Hey Marine OCS Candidates! We’re here today with a special interview from fitness expert, Sgt Manny Melgoza from 300pft.com. This interview is designed to help you in your physical fitness preparation for Marine Corps Officer Candidates School, so read up thoroughly, especially for those struggling to attain a high PFT score. Without anything further, here is our exclusive interview with Sgt Melgoza. Enjoy and take notes!
Rob: First of all, thank you for joining MarineOCSGuide.com and sharing your extensive knowledge of physical fitness to help Marine Officer Candidates prepare. We’ll get started with this interview by asking about your current status with the United States Marine Corps.
Sgt Melgoza: “Once A Marine, Always A Marine!” As we love to say, because all Marines know that there’s no such thing as a former Marine. I’m just taking a break from active duty. I got out back in June of 2008. Since then I’ve been working hard trying to keep in touch with Marines from my old unit, HMLA-267, and helping people who are interested in taking the challenge. As of next month I’ve been out for nearly 4 years now.
Rob: Your website, 300pft.com, has a ton of awesome and useful content for current and potential Marines. What drove you to create the website and help so many people in the process?
Sgt Melgoza: A series of events led me to begin training again, and ultimately creating the website. After I got out of the Marines I began working at a medical device company. I concentrated mostly on work, and I wasn’t getting much exercise. For nearly 2.5 years I exercised about once per week. I guess that’s pretty good since most people don’t exercise at all. I was either playing basketball or roller hockey.
One evening while playing a pick-up game of roller hockey, I was going for the game winning goal (not really), when I lost my balanced and took a short fall to the deck. As I fell it didn’t seem like much so I decided to brace myself with my arms. This was probably the worst thing that I could’ve done because I immediately heard some popping coming out of my right shoulder when I hit the ground.
There was pain all over and I took myself out of the game. MRI scans reveal significant damage. The worst of it was some torn cartilage. Good thing my rotator cuff was still good to go
I spent the next 6 months trying to recover from the damage. I turned into a weak, softy body. My roommate at the time, also a Marine said something to me one day that really hit a nerve. I was walking around without a T-Shirt on because that’s what I do at home sometimes. He looked at me and said, “You got to work out dude, you have man boobs…” At first I laughed and denied it. I checked myself out in the mirror. To my surprise I did in fact have a set of man boobs… sadness sets in.
I knew right then and there that I had to get in shape fast. I thought back to when I felt the strongest in my life. It was definitely when I was still an active duty Marine. I always thought that anyone who could get a 300 on PFT is in pretty damn great shape. I wanted to restore my body to its former glory.
Using the test as a scale to measure my progress, and the experience of training for it in the past I decided to challenge myself and see just how fast I could hit 300 points again.
I began reading and researching for the best and latest training techniques.
My goal was to devise a plan that would take me from my weak self to PFT stud in the shortest amount of time possible with the least amount of work. It’s not that I’m lazy it’s just that I strongly believe in being effective in everything you do.
As I began to work on this self project I realized how awesome this would’ve been to have as I was preparing to go to boot camp. The first time around, it took me a long time to figure this thing out. I tried so many approaches and nothing seemed to work for me. I later realized that it was caused by over training.
Once I made the decision to publish what I learned I just kept doing it because people kept asking me for help. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I get really motivated by some of the emails I get from my readers.
Rob: That’s definitely a great story and motivating for anyone who is currently feeling down on themselves or trying to get back in shape. According to your website biography, you were only able to complete 9 pull-ups back in 2002, but worked your way to completing over 20. What piece of advice would you give a Marine OCS candidate struggling to max out the pull-up portion of the PFT?
Sgt Melgoza: Don’t over train. This was my biggest mistake and it really took a toll on my progress. Without getting too deep into the science of muscles, we all need to understand that muscles need time to heal just like a burn wound. If you kept picking at your burn and pulling the scab back, how soon do you think it would heal? It’s the same thing with your muscles. Every time you perform resistance training you’re breaking down muscle fibers. They need time to heal so that they may become stronger, faster. That is why split routines are so popular, but I take it a level higher by only prescribing the minimal effective dose to stimulate growth.
It was only when I started training less that I saw in increase in my strength. A good schedule would be about 3 times a week, with at least 1 day of rest in between. Sometimes it’s good to rest 2 days before the next work out. Don’t do any max sets when you’re training to increase. Simply doing 2-3 sets of about 30%-50% of your max set with good form will activate enough muscle fibers to improve your strength once healing is complete.
If you don’t believe me, as a self experiment try doing a max set of pull-ups one day. Go out and try to do it again the next day. I bet you won’t hit the mark again. Then see how long it takes for you to get back to that number. It’s going to be a long while before you recover that strength. The damage of a max set is too great.
A gradual approach for the big day is the best way to go. Think of it as practice for the big event. You’re only going to practice a % of what needs to be done. On the big day you go balls to the wall since that’s when it really counts. It doesn’t matter if you get weak on the next day once you hit your mark.
Rob: I definitely agree with your training philosophy that sometimes less is more, if less is done efficiently and correctly. What is the biggest problem that you find Marines dealing with when aiming for a perfect 300 PFT score? How would you suggest that they solve the problem?
Sgt Melgoza: Most Marines struggle with the pull-ups and the 3 mile run. Well, there’s nothing to it but to do it. Practice increases your chances for success. I recommend that you practice a % of said events during your work outs. Again, don’t max out on pull-ups, and practice 1-mile runs consistently. Your goal for a 1-mile run should be to memorize a 6 minute pace.
For both events, mass is your enemy, especially in running. Ideally we want to be lean and strong as hell for our size. Reducing our mass and improving power to weight ratio is key to success.
How can we reduce mass quickly? It’s actually not that tough when you’re disciplined enough to consistently follow some simple guidelines. Here are my top 3 recommendations. If you’re serious, you should do these every day.
1. Drink 128 oz of water
2. Get 8 hours of sleep
3. Eat 30g of protein for breakfast
I realize that these are common sense. I promise, if you execute, it will work. Most people don’t do these because they’re too obvious. They want some cool magic pill that’ll make them skinny in 12 hours or something. Well I can’t market these old school tips, but they do work, and they don’t cost you anything. It just takes longer than “12 hours” and it requires consistency.
Rob: I’ve received a few emails from officer candidates inquiring about losing some unwanted fat before attending OCS. What dietary advice would you recommend to someone looking to lose weight and increase their PFT score at the same time?
I tend to shy away from giving specific recommendations because everyone is different. I like to provide guidelines instead so that the individual can have choices. Here are my big ones.
Eat your daily requirement of lean protein and micronutrients. Most people under eat these two very important nutrients. Besides lack of exercise and lean muscle mass, these two are the main reasons why people get fat.
The American diet is very good at providing macro nutrients and simple carbohydrates.
There are a few ways to figure out how much protein you should be eating. As a rule of thumb from my training guide, 1.7g x weight in kg = minimum protein requirement. Remember your body needs protein to help your muscles recover. You have to feed the beast when you’re training.
There are many ways to get protein. Ranging from lean meats, eggs, protein shakes, and protein bars.
Your micronutrient needs should be filled with slow carbohydrates. Most of those carbs should come from vegetables or fruits.
We’ve all heard of the “no carb”, or “low carb” diets. Some people have experienced success with these, but I think that they’re double edged swords, and they’re likely to cut you. It’s not ideal for a sustained lifestyle.
Instead I like to promote a lean meat and SLOW carb diet. How I decide on what types of carbs I’m going to eat is based on the glycemic index. I use http://www.glycemicindex.com/ to search my food in question. If it’s over 50 points I won’t eat it. Anything over 50 is considered a simple carb and affects your insulin levels greatly. When insulin levels spike, this promotes fat storage. We don’t want that, so stick to slow carbs only if you’re trying to shrink fat.
There is only one exception to this rule. It is actually optimal to eat simple carbs within 45 minutes after working out.
Rob: You recently received an IFPA personal training certification, correct? How has that helped you to better understand physical fitness and overall preparation for Marine Corps training?
Sgt Melgoza: That is correct! It has given me some very valuable knowledge, but it just the foundation. In the future I intend to get very specific and become a certified “Military Fitness Specialist” via the IFPA as well.
What has helped me the most is doing my own research and reading books from other fitness professionals, I like collecting the best of everything and teaching what’s most effective. My passion for finding the best techniques for the goal is what sets me apart.
Rob: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and help out Marine OCS candidates everywhere. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and the advice you’ve given is invaluable for physical preparation and overall success!
Sgt Melgoza: Mr. Rob, thank you. It was a pleasure as well.
Well that concludes our interview with Sgt Melgoza from 300pft.com. Thanks again to Sgt Melgoza for the awesome interview, he definitely went above and beyond answering questions. I hope this interview has given you some insight on improving your physical training techniques and improving your PFT score!