, bike, elliptical machine, row, etc.)
  • 5-minute pull-ups. Rest off the bar as needed
  • 5-minute dips. Rest off the bar as needed
  • 5-minute sit-ups
  • 5-minute burpees
  • 5-minute squats
  • 5-minute flutter kicks
  • 5-minute walking lunges
  • 5-minute bear crawls
  • 5-minute cardio cooldown

*rest as needed, but rest time counts -- the goal is to get as many reps of the exercises as you can in five minutes.

Cooldown -- Reverse pyramid/run

Push-ups/squat pyramid x 10:

  • 50 push-ups, 50 squats, run 200 meters
  • 40/40 push-ups/squats, run 200 meters
  • 30/30 push-ups/squats, run 200 meters, down to 10/10
  • Run three miles or swim 500 meters

Repeat five times.

  • 200 meters fast
  • Rest with a one-minute tread/float or bottom bounce.

Enjoy the challenge. You will see big improvements in your PT scores (push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups) to get to the training, as well as other challenging exercises seen when you are going through the training. 

Related article: To and Through Training.

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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