The United States Marine Corps requires that all Marines perform a Physical Fitness Test (PFT) approximately every six months, and Marines must maintain the ability to pass the test at any time. All Marines are provided time to train and are expected to maintain an adequate degree of physical fitness. Every marine must also must pass the challenging Combat Fitness Test.
All prospective Marine applicants are required to undertake a screening test, called the Initial Strength Test (IST).
Physical Fitness Test (PFT) Assessment
The Physical Fitness Test is administered every six months. The test is designed to test the strength and stamina of the upper body (shoulder girdle), the midsection, and the lower body. Additionally, the run measures the efficiency of the cardiovascular system. The three tests are:
- pull-ups / chin-ups (for males)
- flexed-arm hang (for females, the minimum is 15 seconds; a perfect score for lasting 70 seconds) The flexed arm hang for females is to be replaced with pull ups. Starting in 2014, all female Marines were supposed to be able to do at least three pull-ups on their annual physical fitness test and eight for a perfect score, though this was delayed when more than half of those tested were unable to pass the test.
- bent-knee sit-ups
- 3-mile run — run as fast as you can for 3 miles
- Rowing Ergometer Test: starting in 2017, the Marine Corps incorporated a 5,000-meter erg test as an alternative to a 3-mile run for select Marines (those 46 years of age and older).
To successfully pass the test, the Marine must complete the minimum requirements for each event, plus earn the required additional points for their age group. Failure to meet the required minimum in any event constitutes failure of the entire test, regardless of total number of points earned. Those who fail the test are placed on a supervised program of physical conditioning until they attain the minimum acceptable level of fitness for their age group.
The scoring system for the tests is relatively straight forward. For males, they achieve 5 points for every pull-up, 1 point for every crunch, and approximately 1 point is deducted from a hundred for every 10 seconds slower than 18 minutes. For females, crunches are scored the same, 1 point for every 1 second up to 40 seconds, then 2 points per second on the flexed arm hang, and approximately 1 point is deducted from a hundred for every 10 seconds slower than 21 minutes. To pass the PFT, all personnel must score a total of 135 points. A perfect score is 300 points. To do this, males must achieve 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in less than two minutes, and complete the 3 mile run in 18 minutes or less. For females a perfect score requires 70 seconds on the flexed arm hang, 100 crunches, and a 21 minute 3 mile run.
There are also minimum standards that must be achieved. Failure to meet the required minimum in any event constitutes failure of the entire test, regardless of total number of points earned. The minimum is 3 pull-ups and 15 seconds on the flexed arm hang. For crunches, it is the same for both males and females, but the minimum decreases as you get older (starting at 50). For the 3-mile run, the minimum is different for males and females, and the standard also increases as you get older (starting at 28 and 31 minutes respectively). See the test descriptions of more details about the minimum standards.
Combat Fitness Test
There are three parts to the Combat Fitness Test.
- Half-mile run.
- "ammo can lift" - the goal of this test is to lift a 30 pound box above your head as many times as you can in two minutes. A perfect score is 91 for men, 60 for women.
- "man under fire" drill. This test requires you to sprint, crawl, and then sprint again across a football field. When you reach the end, you drag your partner for a while, then pick up your partner and "fireman" carry them all the way back to where you started. Next you pick up two ammo cans weighing 60 pounds and make your way down the field sprinting and zig-zagging as you go. When you reach the end of the field you set the cans down, throw a grenade at a target, and do three push-ups. Then you pick the ammo cans return through the course back to the finish. A perfect time is 2 minutes, 14 seconds (men) or 3 minutes, one second (women).
The first record of Marine Corps physical fitness tests was 1908 when President Theodore Roosevelt ordered that staff officers must ride horseback 90 miles and line officers walk 50 miles over a three-day period to pass. A test started in 1956 which included chin-ups, pushups, broad jump, 50-yard duck waddle and running. The first test for women was started in 1969: A 120-yard shuttle run, vertical jump, knee pushups, 600-yard run-walk and sit-ups.
For the most up to date information, you should consult Marine Corps Order (MCO) P6100-12.
- Descriptions of the PFT test procedures: crunches, pull ups, flexed arm hang, 3-mile run
- Testing procedures for the US Coast Guard, US Navy and Navy Seals.
- Testing in other armed forces and similar services.
- Videos of forces fitness testing
- Poll: Should women have the same fitness testing standards as men?