Workout of the Week: Pull-up, Rope Climb, Obstacle Course

Marine candidates climb rope at Officer Candidate School.
U.S. Marine candidates participate in a field training exercise at the Officer Candidate School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2017. (Lance Cpl. Micha R. Pierce/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

This is a great workout if you have a Marine Corps obstacle course available. If not, an outdoor pull-up bar will suffice, or there are other options listed below. We did this one on a holiday when the base gym was closed, so we focused on running, calisthenics, rope climbs and obstacle courses to make a challenging mix of cardio, agility and grip strength.

Here is what you need to make this workout complete as written:

  • USMC obstacle course
  • A log or dumbbells
  • A place to run

The workout:

  • Run two miles
  • Pull-up pyramid 1-10
  • Run 100 meters and do one rope climb if available. If not, hang on pull-up bar 30 seconds.
  • Add push press, 10 between each set
  • Add push-ups, 10 between each set
  • Run two miles
  • Bike cooldown 10 minutes and stretch

*If the pull-up bar does not allow for 100 meters each set, replace with 30 jump ropes or jumping jacks.

How the workout works:

Run two miles before the obstacle course.

Use the classic half-pyramid method (only go up to 10 and stop) of only pull-ups (x1) on the first obstacle of the USMC obstacle course.

Start off at one pull-up and then run to the last obstacle (about 100 meters) and climb the rope.

Run back to the first obstacle; do two pull-ups.

On every even-numbered set, run the USMC obstacle course and skip it on the odd sets.

Mix in 10-15 push presses with a log, ammo can or weight every set.

Add 10 push-ups every set.

Run two miles after the obstacle course.

This workout totals four miles of running, 55 pull-ups, five extra rope climbs (total 10), five obstacle courses in full, 100 push-ups and 100-150 push presses.

If you do not have an obstacle course

With some creativity, you can accumulate most of the totals above by replacing the obstacle course with the burpee or eight-count push-up/pull-up pyramid. It works like this if you have an outdoor pullup bar:

1 pull-up, run 100 meters, 1 burpee or 8-count push-up

2 pull-ups, run 100 meters, 2 burpees or 8-count push-ups

3 pull-ups, run 100 meters, 3 burpees or 8-count push-ups

4 pull-ups, run 100 meters, 4 burpees or 8-count push-ups

5 pull-ups, run 100 meters, 5 burpees or 8-count push-ups

6 pull-ups, run 100 meters, 6 burpees or 8-count push-ups

Keep going up until you reach level 10. That is 55 pull-ups, 55 burpees and 1,000-meter runs. If you want to make this tougher, repeat in reverse order and accumulate 100 repetitions of pull-ups and burpees and 1,900 meters of short-distance runs.

If you do not have a rope climb, one option is to hang on the pull-up bar for 20-30 seconds each set to work the grip as the rope climbs do.

Start and finish the workout with two-mile runs as above.

Let me hear from Marines who get this one done and how you like it.

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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