Everyday someone asks about improving in fitness tests. Many people have issues with not just performing on an entry level fitness test (join military, police, fire), but also progressing in a manner that will enable them to perform well at Boot Camp or Police and Fire Academies. Here is an email from a concerned student who is preparing to join the military in the next year:
Stew, How do I get better at pullups, pushups, and situps? I know I should do more of them but how do I arrange workouts so I am going to see progress frequently (weekly / every other week)?
This is a great question because we all have to start somewhere and then we progress into being PT animals eventually. The good news is that you have a year to train but you need to start now. I am going to make my next several articles focus on the PT Progression Method. It all starts with building a foundation and then advances in the following workout arrangements.
The PT Pyramid: Build a foundation with this workout that has a warmup, max-out, cooldown all rolled into a single workout program. It is a great way to check progress as well. To get better at your specific PT test. Build a PT Pyramid like this:
Set#1: 1 Pullup, 2 Pushups, 5 situps…
(No rest — your rest is the muscle group rest you get by doing other exercises)
Set#2: 2 pullups, 4 pushups, 10 situps
Set#3: 3 pullups, 6 pushups, 15 situps…and so on.
Continue up the pyramid until you fail. If you find that you cannot do ANY pullups, then resort to negatives or flexed arm hangs for the number of seconds instead of repetitions. If you fail at pushups, resort to knee pushups and keep moving with the workout.
When you fail, try to repeat in reverse order back to what you did at Set #1.
One way to balance out your core is to replace situps with plank pose on the way down the pyramid or alternate each set and do even sets plank and odd sets situps.
The PT Pyramid is what I call a Foundation Workout. It helps the user build a solid foundation of calisthenics and increases volume so you will improve your previous limits. Once you get to level 10 and back down to 1 again you will have done 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 500 situps / core exercises. (250 situps / 250 seconds in plank pose). If you can get to this level you are now in a position to progress to PT Progression #2 and #3.
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 is the SUPER SET. This is another sub-max effort foundation workout to increase 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. See SUPER SET Link for more information on how to design a SUPER SET effectively.
PT Progression #3 is the Max Rep Set Workout. Once you have mastered the PT Pyramid and the Super Set and can handle workouts with volume of 100 pullups and 200 pushups, then it is time to test your new found strength. This workout will increase your muscle stamina and endurance which is really the goal of mastering PT tests. See Max Rep Set Workout LINK for more information on how to push your numbers even higher.
PT Progression #4 is the PT / Run Workout. You can make a pyramid out of this one or make it one tough super set but each “rest” period in between sets is a run of a variety of distances. See PT/Run Workout LINK for more information of the next generation of progression.
PT Progression #5 is the PT and Advanced Movements Workout: Add tougher exercises into your pyramids and supersets such as burpees, push presses, bear crawls, etc…