The Triple Pyramid: Speed, Run, Swim

Marine performs push-ups during a physical training session.
Sgt. Guadalupe Campos, the marketing and public affairs representative for Recruiting Station San Antonio, performs push-ups during a physical training session as part of the inaugural Battles Won Academy. (Sgt. Bryan Nygaard/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Here is an upgrade from the classic 1-10-1 PT Pyramid. This is rather advanced. It has an accumulation of high repetitions in exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, core and a fairly challenging swim workout.

Speed pyramid

We do the first PT pyramid as fast as we can with the exercises of pull-ups x 1, dips or military press x 2 and abs of choice x 3. The goal here is to do the pull, push and core exercises in a fast circuit, with as little (or no) rest as possible. If you can make it up the full 1-10-1 pyramid, you will accumulate 100 pull-ups, 200 dips or military presses (fine to mix those if you wish and do 100/100 of both) and 300 abs of choice. We typically do fast two-count flutter kicks, crunches, hanging knee-ups or sit-ups and vary each set for the abs of choice. If you can do this in 20-30 minutes, you are in the fast zone. Less than 20 minutes is super fast but possible.

Run pyramid

The next pyramid is a 1-10-1 PT pyramid, with pull-ups x 1, push-ups x 2 and plank pose x 3 seconds per set immediately after the push-ups. For every fifth set, run a half-mile fast. The sets look like this: 

  • Set 1: Pull-up 1, push-ups 2, plank pose 3 seconds
  • Set 2: Pull-ups 2, push-ups 4, plank pose 6. Keep going up to 10 where the 10th set looks like: Pull-ups 10, push-ups 20, plank pose 30 seconds.
  • Then repeat in reverse order from nine down to one.

In the end, you will accumulate 100 pull-ups (again), 200 push-ups and 300 seconds of plank pose (five minutes).

Swim pyramid:

Now this one is a challenge, and you may have to alter the distances each set if you run short on time or swim abilities. The pyramid looks like this:  pullouts x 1, push-ups x 2, abs of choice x 3, but you swim 50-100 meters each set. The sets look like this:

  • Set 1: Swim 50-100 meters, pullouts 1, push-ups 2, abs of choice 3
  • Set 2: Swim 50-100 meters, pullouts 2, push-ups 4, abs of choice 6
  • Keep going up until you fail or stop at set 10: Swim 50-100 meters, pullouts 10, push-ups 20, abs of choice 30
  • If you have the energy or time to train, repeat in reverse order from nine down to one.

Note: A pullout is a muscle up on the pool’s edge in the deep end. Pull yourself out of the pool so your arms are extended in a sort of up position for a dip and your hips are touching the edge of the pool and pool deck. Think of it like a pull-up and dip mixed together, but it is easier as you are in the water about 50% of the time. 

Total accumulation of distances, reps and time: If you do this workout like the pre-spec-ops training group did, most people completed it in two hours and accomplished 200 pull-ups, 400 push-ups, 100 dips/100 military presses, 600 abs (mostly flutter kicks, leg levers, knee-ups and sit-ups) and five minutes of plank pose. 

The runs were only two miles, but the swim was 1,900 meters if you did the full 100 meters per 19 sets. Some opted for the 50 version and got closer to 1,000 meters instead. It's still a tough workout that does not hit you until you are about halfway through, and then you realize that 200 pull-ups and swimming are a very tough mix.

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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