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Training Everyday:  Lifting Weights and Mixing In Calisthenics / Cardio?

Here is an email I get often from people seeking to improve calisthenics scores in PT tests or just about working out in general.  Either they ask to do pull-ups, pushups, dips, etc every day or how to mix them into a weight lifting program.  Here is what I recommend:

Hi Stew - I really enjoy weightlifting three times a week. I was wondering if I can do a pullup / pushup workout the day after weightlifting and not overwork myself. Right now I'm at 96 pushups in 2 minutes, but only 13 solid pull-ups.   Thanks for the email access.

Your PT scores are pretty good and I would keep up the calisthenics workouts especially if you are seeking employment into the military or law enforcement careers.  I have no issues with lifting weights.  As a former power lifting football player, I love lifting weights, but calisthenics should also be considered "weight training" as it still provides significant resistance to your bones, joints, muscles.  So NO - DO NOT do weights one day and follow it with calisthenics of the same muscle groups.

Also see - Daily Pullups and Pushups - STOP!

For instance, if you do a pullup, you are pulling your entire body weight over a bar.  Now try to do the same amount of weight on a lat pull-down machine.  If you have never tried body weight pull-downs, let me warn you - THEY ARE HEAVY!  So consider pull-ups a heavy weight lifting exercise as far as recovery is concerned.  Your lats, biceps, grip muscles will require up to 48 hours rest to fully recover.  Now you can occasionally push it and see big results but daily pullups is NOT recommended for extended periods of time. See Pullup Push

Pushups - These exercises are a bit different as a pushup is about 50-60% of your body weight placed on your chest, shoulders, and triceps.  This is like a 200 lb man doing a bench press with 100-120 lbs. This is not that tough, but if your volume of repetitions is significant (greater than 200-300 reps) in a pushup workout, you will need at least 48 hours to recover from high repetition workouts.  Same with pushups - I would not do these daily for extended periods of time either - especially mixed with bench press or other "push muscle weights".  Personally, I like to add pushups to the same day I do bench presses, dips, and other chest and shoulder workouts.  Same day - not back to back days!   See Pushups Push  


How about dips?  Dips are tougher on the shoulders, chest, triceps than pushups as you are placing your full bodyweight on that joint so proper form is recommended.  Usually, I recommend to not go down where your shoulders are lower than your elbows as it will stress our most versatile joints to potential injury.  Once again, recovery is needed after a pt workout that involves parallel bar dips and ring dips as well.  Give yourself 48 hours before doing shoulder, chest, and triceps again after doing dips.

So if you like to lift weights, add the calisthenics exercises to the end of your workout to fully burn them out OR start off with bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, pushups, dips to warm up prior to lifting weights.  Both types of resistance training will pump you up and develop muscle growth, strength, as well as stamina if you use a moderate high repetition workout program.  Doing them day after day after day will eventually stall any growth and you will start over-training those muscles and see negative results or injury.

If you are considering a Special Ops profession, the truth is IT DEPENDS on your athletic background / history as to whether you really need to add any weights into your routine or just focus on cardio / high rep PT.  See SEAL Training for Power-lifting Football Player   or  SEAL Training for Endurance Athlete

How about crazy workout 2-3 times a day?  I often say that no 30 minute gym routine will adequately prepare you for any Spec Ops training program - so put your time in.  You can do two a days or even three a days - but mix like this: 

AM Workout - calisthenics and cardio

Noon Workout - cardio only - run, swim, ruck

PM Workout - weights using the same muscle groups used in the AM workout. 

You can mix this into a split routine of upper body one day / lower body the next.

OR do full body workouts / exercises (Olympic lifts) mixed with calisthenics and cardio throughout the day - resting the following day with cardio only.

Swimming with fins - yes it should count as a leg day activity

Rucking - yes it should count as a full body day activity

Swimming without fins - it is a good upper body workout BUT truly considered a non-impact cardio event

Running - I have always adding in Leg PT with running and it made for a tough leg day workout

Don't forget your cardio!  Especially if you are seeking a military or law enforcement profession and training for indoctrination / academy programs you will be running - a lot!  So build up your running accordingly over a reasonable period of time.  Do not just start out one day and hit a 5 mile run out of nowhere.  If you are just starting out on running, only add 10% of time and distance per week (starting at 1 mile of running a day) as long as you are not experiencing any pain while or after running.  If you are overweight and need to lose 30-40+ lbs, consider a non-impact aerobic activity like biking, rowing, swimming, elliptical gliding or just walking as the impact of running heavy can be a burden on your knees, shins, and lower back.  See related running articles

Please feel free to email me if you have questions regarding your fitness.  If you have questions about a specific fitness test, please let me know at - I will be glad to help.

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. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at



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