Try This Test Week When Transitioning from Calisthenics and Cardio to a Lifting Cycle

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army pullup challenge
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Connie Jones

If you like to do training cycles that focus more on endurance and muscle stamina by including calisthenics and cardio events like running, biking, swimming and rowing, you may want a break at some point from the high miles and high repetitions. Before you make the transition into a different training focus, you will need to assess yourself.

This week, a few of our days of training involve assessing how the progress of running, swimming and calisthenics has affected our performance while also getting a baseline of starting points before we add weights to the daily training.

Here is what a typical workout and assessment combination workout looks like.

Note: You can opt to mix in testing days throughout this week if you feel multiple tests in a day may not show optimal performance. Realize that, when set in the manner described below, the tests will also show your ability to recover quickly (or not) and demonstrate overall work capacity in multiple events.

Pull-up and Push-up Pyramid

This is a short warmup that accumulates 15 reps of push-ups and pull-ups with easy jogs between five quick sets. This is a 1-5 warmup, with 100-meter jogs between each set (stop at five).

  • Pull-up: 1
  • Push-up: 1
  • Jog: 100 meters
  • Pull-ups: 2
  • Push-up: 2
  • Jog: 100 meters

Work your way up to five pull-ups and five push-ups. Mix in some dynamic stretches if you want. Then jog one mile at an easy pace and stretch lightly after the mile run.

Build Your Own PT Test and Max-out Event

Arrange in any order. If you prefer, split into two workout sessions on the day you decide to test. I recommend that you test on Monday after a weekend of recovery and easy stretch and mobility-type workouts.

Our Testing Events

Bench press (one-rep max) or body-weight lift (max reps)

You can opt to build up to lift as much weight as you can for one repetition or build up to your body weight and perform the maximum number of repetitions of your body weight on the barbell that you possibly can. An advanced-level goal for most tactical athletes is to be able to do 10+ repetitions of your body weight and up to 1.5x your body weight for one repetition.

Pull-ups (20 Pounds Max) or Pull-ups (Max)

You can pick either pull-up option or do both spread out through the day after some recovery time. An advanced-level goal for pull-ups is 15-20. If you can do more than 10 20-pound pull-ups, that is also a very good score for a tactical athlete.

Push-ups 1-2 Minutes

Depending on your push-ups test time, do a one- to two-minute test of maximum repetition push-ups. An advanced-level goal is maxing the push-ups for your test (usually 80-100 for two-minute tests and 50-60 for one-minute tests).

Sit-ups 1-2 Minutes or Plank 2-4 Minutes

Depending on your fitness test time, do a one- to two-minute test of maximum repetition sit-ups or a plank pose for 2-4 minutes. An advanced-level goal is to max the sit-ups for your test (usually 80-100 for two-minute tests and 50-60 for one-minute tests).

For the plank pose, build up to 4-5 minutes. We practice planks after every push-up set and throughout the workout Death by Push-ups. This challenge is a five- to 10-minute plank with push-ups done every minute on the minute. If your test is push-ups and planks, consider learning how to do this two-for-one workout challenge.

1.5-Mile Timed Run

Depending on what your timed run event is, run it after some transition and recovery time after the above testing elements.

Once the testing events are over, try the following cardio-based events if you still have some energy left to do a workout. The test tomorrow will be a leg lift (deadlift), load-bearing (rucking or farmer walks), and speed and agility test (shuttle runs), so limit your additional activity to moderate cardio activities today.

Optional Extra Workout

Try this if you need to work on your running and calisthenics.

Repeat four times.

Run: 800 meters at goal pace Pull-ups: max Push-ups: max in one minute Sit-ups or plank pose: One minute

If you need to test in swimming, you can opt to do the swimming test portion after the upper-body and running tests.:

Swim: 500 meters timed

Make this a moderate-pace warmup and find out whether you can still pass the standards using your warmup pace. After the "test," do the 50-50 swim workout without fins, or you can choose to do a 1,000-meter swim with fins.

The 50-50 Swim Workout

Repeat 10 times.

  • Swim: 50-meter sprint free
  • Swim: 50-meter combat swimmer stroke (CSS) at goal pace with minimum rest

10-minute tread with no hands and stretch

The final test will determine whether you can tread water with no hands for 5-10 minutes. This is a good standard to maintain, especially if you are going to attend any rescue swimming or military diving programs.

If there are any other events you want to add, this is the week to add them. Remember: If you are not assessing, you are only guessing.

When it comes to maintaining strengths and building weaknesses, you cannot see progress without frequent testing weeks. Do these at least quarterly, but a monthly test on some of the events spread throughout the week is ideal.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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