Take This Easy Day If You Need a Break From High Reps and High Miles of Training

After a long cycle focused on improving calisthenics testing scores, plus taking longer runs and swims in preparation to crush a Navy Physical Screening Test for SEAL, SWCC, EOD, Diver or Rescue Swimmer candidates, sometimes you need to downshift and recover with something a little different.

Taking an “easy day” is relative to your current abilities and will differ from person to person. If you are a hard-charging special ops candidate, you may find this useful. If you are an intermediate level athlete, this is a good workout for you as well, and will give you a good mix of calisthenics, weights and cardio.

Here is a workout that features a short calisthenics-based warmup with a moderate number of repetitions. Following the warmup, you shift to the weight room or do weighted versions of the same exercises (with a weight vest or TRX) to reduce repetitions significantly.

Push-up and Pull-up Pyramid 1-10

Warm up with 50 meters of an easy jog and dynamic stretches (stop at 10/10). This is a total of 55 pull-ups and push-ups. If that volume is more than you would do in a workout, then only do a warm-up of 1-5 which will yield only 15 pull-ups and 15 push-ups.

Run 1.5 miles or bike, row or use the elliptical for 10-15 minutes at a moderate pace.

Instead of doing a higher number of repetitions workout (pyramids, super sets, max rep set workout, etc), add some dumbbells and a weight vest and/or TRX to make normal calisthenics harder to do with fewer reps per set.


Repeat 3 times

Pull-ups sub-max (with added weight) or do heavy pull-downs in the gym for 10-15 reps

Dumbbell or TRX Bicep curls 10

Dumbbell or TRX Rows 10

*Sit-ups 1 min at goal pace (If your goal is 80 sit-ups in 2 minutes, do 40 in 1 minute.)


Repeat 3 times

Bench press 10 or TRX push-ups 20

Military 10

Dips 10-20

Plank pose 1 minute

Run 1.5 miles or bike, row, row or use the elliptical for 10-15 minutes at a moderate pace.

Swim 500 meters warmup

Tread 10 minutes (no hands)

Repeat 5 times

Swim 50 meters freestyle fast

Swim 50 meters CSS or side stroke at goal pace

Obviously, this is a decreased volume and impact workout for an advanced-level trainee and is relatively easy compared to other workouts of the week. In fact, typical advanced-level high-rep calisthenics workouts offer volume ranges of 100-150 pull-ups, 200-300 push-ups, 200 sit-ups or dips and 5 miles of running and 1-2 miles of swimming.

If you are pushing the limits of these numbers, knowing when to say “when” is important with your training. An easy day or so, or even a week of easier workouts could be just the answer you need to recover fully and have some of your best scores ever the week after taking it easy.

Why do this?

This change of pace will ease stress on the joints. Long cycles of high-repetition calisthenics events can lead to joint pain in the wrist, elbows and shoulders. Similarly, longer distance running can lead to pains in the shins, joints of the knee and hips.

Break up the longer runs with faster and shorter runs on softer surfaces (trail, beach, dirt, track) or go non-impact altogether with more biking and swimming in place of running. Sometimes the aches and pains of training only require a shift in a day’s training. Sometimes you may need a deload week to fully recover, do a mobility day, or a systems check if you really need to recover and test what is working and what is not working for you.

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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