September 10, 2021 7 min read

Being a United States Marine requires more than just a love for your country. It also requires a well-rounded strength that only comes with hard work, an unwavering commitment, and an organized exercise plan. As it is so bluntly stated on the Marine Corps website: “[O]ur Nation can not afford to put its trust in those who fall behind.” 

Whether you have recruitment training on the horizon, or are simply inspired by the physical strength of our military, following the Marines exercise routine is a great way to bulk up.

In this article, we take a closer look at the fitness requirements at every stage of becoming a Marine, plus outline a workout routine for achieving the well-rounded strength and stamina needed to pass those physical fitness tests with flying colors.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ Physical Fitness Tests

Would-be Marines are required to pass a series of physical fitness tests before they can officially call themselves Marines.

Even if you aren’t planning on joining the military anytime soon, the requirements for these tests may be helpful information for forming your own workout goals.

Unidentified members of the US Marines test fair-goers for fitness at the Minnesota State Fair

Initial Strength Test

The first of these physical fitness tests occurs before recruit training, and is called the Initial Strength Test, or IST. All applicants must be able to complete the following:

Pull Ups / Push Ups

Male: Three pull-ups or 34 push-ups in two minutes or less

Female: One pull-up or 15 push-ups in two minutes or less

Plank or Crunches

40 second plank 

44 crunches in two minutes or less

Run

Male: 1.5-mile run in 13.5 minutes or less
Women: 1.5-mile run in 15 minutes or less  

Physical Fitness Test

The Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT) determines a Marine’s stamina and physical conditioning. Not only must all recruits pass the PFT, but all Marines must pass it a minimum of once per year. Therefore, the Physical Fitness Test acts as a great benchmark for anyone looking to maintain a Marines-level well-rounded strength.

The test is made up of three components: pull-ups or push-ups, plank or timed crunches, and a timed three-mile run. Males must be able to run three miles in fewer than 28 minutes, while females must be able to complete the same run in 31 minutes or less. The requirements for the other two components vary based on the Marine’s sex, age, and weight.

Combat Fitness Test

The Combat Fitness Test, or CFT, most reveals just how beneficial well-rounded strength really is.There are three components to the Combat Fitness Test.

The requirements to pass each are determined by a Marine’s sex, age, weight, and more. 

  • Movement to Contact:An 880-yard sprint that emulates the stress of running under pressure in battle.
  • Ammunition Lift:Marines must lift a 30-pound ammunition can over their head until their elbows lock as many times as possible before the time limit.
  • Maneuver Under Fire:A 300-yard course that brings together a series of battle-like challenges. These include dragging or carrying another Marine, resupplying ammunition, throwing grenades, agility running, and crawling. 

Creating Your Own Workout Plan

Discipline is an important tenet of military life, and that is especially true for Marines. Practice your own discipline by preparing a workout schedule and sticking to it.

As you are putting together an exercise schedule, it may be helpful to remember: 

    • Stick to 2-3 exercises per day, but put them together in a circuit you can repeat three times.
    • After each exercise, it’s okay to stop and rest, but don’t stay idle longer than one minute.
    • There’s no need to start with the most challenging variation of any particular exercise. Even Uncle Sam doesn’t expect you to pass the Marines’ Physical Fitness Test right from the start.

    To get you started, we’ve outlined a sample workout routine below.

    The Marine Workout Routine for Well-Rounded Strength

    When you consider the actual physical fitness tests Marines are required to complete, it’s clear that the Marine Workout stresses core strength, upper body strength, and stamina above all else.Here, we outline a sample week-long routine you can follow to strengthen every part of your body.

    Begin each day with a series of warm-up stretches that will loosen your muscles and help you to avoid injury.

    Monday

      • Begin with as many pull-ups as you can manage. If you aren’t yet at the point where you can do a pull-up, then attempt a flexed arm hang instead.
      • Rest for one minute.
      • Complete as many push-ups as you can. The Marines Physical Fitness Test requires 34 push-ups in two minutes’ time, but don’t stress if you are unable to do this to begin with.
      • Rest for one minute.
      • Complete as many crunches as you are able without passing 100.
      • Rest for one minute.

        Complete this circuit three times.

        Tuesday

        Go for a mile-and-a-half run at a pace that you find comfortable. Once you’re done, continue walking at a steady pace for at least five minutes.

        Wednesday

          • Start today with as many pull-ups on the V-bar as you can manage. If you cannot yet do a full pull-up, then hold a flexed arm hang for as long as you can instead.
          • Rest for one minute.
          • Complete as many close grip push-ups as you are able.
          • Rest for one minute.
          • Complete as many decline crunches as you can.
          • Rest one minute.

            Complete this circuit three times. 

            Thursday

            Today is dedicated to cardio, with some running and sprinting exercises meant to build up stamina and get you ready to carry a fellow Marine 300-yards through battle-like elements.

              • First, run a quarter mile at a speed that is just uncomfortable enough to leave you winded.
              • Walk for one minute to catch your breath and cool down.
              • Run for one-half mile at a faster pace that leaves you winded.
              • Walk for two minutes to catch your breath and cool down.
              • Run your last quarter mile at a quick pace.
              • Catch your breath and cool down by walking for at least five minutes.

                Friday

                  • Begin by completing as many wide hand position push ups as you can.
                  • Rest for one minute.
                  • Complete as many crunches as you are able, but don’t do more than 100. If you can, complete your crunches at a faster pace than in previous days.
                  • Rest for one minute.
                  • Complete as many chin ups as you can. If you are not yet able to do a chin up, then hold a flexed arm hang for as long as you are able.
                  • Rest for one minute.

                    Complete this circuit three times.

                    Saturday

                    Another running day. Choose a distance of three, five, or ten miles, then decide if you are going to walk, hike, or jog them. Try to choose a route that includes inclines and hills, and complete it at a pace that gets your heart rate going.Don’t be afraid to really challenge yourself! Afterwards, help your body to recover with an endurance-specific recovery formula

                    Sunday

                    Finish the week with three circuits of the following exercise routine.

                      • Do as many push-ups as you can, but this time, complete the push-ups with your feet elevated.
                      • Rest for one minute.
                      • Complete as many pull-ups as you can. If you aren’t yet able to achieve a proper pull up, then attempt a flexed arm hang, and hold it as long as you can.
                      • Rest for one minute.
                      • Finish up your week’s worth of Marines-level training with as many decline reverse crunches as you can manage.

                        Other Exercises You Can Incorporate

                        When you need to mix things up, consider replacing certain exercises with others.

                        Strong man doing training with sandbag at the gym.

                        • Squats 
                        • Sandbag Deadlift
                        • Sandbag Squat 
                        • Sit-ups 
                        • Lunges (either stationary or forward moving)
                        • Running with dumbbells 
                        • Running while carrying a sandbag

                        As you progress and get stronger, make your exercises more challenging by trying different variations. 

                        Tips for Working Out -- And Recovering -- Like a Marine

                        Don’t Focus on the Number of Reps

                        If you are just starting out, don’t focus on the number of repetitions you are able to complete. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are great bodies. What is most important is that you show up and train each and every day. Marines training is as much about mental discipline as it is about fitness. Committing to your health will lead to both the discipline and the stamina required to complete the Marine Corps’s Physical Fitness Test. 

                        Prioritize Quality Sleep

                        At boot camp and basic training, a good night’s rest is promoted and encouraged. The same can be said for anyone attempting to take on the Marines’ workout regimen. Your muscles need at least eight hours of proper rest in order to recover and build. 

                        A healthy sleep supplement designed for fitness can help you get to sleep and stay asleep. 

                        Eat Clean

                        When you are working out at the level of the Marines, it’s important to always be considering and aiding muscle recovery. In addition to stretching, properly cooling down, and prioritizing sleep, you can aid in muscle recovery by eating clean foods.

                        The recommended diet includes lots of protein, plus foods that are low in fat. Consuming carbohydrates before you exercise will help to fuel your workout.And, of course, be sure to drink a ton of water and fluids. 

                        When You Are Ready to Challenge Yourself

                        Think you are ready to take on the Marines? Try one of these two Marine challenges to test your strength.

                        Marine Challenge #1

                        1. Set a timer for 20 minutes. 
                        2. Perform 44 crunches, then immediately jump into 34 push ups. This is your circuit. 
                        3. Complete the circuit as many times as you can before your 20-minute timer goes off. 
                        4. When this becomes easy, add in another circuit with two additional exercises.

                        Marine Challenge #2

                        1. Set your timer. 
                        2. Complete three pull ups, then go for a quarter-mile run at a brisk pace.
                        3. Immediately after your run, complete 25 squats followed by another quarter-mile run. 
                        4. Finish up with a plank and a final quarter-mile run. 
                        5. In one month’s time, repeat this circuit and try to beat your total time by at least one minute. 

                        Conclusion

                        Whether you are preparing for recruit training, are in the thick of it and looking forward to your Physical Fitness Test, or just want to look like a Marine and American hero, then a physical training routine inspired by military fitness is the way to go.

                        There are any number of exercises you can complete to build up both your muscles and stamina. Repping pull ups, crunches, and sprints can help you prepare to pass the Marines Physical Fitness Test, whether hypothetically or for real.

                        Supplements, clean eating, and quality sleep top off the list of all that is required for the well-rounded strength so admired amongst the U.S. Marine Corps.


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