Crossfit Workouts

The Navy SEAL Secret to Crushing Your Fitness Goals

Kells McPhillips

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Photo: Getty Images/Felix Hug
I love (like, adore) whipping out my gel pens, grabbing a spare note pad, and color-coding the reps, sets, and circuits of my workouts. There are so many way to structure exercise regimens. I’ve tried the 5-4-3-2-1 method, ladder workouts, sprint interval training—the list goes on. But one look at a Navy SEAL workout routine reveals that pyramid training is yet another I need to add to my fitness to-do list.

As the name suggests, this pattern for structuring your strength training involves reaching the pinnacle of your physical abilities. The blog A Shot of Adrenaline explains that Navy SEALs use pyramid training to get shredded with push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups, but it’s not strictly for the upper body. You can use it to work any—or every!—muscle group. Step one? Memorizing the ins and outs of the workout. Let’s DO this.

How to build a pyramid training workout

There are 10 levels in pyramid training. Each level dictates how many reps of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups (or your move trio of choice) you need to do. You’ll need to assign either 1, 2, or 3 reps to each exercise, then multiply each one by the level (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) to see your prescribed number of reps. Eventually, the goal is to make it to level 10 then work your way back down to level one, but take it easy when you’re first getting started. As an example, let’s use the Navy SEALs’ traditional trifecta:

Reps per move: 
Pull-ups = 1 rep x [number of level]
Push-ups = 2 reps x [number of level]
Sit-ups = 3 reps x [number of level]

Do the math and you’ll get this…

Level 1: 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, 3 sit-ups
Level 2: 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 6 sit-ups
Level 3: 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 sit-ups
Level 4: 4 pull-ups, 8 push-ups, 12 sit-ups
Level 5: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups
Level 6: 6 pull-ups, 12 push-ups, 18 sit-ups
Level 7: 7 pull-ups, 14 push-ups, 21 sit-ups
Level 8: 8 pull-ups, 16 push-ups, 24 sit-ups
Level 9: 9 pull-ups, 18 push-ups, 27 sit-ups
Level 10: 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 30 sit-ups

…and don’t forget to work your way back down!

Wow, wow, wow. Now that your muscles have been worked, here’s how to recover with a foam roller or a lacrosse ball

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