Try This Pull-Up and Push-Up Half-Pyramid Challenge

Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego recruiters doing pull-ups.
Recruits of Fox Company perform two sets of 30 pull-ups followed up by sets of push-ups and crunches during a physical fitness session at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, July 28, 2014. Drenched in sweat from the hot sun, recruits pushed their limits at each station to build their cardiovascular stamina, endurance and strength. (Jericho W. Crutcher/U.S. Marine Corps)

Warm up with your timed run event (1.5 miles, two miles, three miles or other). Take the first half of the distance and run easy as you warm up. Run the second half at goal pace or faster to see whether you can negative-split the run time for the same distance.

For a 1.5-mile warmup run, take the first 3/4th mile (1,200 meters) easy and push yourself for the second 3/4th mile (1,200 meters).

Light weight shoulders

This 5-lb. dumbbell workout circuit is also a warmup that challenges the smaller muscles of the shoulders. Keep it light with this six-exercise circuit that includes a variety of lateral raises and overhead presses.

The pull-up, push-up and run workout

In this workout, for every pull-up you do per set, you do double the push-ups for each grip. Do each step of the half pyramid in a two-exercise circuit/super set. Each set will look like this with grip changes after each full half pyramid:

Regular grip:

  • 2 pull-ups/4 push-ups
  • 4 pull-ups/8 push-ups
  • 6 pull-ups/12 push-ups
  • 8 pull-ups/16 push-ups
  • 10 pull-ups/20 push-ups

Repeat the half pyramid for as many grips below as you can.

Each grip set of the half pyramid will equal 30 pull-ups and 60 push-ups. By the end of five grips, you could possibly accumulate 150 pull-ups and 300 push-ups.

Run 1 mile or bike 10 minutes after each completion of the 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 half pyramid for a total of 5 miles. Obviously, this is an advanced workout, but you can scale it back by skipping some of the grip options or skipping the last step of the pyramid with 10 pull-ups and 20 push-ups and reducing the distance of the run between sets:

Pull-up and push-up (x2) half pyramids

Pull-ups = 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and push-ups = 4, 8, 12, 16, 20

  1. Regular grip: Use your normal pull-up grip or push-up stance.
  2. Wide grip: Place hands wider than your normal pull-up grip or push-up stance.
  3. Close grip: Place hands closer to each other than your normal pull-up grip or push-up stance.
  4. Reverse grip (chin-ups): Place palms so they are facing you for pull-ups. Do normal push-ups or hand-release push-ups.
  5. Commando grip (pull): Alternate grips for pull-ups (one hand regular, one hand reverse) and touch shoulder to the bar each repetition. Do normal push-ups or hand-release push-ups.

Run 1 mile or bike 10 minutes between each grip change.


Make sure to stretch both the legs and upper body as this high-volume workout will be challenging for the joints. If you are not used to such volume, build up to this level and cut back on some of the sets, reps and distances until you're ready. For the cooldown, do a 10-minute jog, walk or bike, followed by 10 minutes of stretch or foam roll if needed.

This is a classic pull-up and push-up workout we used to do in the SEAL Team morning workouts, and I have been doing since the 1990s. The multiple grips help with the higher volume load. They will also reveal any weaknesses in grip through some of the lesser-used pull-up grips or push-up stances.

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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