Military Push-Up & Sit-Up Workout Program

Young fit female doing push-ups in gym
Push-ups and sit-ups comprise two-thirds of the Army Physical Fitness Test. (Image: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

Push-ups and sit-ups comprise two-thirds of the military's physical fitness test. These two basic exercises are the staple of bootcamp-style training because they're easy to learn and you can do them anywhere. However, that doesn't mean that they're easy. If they're challenging enough for the military to use, they're probably challenging enough for you.

The military has developed some grueling push-up and sit-up workouts because they're two of the most important exercises they use in fitness tests. In order to get the cadets prepared for the tests they make them do high repetition workouts without much rest. In the actual push-up and sit-up test the cadets have to perform a grueling number of repetitions for each exercise within two minutes.

These workouts come from military resources, including the Army's pocket PT guide and a Navy conditioning manual. The push-up workouts will help you build strength in your chest, shoulders and triceps, and the sit-up workouts will help you develop your abs. You'll also burn calories and increase your overall fitness because these workouts are fast-paced.

Some people will not be able to perform full push-ups from their feet, in which case it is perfectly acceptable to perform push-ups from your knees.

Workout No. 1

This is a workout from military.com, one of the largest online resources for military information. After a warm-up of 10 jumping jacks and 10 push-ups and some light shoulder, chest and triceps stretches, it's time to get down to business. For push-ups, make sure that your hands are shoulder-width apart. For an added challenge, try doing this entire workout without stopping.

Do two rounds back to back:

  • 1 minute of push-ups;
  • 1 minute of sit-ups.

Optional rest of 1 minute before moving on to three rounds:

  • 30 seconds of push-ups;
  • 30 seconds of sit-ups.

Optional rest for 1 minute before finishing with four rounds:

  • 15 seconds of push-ups;
  • 15 seconds of sit-ups

This workout is very fast but tiring. The point is to completely fatigue your muscles. The author also recommends performing the push-ups as fast as possible, to get the maximum amount of repetitions in during the allotted timeframe.

Workout No. 2

This is taken from the Army's Physical Training Guide. Their workouts fit into a larger training plan, designed to get cadets ready for basic training. For this guide the Army includes a stretching warmup and conditioning drills, which include running and other body-weight circuits.

The push-up and sit-up drills are included with pull-ups in a 15/15/5 format, which means that they have people perform 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups, and 5 pull-ups. This circuit goes on for four rounds. The workout is completed every Tuesday and Thursday. As training progresses, the repetitions get higher. You can add reps to make it a 20/20/5 format.

Athlete woman doing abdominal crunches exercise Side view concept fitness sport training
Sit-ups train your abdomen and endurance. (Image: undrey/iStock/Getty Images)

Workout No. 3

The Navy's Reserve Officer Training Corps put together a workout that includes both sit-ups (which they refer to as curl-ups) and push-ups, with a different protocol for each. For both exercises, you should rest for 2 minutes between sets in every workout.

For sit-ups, they recommend doing two sets for the first four weeks. During each set you perform as many repetitions as possible, and stop once you start to feel fatigue in your abs.

After those four weeks, keep performing two sets of sit-ups but this time go until you can't sit-up anymore. You should get more repetitions that in the four weeks prior. They recommend doing this workout no more than twice per week.

The push-up recommendations are similar. For the first four weeks, you do three sets of push-ups, stopping at the first sign of arm or shoulder fatigue.

After those four weeks, switch up the protocol. You'll perform two sets of push-ups from your knees, doing as many repetitions as possible in 30 seconds. After those two sets, perform push-ups from your feet for two sets, once again doing as many repetitions as possible. The author also recommends doing one set of push-ups every two weeks for two minutes to see how many repetitions you can get.

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