This column is courtesy of marinesocs.com and many other sites where it has been copied around. I hope it’s helpful!
First off, the PFT is not everything. While it is critical to get accepted – and being able to do a lot of pull-ups or run fast is a good measure of relative fitness that carries over to OCS fitness to an extent – you will be doing yourself a disservice by training just for the PFT. For example, being able to run an 18 minute 3 mile in go-fasters on flat pavement is great but you only do that three times at OCS (and that’s during the three PFT’s, one of which doesn’t count for a grade).
Also, at OCC-199 the first event of the Inventory PFT was the 3-mile run, with the pull-ups and crunches done immediately afterward. Running the 3-mile first may bring down your numbers in the other events, so keep that in mind.
There are two or three exercise routines done every day that there is PT. The routines include (but are not limited to) fartleks, upper body development (UBD), cardio circles, run circuit, push/pulls/press/abs, Muscular Endurance Course (MEC), Combat Readiness Test (CRT), and functional fitness. While each routine may involve different exercises, they all are built around the basic idea of multiple stations requiring high intensity exertions with runs of varying lengths in between.
Upper Body Development
While not especially tough by itself, this routine is usually paired with push/pulls/press/abs and a fartlek run. This routine involves about a dozen stations set up around the PT field. You will be doing various push-ups (incline, decline, and regular; ~20 for each station), barbell curls, military press with barbells, rope heaves, crunches, dips on bars, dips on the edge of a bench, fireman’s carry across about 100 feet, supermans, and a quick 10 pullups.
Another minor event that is usually paired with a timed run or other events. All the platoons of the company run in concentric circles screaming at the top of their lungs, whilst the instructors demonstrate a particular exercise (pushups, frog situps, etc.). When the whistle is blown, everyone gets down doing the demonstrated exercise. When the whistle is blow again, everyone returns to running & screaming. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The most difficult aspect of this PT event is the screaming, believe it or not. It’s a real workout for your lungs. If you want to train this way without looking like a screaming idiot in public, calling cadence will give similar benefits.
12 Pull-ups/30 Push-ups, 10/25, 8/20 (this later increases to 14/40, 12/30, 10/25). Then run over to lift an ammo can for 2 minutes, then 2 minutes of crunches, then repeat, the time progressively lowering to 1.5 minutes, 1 minute, and 45 seconds on each successive set.
3-mile run with stations every quarter mile or so. Stations include plyometric jumps, mountain climbers, squat thrusts, push-ups, crunches, back extensions and pull-ups. The exercises are the same that are done with some of the other routines but it is the running that is the important issue and I will take an aside here:
Run as much as you can on rough terrain, not just on flat pavement. At OCS, although you do a lot of running, only the PFT is on flat ground. Every other run is in the woods on dirt, with tree roots and holes in the ground threatening to twist your ankles, and some brutal up-hills (beware Da Nang). By the middle of the cycle, you will be running in your boots and your sergeant instructor will not have slowed the pace. In fact, the very first boot run also had us donning on our LBV’s and canteens and carrying our rifles, something which you will have to be able to handle for the endurance course.
Despite its name, this routine doesn’t involve much running, especially compared to the Fartlek. It is similar to UBD’s and the MEC in that it is a number of stations punctuated by a quick sprint, except instead of 30 feet separating stations, the exercises for the Run Circuit are separated by maybe 100-300 feet. These exercises involve dips on bars, crunches, plyometric jumps, a tabata-style sprint/jog/sprint/jog across the parade deck, a tricep dips/decline push-up workout, and star jumps.
The MEC is very similar to the Run Circuit (which it is always paired with) but exercises are done for a certain amount of time (2 minutes by my reckoning), not for a certain number of reps. Exercises involve crunches, decline and regular push-ups, barbell curls, presses with a log, and squat thrusts. There is also a lunge walk for about 100 feet though this exercise is completed once the distance is crossed, not when time elapses.
These two have merged together in my memory but I do recall low crawling quickly across the field, fireman’s carry preceded by a number of squats with a candidate on your back, dragging a candidate across the field by his armpits, running 3 miles in boots/utes/LBV/rifle, shimmying up the o-course rope with an LBV on and rifle cross body muzzle down, a 1-mile sprint with gear, a brutal 10 minutes of constant push-ups, and some other exhausting stuff.
Graded Events & Tips
Coming to OCS able to climb a 30 ft rope in under 20 seconds, able to do acollege boy roll over a pull up bar, and being able to jump over hurdles in quick succession will help you greatly on the Obstacle Course, as well as on the endurance course which begins with the o-course. Being comfortable with heights is important so you don’t hesitate before dropping from the obstacles or when walking down the logs on the combination obstacle.
Note: Juniors will be running the Stamina Course instead of the Endurance Course. Unless I’m wrong, the S-Course is just the “combat obstacle” section of the E-Course, so the E-Course looks like:
E-Course: O-Course run, 3-mile run with boots/utes/gear/rifle, Stamina Course
For the Stamina Course specifically, you will be low crawling under barbed wire (one dry and one wet obstacle) and will have to negotiate a series of hurdles going over one and under the next and so forth. A rope-assisted climb up a small embankment, commando crawl, a cargo net climb, a run through the muddy water of smelly gully next to the quigley, and two fords (one to chest level) wind out the event.