Tip: The Triple Pyramid Conditioning Challenge

All you need is a bench, a power rack, and a mop to clean up the puddle of sweat when you're done.

Try something a little different to measure your progress and to test yourself. This challenge will do just that. All you need is a power rack (or Smith machine) and a bench. And, well, maybe a mop.

This challenge consists of horizontal rows, push-ups, and rear-foot elevated split squats. Set up your space so you can use the bench for all three exercises and go at it.

  1. Do one horizontal row, one push-up and one split squat per leg. That's the first round. Without rest, do another round, only this time you'll do 2 reps of each (4 for the split squat, 2 each leg).
  2. So in round two your reps will be 2-2-2-2, then 3-3-3-3, 4-4-4-4... up to 10 of each exercise as you go up the pyramid.
  3. Then make your way back down the pyramid with 9-9-9-9, 8-8-8-8... to one of each at the end.

Try to move immediately from one exercise to the next without any rest at all for the duration of the challenge. (Good luck with that.) You may think the challenge is too easy for most of your trip up the pyramid, but at some point after 6 reps, you'll discover the joy of suffering.


The great thing about the Triple Pyramid is that it's infinitely adaptable. Each exercise can be modified to make it harder or easier.

  • For the horizontal rows, you can bend your knees to get your feet under you and make it easier. To up the intensity, you can stretch your legs out, place your feet up on the bench and/or add a weight vest.
  • Modify the push-ups with different hand placements (wide vs. narrow; on the floor or on the bench), foot placement (on the floor or elevated on the bench) or with extra load (weight vest).
  • You can make the split squats easier by switching to body weight squats or you can make them harder with added load like kettlebells, dumbbells, or by using the Smith machine.

This challenge should take about 20-25 minutes, but it shouldn't be a race against the clock. Keep your form strict and controlled along the way to maximize time under tension.

If it takes you less than 20 minutes with good form, you'll want to move to a more challenging version of the exercises. Throw the Triple Pyramid in at the end of a regular workout for some extra metabolic conditioning or make it a stand-alone workout during an (almost) off-day, a metcon day, or a de-load.

Dean Graddon (B Ed, MA) is a high-school teacher and coach with over 20 years' experience working with athletes from such diverse disciplines as swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball and triathlon. Dean is dedicated to the promotion of health and fitness and loves a good challenge.