Do you have what it takes to be a U.S. Marine? Or, more to the point, do you have the push-up power? To join this branch of the armed forces, you must pass an initial strength test, or IST. It involves a timed run, as well as timed sets of sit-ups and pull-ups. If you're interested in the infantry, you're subject to ammo can lifts as well.
However, push-ups are a possible option for men and women instead of pull-ups for the semi-annual physical fitness test of existing recruits starting in 2017. No mention of requiring push-ups for the initial joining process have been detailed.
Requirements to Join
In addition to fitness, you must be at least 17 years old and no older than 29. Citizenship isn't required, but legal residency is. Proof of a high school diploma and recruit training through marine corps programs are also required for full enlistment.
The Marine Corps is considered one of the most physically demanding branches of he U.S. military and, as their recruiting materials note, "isn't for everyone." You must pass a physical fitness test — the initial strength test — to even be welcomed into the Marine Corps training program, upon graduation of which you are then eligible for enlistment.
To pass the initial strength test, a man must perform at least two pull-ups, 44 sit-ups in 2 minutes and run 1.5 miles in 13 minutes and 30 seconds. To qualify for combat-related training, he must be able to do three pull-ups, the 13:30 1.5-mile run, 44 sit-ups and also perform 45 ammo-can lifts in 2 minutes.
For a woman, the pull-ups are replaced with a minimum of 12 seconds on the flex-arm hang; she must also do 44 sit-ups in 2 minutes and a 1.5-mile run in at least 15:00. Women may qualify for combat-related training, but are subject to the same requirements as men.
The Pull-Up Conundrum
The pull-up is a controversial requirement because it's notably gender-biased. Biology has made it that men have significantly more upper-body strength than women. In 2014, the PT test for existing Marines was supposed to switch the flex arm hang for women to the minimum three pull-up standard, but was delayed due to female recruits inability to pass in droves.
Now, in 2017, women and men will be able to opt to do push-ups instead of what's considered to be a harder move, the pull-up. The flex arm hang will be eliminated from physical fitness assessments — but not from the IST.
To encourage men and women to still train and execute the pull-up, the Marine Corps will limit how many points you can score with push-ups. While women will achieve 100 points by doing seven to 10 pull-ups and men, 20 to 23. The max score possible for push-ups will be 70. To earn this max 70 points, most women will need to complete 40 to 50 push-ups in 2 minutes and men, 70 to 80. You'll have to make up points to score highly on your test with impressive performances on the sit-ups and run.
If you do dive in and try to do pull-ups, but fail, you'll automatically default to doing the push-up test and be scored there.
Why No Push-Ups?
Why was the Marine Corps reluctant to adopt the push-up instead of the pull-up and end this controversy? After all, the Army has a push-up requirement to pass boot camp and a regular physical fitness test including the move.
Pull-ups are considered to be a better performance standard for Marines. They display more functional strength and overall power. A pull-up requires you to lift all of your body weight, and a push-up just 70 percent or so. But, in light of female recruits challenges in doing pull-ups — the push-up was reluctantly agreed to as a measure because it demonstrates strength far more effectively than the flex-arm hang.
To pass Army basic training, a man aged 17 to 21 must do 35 push-ups and a woman must complete 13 in 2 minutes. Once you turn 22 and up to age 26, it's 31 push-ups for a man and 11 for a woman. To qualify for the Infantry in the Army, however, you need a little more push-up power. A man aged 17 to 21 must complete 42 and a woman 19; ages 22 to 26 must do 40 and 17, respectively.
Minimum Versus Maximum
The flex arm hang may remain as a test to qualify for initial training because the intention of the marines' boot camp is not to train to the minimum, but to develop a recruit's maximum abilities. If upon graduation a person can't do the three pull-ups or score highly enough with push-ups, he/she won't graduate.
It's in your interest to maximize your scores on all three fitness tests during your semi-annual PFT — that means far outdoing the minimums required. You'll also need to display low body fat levels and optimal weight for your height. You can be discharged for having too high of body fat and not losing fat through a body fat recomposition program.
Men and women who score 285 out of the maximum 300 possible on the Marine Corps PFT (Physical Fitness Test) will not be subject to a body fat or weight requirement. If you score 250 to 285, you are granted a body fat allowance of 1 percent higher than the minimum.