During Marine Corps Basic Training you’ll find that physical training (PT) is an every-day thing. Come to think of it, during Basic Training PT is practically an all-the-time thing. Since Drill Instructors are no longer allowed to physically touch a recruit, they can – thanks to glory of push-ups and squats – take their frustrations out on you without ever lifting a finger.
This is not to say that you will not do other activities during the 12 weeks you spend in boot camp. But physical conditioning is king. The Marine Corps believes in a progressive physical training program which gets all recruits in shape to meet Marine Corps standards. Which in this case involves exercises as diverse as pull-ups, push-ups, running and long-distance marching which in turn are supplemented by dozens, if not hundreds of side-straddle hops, bends & thrusts, leg lifts, mountain climbers, 8-count body builders, lunges, trunk twisters, push-ups, pull-ups and more and more. Usually done in increments of 15 reps each for at least 3 sets per exercise.
Apart from the fact that superior conditioning may very well save your live out in the field, the Marine Corps is one of the few services where maintaining an extremely high level of physical conditioning can help you accrue points for promotion. The faster you can run and the more push-ups and sit-ups you can do the more points you will get. For instance: for a perfect score of 300, a Marine needs to be able to run 3 miles in 18 minutes, do 100 sit-ups, and 20 pull-ups. Far from easy, but definitely worth the effort.
Initial Strength Test (IST)
To begin recruit training you must first pass the Initial Strength Test. The Marines are the only branch that does not count push-ups as part of their testing procedures, the nice guys up top decided Marines need to perform pull ups. This test consists of pull-ups, or flexed arm hang for females, crunches, and a 1.5 mile timed run.
The minimum standard for passing the pull-ups is two. This may sound like an easy task but your idea of a pull-up might not be the Marines way of doing a pull- up. You will not be able to get away with swinging your feet or only going half way down. To perform the proper pull-up, you must mount the bar with your hands facing toward you and your arms fully extended. With your legs straight or bent, not above your waist, you must pull your chin above the bar by bending your arms at the elbow.
Flexed arm hang (females)
The minimum to pass is 12 seconds. The flexed arm hang tests muscle endurance and does not require any repetitions. To successfully complete a flexed arm hang you must mount the bar (hand direction does not matter) and hold your chin above the bar as long as possible. Your chin must be above the bar and not touch the bar. As soon as your chin touches the bar or moves below it your time will be stopped.
To pass, you must complete 44 crunches in two minutes. Crunches are half of a sit-up; a crunch is completed by laying on your back, arms folded across your chest, and brining your elbows or forearms to your knees. A whole crunch is not completed until you return your upper body to the starting position.
You will be required to complete a 1.5 mile run. The minimum standard for males is 13:30 and 15 minutes for females. If you can only meet the minimum standard you will have trouble on the PFT because the run is 3 miles. The run is usually the last event of the IST, but if you failed the pull-ups/flexed arm hang or crunches you will have a chance to be re-tested.
Physical Fitness Test (PFT)
To become a Marine you must pass the Marines Physical Fitness Test (PFT). The PFT consists of pull ups, maximum you can do (no time limit), the number of crunches you can do in 2 minutes and a 3-mile run. You will take this test at least once a year during your entire career in the Marines.
Combat Fitness Test (CFT)
The CFT is an annual fitness test that has an “emphasis on functional fitness related to operational demands.” Males and females are required to complete the same events but the standards and scoring is different. This test “directly impacts every Marines career;” CFT scores are used for marines being considered for promotion. The test has three events, movement to contact, ammunition lift, and maneuver under fire.
Movement to contact
This portion of the test is a timed 880 yard run, which is approximately ½ a mile or 2 laps around an athletic track. The maximum score for males is 2:45 and 3:23 minutes for females.
This part of the test requires significant upper body muscle endurance. You must lift a 30 lbs ammo can as many times as you can. You will be required to hold the ammo can at your chest and lift if above your head until your arms lock out and return it to the starting position. The maximum score for males is 91 lifts and 61 for females.
Maneuver under fire
This is the most complex portion of the test. It includes a variety of combat-related tasks, such as crawls, carries, grenade throws, ammunition resupply, and agility running. No matter what job you have in the marines you are still required to be combat ready. The maximum score for males is 2:14 and 3:01 minutes for females.