Recon Ron Pull-up Program

The Setup

To successfully use the Recon Ron Pull-up Program, one must follow the table below by doing five sets of pull-ups a night except for Sundays. Each set is specified on the table. To start the program, one must first be able to do six pull-ups. Also, all pull-ups must be “Dead Hang” pull-ups, where arms are fully extended before doing another pull-up.

This program can help Marines or Civilians

Proper Pull-ups

A Proper Pull-up as defined by the United States Marine Corps:

a. Pull-up. The goal of the pull-up event is for the Marine to execute as many accurate and complete pull-ups before dropping off the bar. The procedures are:
(1) This is not a timed event.
(2) Sweatshirts will be removed during the conduct of the pull-up event in order to observe the lockout of the elbows with each repetition.
(3) Assistance to the bar with a step up, being lifted up, or jumping up is authorized. Any assistance up to the bar will not be used to continue into the first pull-up.
(4) The bar must be grasped with both palms facing either forward or to the rear.
(5) The correct starting position begins when the Marine’s arms are fully extended beneath the bar, feet are free from touching the ground or any bar mounting assist, and the body is motionless.
(6) The Marine’s legs may be positioned in a straight or bent position, but may not be raised above the waist.
(7) One repetition consists of raising the body with the arms until the chin is above the bar, and then lowering the body until the arms are fully extended; repeat the exercise. At no time during the execution of this event can a Marine rest his chin on the bar.
(8) The intent is to execute a vertical “dead hang” pull-up. A certain amount of inherent body movement will occur as the pull-up is executed. However, the intent is to avoid a pendulum-like motion that enhances the ability to execute the pull-up. Whipping, kicking, kipping of the body or legs, or any leg movement used to assist in the vertical progression of the pull-up is not authorized. If observed, the repetition will not count for score.
(9) A repetition will be counted when an accurate and complete pull-up is performed.

The Table

Recon Ron Program first half

Recon Ron Program 2



34 comments on “Recon Ron Pull-up Program

  1. Prospective says:

    Hey man,

    This is a great blog. I’ll be a senior next semester and am planning on joining the Corps after graduation. I had a buncha questions. Since you just went through the process, would you mind answering a few for me?

    1. How long did the whole process take? (as in from you first walking into the Recruiting Office till signing the contract – Just to give me a heads up of when I should there since the office is about 45 minutes away from me).

    2. How did you prep for ASTB? Any specific books or classes?

    3. Any other advice? Suggestion?

    Thanks and best of luck

  2. John says:

    What would be your work out schedule to prepare for OCS?

  3. Conor says:

    Great blog, really helpful.
    I plateaued at about 10 pull-ups inboard, no matter the program, so I switched to outboard and went from 1 to 9 in only two or three weeks.
    My problem, though, is that I got these thick calluses on the balls of my palms, from when the skin get pinched when doing the pull-ups. They hurt and end up decreasing my numbers, no matter whether I use a padded bar or not.
    Any suggestions, Sir?

    Candidate Church

  4. Hi Candidate Church,

    Plateauing and the callus pain are common problems, actually both of which I’ve experienced.
    Plateauing: if you can do 10 or more pullups, I recommend doing weighted ones. Try 4 days a week (not too much or too little) and find a weight where you can get a few pullups in. Then max out, then finish your workout without. See how that works for you.

    Calluses: Padding on the bar never helped me. What did help was using athletic tape and building up a larger, tape-covered bar. I don’t know exactly why, but that felt much nicer on my hands. You can also try chaulk or lifting gloves, which I settled on. I actually ended up getting gel-filled fingerless bike racer gloves (think Lance Armstrong) and using them on my pullups. When you’re doing hundreds a week, it adds up. Good luck, stay consistent in your work!

    Semper Fi

  5. Angelo says:


    Is the schedule for 1 day in a week?
    Because it says week 1, set 1,2,3,4,5?

  6. Lt Weeks says:

    No, Angelo actually see if you can do the workout 4-5 times a week, doing the same workout a whole week before mixing it up.

  7. Patrick Swartz says:


    I’ve been doing pullups as a ridiculous obsession for the past several months. I tried sticking strictly to Armstrong for the first 2 months, and I did see improvement; however, as I had little upper body strength to begin with, I now plateau at 9-10.

    I have to get a perfect on my pullups in order to contract and have a decent shot at selection this coming July. Seeing as my entire (seriously) future depends on it, I need desperately to know how to increase these pullups.

    In addition to Armstrong, I usually do as many reps as I can every time I walk through my room’s doorway, and when I watch TV, I do a max set of pushups during the commercials just to keep my blood running.

    HOnestly, I’ve plateau’d for a good 2 or 3 weeks. Should I take a few days off to let my muscles recover before starting Recon Ron or should I just go ahead and switch to weighted pullups and continue with Armstrong?

    Thanks, your help is incredibly appreciated.

  8. Lt Weeks says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Awesome work ethic on the pull ups! First off, I wouldn’t be too concerned with a 2-3 week plateau. It took me months to get from 10 to 20+ pull ups.

    Secondly, that’s great that you’re keeping up the push ups too. If you didn’t have a huge base of upper body muscle to begin with, that helps.

    How many days a week are you working on pull ups or those same muscles? I ended up settling on only 4 days a week for my pull up workouts. Any more than that, and I was overtraining and began to plateau or lose steam. You do need to give your muscles time to recover. You’re trying to build muscle, so put protein in your body before and after your workout.

    Also, for plateauing I recommend mixing up the workouts to utilize muscle confusion. You can do weighted pull ups, mix up the speeds (slow motion or very fast pull ups) and vary grips. I also liked to do hopping pull ups, where if you have multiple grips for your pull up bar, you pull up fast, then switch handgrips in the air. Basically plyometric pull ups.

    Go ahead and keep doing Armstrong–just add some weight and mix in some of the other workouts here. Do give your body time to rest! Those would be my suggestions.

    Good luck and Semper Fi

  9. Brendan Smith says:

    I leave for OCS 31 May, OCC 204, and would like to extend sincere thanks for such an informative site.
    I couldn’t agree more with the weighted pull-up addition to any pull-up regimen. I was stuck at 17 pull-ups for a good 6 weeks after working for about a year to reach that goal. After throwing a 35 lb. KettleBell in my backpack and eeking out an initial 3-5 pulls (in what I perceived as the most pathetic performance in any Candidate’s history), I jumped back on the bar with no additional weight, and cruised through a set of 10 at the very end of my workout.
    Since then, weighted pull-ups have become an integral part of my building stamina on that bar, and I don’t believe I could have been accepted had I not added them to my program.
    Semper Fi!
    Candidate Smith

  10. Patrick Swartz says:


    My second message to you. I couldn’t find a proper place to sent it, but I wanted to say thank you. I just got my contract last Tuesday, and I owe my 18 pullup best to you and your recommendation to add weights to Armstrong.

    I Sincerely thank you, sir.

  11. Chris Taggart says:

    With regard to calluses – check out for a description on removing callus build up that pinches hands and finger. Lots of other good strength training tips on the site as well. (

  12. John says:


    I’ve been on the recon ron for a while now and i have been giving two minutes of rest between each set but now with the volume getting really high its hard to maintain a two minute rest interval.Is there a time limit to be maintained between sets or can i rest as much as is required?

  13. Candidate Brian says:

    I am a candidate for the USMC PLC juniors program, as I am a freshman in college. I was becoming very demoralized with my pull up performance, as I could not achieve more than 4 or 5 dead hangs. I just ran a PFT with my OSO and maxed out on the pull ups, after only 14 weeks of using your routine. I thank you for the sound regimen; I couldn’t have done it in such a short amount of time without it.
    Semper Fi,

  14. Harsh says:

    hi. im not frm us. started 3 weeks ago not being able to pull my body weight up . that was rather sad. so im 5’8 80 kgs. 3 weeks later i can do
    7 proper pull ups but im not improving. can u help ?

  15. Usmc Ocs says:

    Hi Harsh, firstly–you did great and have made significant progress already. Secondly, make sure you are not plateauing from overwork. If you are doing more than 4 days a week of pullups or other back weight lifting, scale it back. Try every other day, doing slow, full pull ups. All the way down, all the way up.

  16. Mitch Hoover says:

    Morning Sir and Happy Birthday!

    I’m a LCpl in the Marine Corps and am a year in so I’m starting to think about which direction I would like to take my Marine Corps career. I already have my associates and would really like to go officer, the problem is my run seems locked down around 2130 and i’d like to improve it. Any tips?

  17. Happy Birthday, Marine!
    Firstly, as a prior-enlisted Marine, you will have an advantage over all the civilians thrown into OCS. Best of luck in the future.
    For the run, consider a few things: if you hate running, benefits from any hard cardio will transfer well to running.
    -Secondly, to improve your cardio (and run time), you’re going to have to put in the time! Are you working out or running at least 4 times a week?
    -If you’re carrying any extra weight around, that can kill your run time.
    -Short, intense interval training has been shown to improve a medium-length run like 3 miles more efficiently than doing 3 mile runs all the time.
    -Get a program and STICK TO IT! I know you are disciplined enough to be a Marine, so find a 5k program online and make it a priority.

    Get more in depth with these links:

  18. Ben says:

    How much time do you rest between sets?

  19. Mike says:

    You have provided an excellent resource for aspiring USMC Officer Candidates. I graduated OCS last summer, and was well-prepared thanks to your blog. I am putting together a guide for the candidate pool at my OSO. Would you mind if I copy the Recon Ron tables into the document and cite your website as the source?

  20. pat says:

    how much rest time between sets?

  21. lance says:

    hi lt i was wondering if pull ups helped with your vertical jump? and what is your vertical jump.

  22. No not really. Pullups don’t build your glutes, quads, or hamstrings.

  23. Nero says:

    Hello guys i need a bit of help!Well i started the Armstrong Pull Up Program from 1 pull up barely i could do 1 now i can do 10 about 5 weeks of working out wide grip.But the problem is im plateud here and im stuck i need some advices plz.Yesterday bought a keetler weighted vest weighting about 10 kg would u prefere to use it will my pull ups increase i can do about 3-5 with the weight vest pull ups or would u prefere to use this program thks again!

  24. smurfy says:

    Hi guys,

    quick question regarding Recon Ron Pullup Program.

    I’m a male (1.78 m, ca. 74 kg), my max. wide grip pullups is 9 – 11 (depending on the day) and I just started the program.

    I more or less mastered stage #2 (7-6-5-4-4) and started stage #3 (8-6-5-5-4) four days ago. The very first time I tried I made it (the last reps weren’t that clean, though), but now I seem to stuck and to be honest I hate to feeling to struggle that early (e.g. with in the second set) so motivation fades often.

    Should I go back to stage #2 and work on it till it gets “easy” and then progress to stage #3 ? Maybe I progressed to early ? What would be your suggestion ?

    Thanks in advance !

  25. Smurfy,

    Try switching things up. Go back to stage 2 and slow down, until you can do the reps very slowly and in a controlled manner. Add a little weight. Do a warm up set. Increase rest between sets. There a million ways to bust plateaus, just try mixing it up and do what you can to avoid overtraining.

    Good luck!

  26. donkeye9 says:

    Great blog but I have a question that some what relates to this. Now I am sure you have heard this all before but I have wanted to be in Marie Recon sense I was 4(military kid) my father was in the Army so I never really met any Marines to ask this question to, but can you do inboard pull ups for Marine Recon I am training still but I have never gotten an answer to this question and the Marines recrutier at my Highschool will only talk to seniors and I am only a Sophmore if you ever get the chance I would really appreciate it if you answered. The main reason I ask is that in the Army if you wanted to go Sf you can Bly do pull ups but you can do chin ups in almost any other job you please so I was wondering with how hardcore Marine Recon was if they had the same rules~ thank you for reading

  27. D says:

    Hey man, just FYI:
    That table is the most commonly cited one for the Recon Ron program, but it isn’t actually “the” program. Do pullups in 5 sets for a reasonable total per day. The exact numbers are up to the individual. Do not go to failure on any of the sets. That last one is key. If you got a poor sap who can barely knock out 5 reps, his first week should look more like 3/2/1/1/1 or something similar.

    Over all though the Recon Ron approach isn’t a bad one. I’m typically not a fan of programs that force you to max reps every single day. Stuff like this is much more efficient.

  28. Chuck says:

    Hey guys , hoping for some advice. I’m 53 years old and have been lifting for quite awhile. Following Steve reeves in that my workouts are 3 days of lifting, full body, three exercises per body part, 1 set per exercise. I’ve found this works best for me. Enough background … Basically I’ve sucked at pull-ups my whole life and finally got sick if it. I’ve followed both the recon Ron and Armstrong routines for about 5 weeks and have increased my wide grip overhand from 7 to 12. Really happy about progress so far but I’m finding my elbow where I have osteoarthritis is beginning to hurt more where before I had it under control. I’m continuing my routine on top of the pull-up routine, replacing previous back lifts with the pull-ups. Will reducing the amount of days to three per week stall any progress I’ll be able to achieve or would it help in the long run ?

  29. Markus says:

    Dear Sirs of the USMC and other experts,

    I have a couple of different questions and would appreciate it very much, if someone could help me out, because I’m really desperate.

    I started to do pull ups in an unorganized way (with no presentable results of course) and then discovered the Armstrong Program. At the moment my chart is 9 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 4 for day 1. But I would like to try the Recon Ron Program because I think its better, so I have 3 questions now.

    1. Should I start at week 2 or week 3

    2. And now my most important question: Let’s say I do week three’s program 8 – 6 – 5 – 5 – 4 but I fail at the second 5 and can do only 3,5.
    ==> What do I do now ?
    a) Wait a couple of seconds and do the last repetitions of these 5 ?
    b) Or leave out the last one that I could not do anymore and do the last set of 4 as indicated in the chart ?
    c) Or something completely else that hopefully someone of you can tell me. I think this would also be of great benefit for other people who want to work out the way it’s done by pros.

    3. Is it counterproductive to do the let’s say 8 – 6 – 5 – 5 – 4 set (given the fact that one has really reached this level) 2 or 3 times a day or is that counterproductive ? I, for example, can easily do weeks 2’s set twice or 3 times a day.

    Thank You very much in advance.
    God bless the Marines and God bless USA

    Markus Seemann

  30. Hi Markus,

    Thanks for your comment! You know, there’s a program designed just for someone in your situation: the Armstrong Advance Pullup Program. Have you tried that? Changing direction entirely to this new program is not really guaranteed to give you the results you want after you’ve plateaued.

  31. Markus says:

    Sir, thank you very much for your help Sir. I will give the regular Armstrong Program another shot for another three weeks or so and if I still can’t make any progress, I’ll get a weight belt and do the Advanced Pullup Program. But I won’t back down before I can do the 20 reps. For I cannot disappoint Jesus. I hope He will maybe give me the strength that I need.

  32. […] Pull-ups program, any day except Sundays. I don’t have a bar in my apartments, but I have a fingerboard for climbers, so it has couple of quite suitable holds. […]

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