Ask Stew: Marine Corp Fitness Test Changes

If you were not aware, the Marine Corps made some pretty big changes not only to the PFT, but also to the Combat Fitness Test, and the body fat standards. Here is an email from a female Marine recruit considering her options as she prepares for a future in the USMC:

Stew, I am heading to USMC OCS in the next few months, I have been working hard on running, rucking, and upper body PT. I am still only doing 3 pullups, but I can do over 50 pushups. I just saw the Marines just changed it so all Marines can opt to do pushups instead of pullups or the flexed arm hang. Do you have any recommendations to that, or should I still focus on pullups? Just curious – what are your opinions of these changes? Thanks - Sam


I recommend you keep working on your pullups FOREVER. I think the strength gained from pullups is essential to you being able to perform certain events (pull yourself over walls / fences, obstacles, events that require grip, etc). Even if you never take a pullup test in your future, the pullup is one of the best exercises we can do in the tactical professions. But now, it is up to you if you want to test with pullups or pushups. Do the math and see which one you score more point on. If you only get the minimum in pullups but max out the pushups, you may notice the scoring might not be that different.

The new changes are the following: (Full Article)

Pullups and Flexed Arm Hang can be replaced by Pushups. The max for pullups increased as well. Men have to score between 20-23 to max the test (100 points) and women have to score 7-10 pullups for 100 points, dependent upon the age of the Marine. Remember that if you choose pushups, you cannot get a full 100 points. The max you can do is 70 points for scoring 40-50 pushups (women) and 70-80 pushups (men), dependent upon age.

Running and Crunches Standards: Also if you look at the new requirements, there are more age groups with increased difficulty in scoring. You cannot think this test is easier, since the minimums and maximums are harder for each age group.

New Body Fat Standard too -- but wait!  Before you let yourself go, only the PT animals can skip the body fat standards test. If you score 285-300 on the PFT and the CFT, you are exempt from body fat standards test. If you score 250 or more, you are allowed an extra body fat percentage.

My opinion? Well, my opinion really does not matter, as I do not speak for the military. But as I look at these changes, it appears to be a solid compromise within the Marine Corps between those who want women to do pullups vs the flexed arm hang and those who do not. It sets a new standard that is still respectable and difficult to attain, without consistent training. Besides, I would much rather do pushups than a flexed arm hang. I personally have thought flexed arm hangs were tougher than pullups, but not as useful with regard to physical readiness. The body fat standards make sense too. Often the height / weight and circumference measurement tables can be skewed if you have more muscle in your legs, butt, and upper torso. I think they raised the fitness bar and will still be making very fit Marines for years to come.

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