PT Progression Series #2: Super Sets

PT Progression Series #2: Super Sets

Part #2 of the PT Progression Series is the Super Set.

This is a series of answers concerning a question about getting better at pullups, pushups, and situps for both fitness testing as well as bootcamp, police or fire academies.

The Super Set is also considered a Foundation Workout similar to the PT Pyramid where the goal is to increase the weekly total volume of your repetitions in pullups, pushups, situps in order to get better at taking calisthenic fitness tests.   Having a solid foundation by using both the PT Pyramid and the Super Set will enable you to build your muscular endurance by increasing your daily volume in smaller sub-​​max rep sets.  Eventually you may fail at these predetermined number of these sets, but that is fine.  Keep pushing and resort to knee pushups for pushups, crunches for situps, or flexed arm hang for pullups for the last few remaining sets of the program.

A super set is nothing more than a circuit but made with a set number of repetitions and a range of sets for you to shoot for in the workout.  For instance, to ace the pullups, pushups, situps, test you can make a super set like this:

Repeat 10–15 times
Pullups — 50% of your max reps  (so if you can do 10 pullups — only do 5 per set)
Pushups 10–15  (if your current max is at least 40 do roughly 25% of max per set)
Situps 10 — but focus on your goal pace.  Do 10 situps in 15 seconds if you want a total score of 80 situps in 2 minutes.
NO REST — Your rest is resting muscle groups by doing other exercises

Another option:

Repeat 5–10 times
pushups 10
situps 10
wide pushups 10
crunches 10
tricep pushups 10
plank pose 30 seconds
Pullups — 50% of your current max reps test score

Add a new progression!  Add running in each set by running anywhere from 100 yards or a 1/​4 mile.  Consider it “resting with running”.  This way you can work on the ability to transition from the PT to running portions of the test which is a big issue for many PFT takers and makes running more challenging if all the blood is trapped in the upper body before you start the run the 1.5,  2 or 3 mile timed runs.

Only do the Super Set every other day at the most.  You can do the PT Pyramid, Super Set, and the Max Rep Workout PT Progressions all once a week if you wish.  BUT, you only want to work with this higher level of volume in the upperbody exercises of pullups, pushups, situps, every OTHER day.  Do not do them on back to back to back days like many people mistakenly do.  Eventually you will see negative results if you do daily PT workouts of the same muscle group.

Anytime you are doing 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 reps of abdominal exercises — consider that an UPPER BODY day that you need 48 hours to fully recover before you repeat that workout.

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…


Comments are closed.

More from:

Stew Smith

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. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

To see more from Stew Smith, check out

Check out his Fitness Store, check out Fitness Store