On January 1, the Marine Corps PFT and CFT underwent a massive overhaul. Here’s a look at some of the new standards, and how you can prepare to go above and beyond.
As the Marine Corps Times explained, the biggest change is that Marines will be allowed to take the tests more than once.
“Each of the scores are consequential, meaning that the Marine understands the PFT/CFT that they’re taking counts,” McGuire said. “Although they did their best, they might have an opportunity later in the testing season to do better.”
This is an intelligent and welcome change. It gives Marines the chance to identify and improve upon weaknesses. Of course, nothing is stopping the individual Marine from running the test in their free time to see where they stand, but as anyone who has ever competed athletically can attest to, running against an opponent usually seems to bring out a better performance.
The Corps has also decided to drop the flexed arm hang for women. It’s been replaced with a choice of push ups or pull ups. There is a catch, of course. If a Marine chooses to perform push ups, the most they can score is a 70. For some Marines – males 21 to 35 – the number of pull ups needed to score 100 on the test has increased to 23.
Honestly, three pull ups isn’t a huge jump. If you could hit a solid 20 in the past, then making it to 23 is probably just a matter of spending a little bit more time every week working on it. The Armstrong and Recon Ron programs are awesome for this, and as a bonus your shoulder health and all around gym performance will likely improve.
The CFT has also been made a bit tougher with more ammo can lifts required, more pushups, and shorter times on the Maneuver Under Fire event.
The cool thing about the CFT is that’s a quick test and it’s easy to train for – seriously, running three miles and doing a million ‘Marine Corps crunches’ on the PFT is for the birds.
If you need to get better at the CFT, I would recommend a lifting program along the lines of Joe DeFranco’s West Side For Skinny Bastards, and an interval running program that gradually brings you to the point where you can run .75 miles at a very quick pace. I realize the Movement to Contact portion of the test is only about .5 mile, but being able to cruise through a longer distance will make the test that much easier.
Finally, the update most near and dear to my heart – changes to height and weight standards, and the Body Composition Program. When I was on active duty, I did a lot of powerlifting in my free time… mostly because lifting up heavy weights is one of the best ways to pass the time on Okinawa, and in between patrols in Iraq. As a result, I got very strong, but I also put on a lot of weight. I never failed to meet the standard, but came close a couple of times even while maintaining one of the highest scores in the unit on both the CFT and PFT.
The new standards allow Marines to weigh more – thanks to an understanding that muscle weighs more than fat – and puts the decision to place a Marine on BCP in the hands of that Marine’s chain of command. This is something that makes total and complete sense and should have been implemented years ago. It’s absurd that the Corps would punish – whether inadvertently or not – Marines who hit a higher number on the scale, because they’re spending extra time in the gym.
If you do need to shed a few extra lbs. to make weight and tape this year then I’d highly recommend Chad Waterbury’s 10×3 For Fat Loss. It will take inches off of your waste without sapping all of your muscular strength the way a steady state cardio based program would.
All-in-all, these changes seem to be a step in the right direction. The new fitness policies accurately take into account both the demands of combat, and the physical training realities of life in the fleet.
The other cool thing about all these changes? If you’re a civilian, the standards for these tests are readily available online so you can jump on a pull up bar, and pound the pavement to find out how you stack up against the few and the proud.