Prep for the Air Force Special Warfare Operator Fitness Test With a Pyramid Workout

There are many ways to create a pyramid workout program. A little creativity will help you build something that works with specific exercises to build muscle stamina and cardio endurance, as well as strength and power.

Check out this workout we developed this week based on the new Air Force Operator Fitness Test used by Air Force Special Warfare.

Note: it helps to have an outdoor training facility or place to run and lift with little-to-no transition time. 

Sometimes you need a fun way to mix in a wide variety of exercises into a progressive workout system. The PT Pyramid offers that option.

Here is the Air Force Special Warfare Operator Fitness Test that candidates will take during the Air Force Special Warfare Prep Course that comes immediately after Basic Military Training:

AF SW Operator Fitness Test
3-mile ruck

Standing long jump

5-10-5 Pro Agility Test

Trap Bar Deadlift: 3 Reps at max weight

Pull-ups: max reps

100-yard farmer carry sprint (2 x 53-pound kettlebells)

300-yard shuttle run (12 x 25-yard shuttle)

1500-meter swim with fins (side, CSS, LATA side stroke)

There are two main locations used for a majority of the pyramid training events:

1. Pull-up bar with two kettlebells on the ground nearby.

2. Trap bar located about 25 meters away from the pull-up bar. You should increase weight as desired for each set.

Cardio Events: 3-mile ruck and a 1500-meter swim

After the ruck, test yourself at the Standing Long Jump and the 5-10-5 Pro Agility Test.

The workout looks like is this:

Start with a 3-mile ruck (40-50 pounds).

Pyramid Events: Pull-ups (all sets) and Deadlift (odd sets only)

Then, begin 1-10-1 Pyramid Pull-up and Deadlift Pyramid (with Travel events) with the following rules:

Pull-ups x 1

Deadlift x 1 (odd sets only)

Travel Events: (25-meter shuttle runs, Kettlebell farmer carry sprints, standing long jumps)

After each set of deadlifts or pull-ups, choose one of the three methods to get to the location of deadlifts or pull-up bars.


Travel 25 meters to and from the pull-up bar area to the deadlift area from the run, carry and jump part of the test:

Sprint 25 meters: Do the 2 x 25-meter sprint on even sets when you do not do a deadlift.

Kettlebell farmer carry: 2 x 40-pound kettlebells for 25 meters

You can also do 2-3 long jumps to get to and from the two area

Deadlift x 1 (odd sets only): Keep it light and focus on technique. If you want to increase the weight, increase it on the last 5 sets.

Here is a Walkthrough of the Pyramid Sets:

Set 1: 1 pull-up, sprint to deadlift bar 25 meters, 1 deadlift, farmer carry 25 meters back to pull-up bars

Set 2: 2 pull-ups, farmer carry 25 meters, NO DEADLIFT, so turn around and run back with kettlebells back to pull-up bars.

Set 3: 3 pull-ups, sprint to deadlift bar 25 meters, 3 deadlifts, run or jump back to pull-up bars.

And so on. Continue up the pyramid until you fail at pull-ups. THEN try to repeat in reverse order. When you peak or reach set 10, do a full 300-yard shuttle run (12 x 25 meters) back and forth from the pull-up bar and deadlift area.

If you can go all the way up to 10 and back to 1, that equals the following in 19 sets:

100 pull-ups

50 deadlifts (10 sets on rounds 1,3,5,7,9,9,7,5,3,1)

38 sets with a mixed variety of 25-meter sprints, carries and jumps

Before the swim, test yourself again with the Standing Long Jump and the 5-10-5 Pro Agility Test.

Final Event: 1500-meter swim with fins (Side Stroke, CSS, or Lead Arm, Trail Arm Side Stroke)

You also have to think while doing this workout and you will see remembering what set you are on, if odd or even, or the number of reps you need to do can be challenging. This mixing of thinking and added physical stress into the workout is a good combination that keeps you from just going through the motions when training. You will be glad you worked the thinking part of the brain during physical training.

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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