A Question About Weights, PT and Pull-ups

Paratrooper prepares to squat.
Paratroopers from throughout the 173rd Airborne Brigade gather to participate in Soldier Performance Education for Advanced Readiness and Resilience (SPEAR) training in Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Feb. 12, 2019. (Sgt. Henry Villarama/173rd Airborne Brigade)

"I am a 2ndLt in the Marine Corps and I'm about to start the third week of the BUD/S Warning Order. I have been lifting less with the Warning Order workout - only 2 days a week, and I'm wondering what you would recommend in regard to lifting while doing the Warning Order workouts.

"My second question is about pull-ups. I have been stuck at around 20-22 for quite some time now and am looking for something new to help me break through. Thanks for your time."


I do not lift much weight, but I do lift lighter weights with PT. My recommendation for your profession is to lift lighter weights with more repetitions and add in calisthenics so that you totally burn out in the gym. See the "Circuit Training" article for some ideas on how to organize your routine.

I like to do bench press for a max rep set of 75%-100% of your weight, followed by max reps of pull-ups -- then, to top off the upper body, add 50%-75% bodyweight pull-downs, followed by max reps of push-ups until you fail. I work opposing muscle groups with a weight/PT mix so I can rest one group of muscles while working the other. This will help increase your muscle stamina.

I lay off weighted legs as that will slow me down while running, but I do leg PT with running. See the "Burn More Calories" article for methods of performing the exercises correctly:

-- Run -- quarter- or half-mile

-- Squats -- 20-30

-- Lunges -- 10-20 per leg

-- Repeat more than 5-8 times

To Get to 30 Pull-ups:

To break through to 30 pull-ups, you can refer to the "Pull-up Push Workout" article for some ideas, but the best way is to try the following workout:

Do this workout 1-2 times a week and another regular pull-up workout for a third or fourth pull-up workout in 7-8 days.

100-150 pull-ups in as few sets as possible -- rest with:

-- Max sets of pushups in two minutes

- Max sets of abs of choice in two minutes

-- Option run -- quarter-mile in 90 seconds (some days, this is a great one)

In a nutshell, do max reps of pull-ups until you fail. Add in 1-2 negatives to fail  completely. Then rest with push-ups, sit-ups and running before mounting the bar again for pull-ups -- no real rest in this workout.

The run is optional as it adds time to your workout. Once you get good at the pull-ups burnouts and failing on the other exercises, you will see that you can get that hard workout done in under 20 minutes. That is why I like to add the quarter-mile at 90 seconds; it makes the workout harder.

Try this for one month, and you will be in the range of 30 pull-ups.

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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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