Upper-Body Workout with Cardio and Skills Options

A soldier performs a hand-release push-up during the army combat fitness test.
Capt. Anthony Duong, 520th Medical Company (Area Support), performs the hand-release push-up event during the Army combat fitness test at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., June 17, 2021. (Spc. Austin Tippit/U.S. Army photo)

Do you want an all-encompassing upper-body workout? This one focuses on a solid warmup/workout section that builds your muscle stamina with one-minute sets after a 1-5 burpee/run pyramid. Do one burpee, run 25 meters, do two burpees, run 25 meters, then continue until you get to five burpees. Do one minute of sit-ups, push-ups and max pull-ups. Repeat two more times.


Repeat 3 times

  • Burpee/(run 25 meters) pyramid 1-5
  • One-minute sit-ups
  • One-minute push-ups
  • Max pull-ups

Workout section one: This is a pulling challenge section that works the body's vertical and horizontal plane.

Repeat 5 times

  • Pull-ups max
  • Pulldowns 10
  • Body-weight bench press 5 (or TRX push-ups max)
  • Dumbbell rows 5-10 (or TRX rows 10)

Workout section two: This is a pushing challenge section, using overhead weighted and isometric holds as well as the opposite direction with an easy pulling exercise and core mixed in for good measure.

Repeat 3 times

  • Push press 10
  • Overhead plate hold one minute
  • Biceps curls 10 (or TRX biceps curls 10)
  • Dips max
  • Plank pose one minute

Lightweight Shoulder Workout: This lightweight routine is a great way to build strength in the smaller muscles of the shoulder. Go slowly and perform each repetition with no more than five-pound dumbbells.

Cardio/skills/PT combo: Goal pace running and swimming are important, so you can build that pacing muscle memory and know exactly how it feels to run a six-minute mile pace or a 1:30 100-meter swim. Focus on the goal pace you want to perform at your next PT test.

Swim or run PT combo (do either or both)

500-meter warmup

Repeat five times

  • 200m combat swimmer stroke (CSS) at goal pace for 500 meters
  • Rest with 1-2 minutes of a drownproofing event (tread, bob, float, flip)
  • Run PT
  • 400-meter warmup

Repeat five times
400 meters at goal pace mile pace
Rest with one minute of abs of choice and one minute of push-ups*
*Usually these one-minute sets of push-ups turn into a plank pose, as people are typically burned out from push-ups by now.


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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