When applying for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, your physical fitness test (PFT) score is one of the most important parts of getting accepted. We stressed it in our “4 Tips to Getting Accepted to OCS” and we’ll stress it again here, you must have an extremely high Marine Corps PFT score to get in and to survive at Officer Candidate School. But it’s not right to just tell you that you need a high PFT score, we need to give you some tips on how to improve your Marine Corps PFT score.
But first, for the new candidates, what exactly is the PFT, how is it scored, and what score do you need?
The USMC PFT is a three-part test including: a timed 3-mile run, dead hang pull-ups and crunches. Pull-ups can be done with either your palms facing outward or in chin-up (palms facing inward) fashion with the goal of completing as many as possible in one session. Crunches are performed within a 2-minute time frame. Each section of the PFT is valued at 100 points, with the three sections combining together for a perfect scored of 300 points. To obtain a perfect score, one must perform 20 dead hang pull-ups, 100 crunches in 2-minutes and run 3-miles in 18:00 or less. To calculate your current score, we recommend using this USMC PFT Score Chart or this PFT calculator which is even easier.
The minimum score to get accepted to Officer Candidate School is a 225, however, YOU WILL NOT GET ACCEPTED WITH A MINIMUM SCORE. The minimum will not get you into OCS at Quantico and it certainly won’t get you through it either. So what score would we recommend? You should always shoot for a perfect score of 300 or as close to it as humanly possible! The higher your PFT score, the more likely you are to get accepted. You might be thinking that right now, it would be impossible for you to obtain a perfect score, but we’ll show you that through hard work, it’s certainly possible. Here are our tips to improve your USMC PFT score.
- Max out on Crunches: In my opinion, the crunches are by far the easiest part of the PFT. You are given 120 seconds to perform 100 crunches, which amounts to a little over a crunch per second. Acing the crunch portion of the PFT is a relatively easy feat to accomplish with some hard work and determination, much easier than the pull-ups or run for most people. The crunches SHOULD be a score booster for any person, raking you up an easy 100 point total. Each crunch is worth a single point, so don’t let any precious points be taken away from your total score, finish and complete every single crunch until you hit 100 in less than 2-minutes. If you’re struggling with attaining 100 crunches in 2-minutes, check out this crunch workout which incorporates a multitude of exercise to help you improve.
- Pull-ups, pull-ups and more pull-ups: Scoring 20 pull-ups doesn’t sound like an impossible feat, but these aren’t just any pull-ups. The Marine Corps demands true dead hang pull-up form, no cheating, no CrossFit kipping, no bull! With that being said, you should absolutely practice with that true dead hang pull-up form, preparing for your PFT in the realest way possible. For those who are currently struggling with reaching 20 pull-ups, one of the most respected pull-up programs in the Marine Corps is the Armstrong Workout, which is specifically designed to increase your pull-up numbers. Generally speaking, your pull-up strength will be acquired overtime, so simply sticking with a routine, be it the Armstrong workout or something else, you’ll see results! Also, with that being said, each pull-up is worth 5 whole points, so if you are poor at pull-ups, it will be a big detractor from your overall PFT score. Do your absolute best to get the perfect 20 pull-ups because even missing one pull-up will drop your score by 5 points, or more if you miss additional repetitions.
- Get running!: Running was the most difficult portion of the Marine PFT for myself in terms of scoring. I could consistently score 19:30 in 3-miles, with my best ever run at 19:00 exactly on the final PFT at Officer Candidate School. One year before OCS when I initially began serious preparation, I first ran the 3-mile in 24 minutes. Through serious hard work and countless days on the track and roads, I was able to shave my PFT run to a pretty desirable score that I mentioned above. However, many other candidates struggled mightily on the run, simply because of lack of preparation. The running portion of the PFT is usually always the last leg of the event and the most excruciating, but it’s also a tell-tale sign of who came prepared and who isn’t for real. There are literally thousands of running workouts for candidates to follow, some created by military members and some created by civilians. On Military.com, Stew Smith has a plethora of running workouts to follow including interval training, long distance, etc. Find a workout that you believe will be challenging and stick it out for true results! There is really no substitute for running and you’ll use it during multiple training evolutions in Officer Candidate School, so you better be prepared.
- Train and Run in a 5k: The Marine Corps PFT run portion is 3 miles long and a 5K race is 3.2 miles long. So what’s that got to do with anything? Simply put, running a 5K is a perfect way to train for the running portion of the Marine PFT test because it’s a motivating atmosphere and even a tiny bit longer than the PFT. There are tons of different races to be found on websites such as Active.com, where you can register and compete in 5K’s, 10K’s, etc. For those who lack motivation, all it takes is someone blowing past you in a 5K to realize you need to step your game up to the next level and get the task done.
- Workout in a Group: Working out in a group is motivating on many different levels, especially if the members of the group have the same specific training goals. Get in contact with your local Officer Selection Office and find out if there are any other candidates at your school or in your area and make an effort to work out with them. If you can’t find anyone to work out with, I suggest finding your nearest CrossFit gym, which usually has a tight knit group of fitness enthusiasts, many of whom are also either ex-military or very friendly to those aspiring for a military career. Another good thing about CrossFit is that it stresses many of the muscle groups and exercise movements you will be required to perform for your PFT, Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and general workouts at Officer Candidate School.
- Be in it for the Long Haul: There are some candidates who are simply physical freaks. They don’t have to train nearly as hard as the average person to obtain even a perfect score. But for the majority of us out there (including myself), you’ll have to work your ass of 5-6 days a week to see a score of 280 or better. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t immediately see results, keep working hard, it takes months and even over a year for some candidates to get to the physical shape they want to be in. Don’t give up! If you want to become an officer in the United States Marine Corps, don’t let anything stop you, especially something you have complete control over like your PFT score.
Well, there you have it! The Marine OCS Guide for “How to Improve your Marine PFT Score”. We hope that helps anyone struggling with physical fitness and the PFT score portion of the application. As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment below or email us at [email protected].