Physical Fitness Test (PFT) & Pullups

For me, the pull ups were the hardest part of the USMC PFT.  If they are giving you trouble, or you need help training for the PFT as a whole, I hope this page will give you some helpful advice and motivation to train!

The Armstrong Pullup Program

Click For Link

Click For Link

A real Marine Officer, Major Charles Lewis Armstrong, used this widely-disseminated program to boost his PFT score to world record levels.  A favorite program, with proven results.  Follow the link to the actual post I did for this specific fitness program.

Other Pull-up routines

5 Set Pull-Up Program.

You do 5 sets, where the last three sets cover the same number of pullups as the first two sets.

#1 – Max

#2 – Max

1 + 2 = X

#3 – X/3

#4 – X/3

#5 – X/3

Example: Set 1: 12.  Set 2: 10. Calculate X=22. Set 3: 8. Set 4: 7. Set 5: 7

Ladder Routine

This is the routine I used to prepare for the PFT and thought it gave steady growth in strength.  It is a great way for any fitness fan to reach the point of true muscle failure/fatigue.  Even if you don’t want to be a marine officer.  Do 5 Sets or 75 pull-ups whatever comes first!

#1 – Do 1 pull-up, rest, do 2 pull-ups, Rest, and so on until you can’t

complete the next set.  Your rest should be the same between each set, NO MORE THAN 20-30 SECONDS!  Once you can’t complete the next set start over with a new set.

Example: Set #1 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 5 = 41

Set #2 – 1,2,3,4,5,6,6 = 27

Set #3 – 1,2,3,4,5,6,5 = 26

Total – = 94

Don’t quit in the middle of a set, because, you hit 75, finish the set!

50 Pull-up Routine

Simply do 50 pull-ups, however you get there is up to should

take 5-8 sets to get there. Keep the rest periods at about 2 – 2 ½

minutes between sets!

Example: Set #1 – 18, #2 – 12, #3 – 8, #4 – 6, #5 – 6 = 50

PFT: The Run!  Preparation

This part of the PFT kills more applicants than anything. People are just intimidated to run. Running can be a lot of fun if people do it the right way. Here are a few steps to getting off on the right foot.

1. Consider running with a partner. Running can get very boring by yourself.

2. Start at a pace and distance you are comfortable with and build steadily. Having said that, don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone relatively soon. The key word is START at a comfortable pace and distance.

3. Every run does not have to be lightning fast. Run at a pace that you can comfortably converse with your running partner.

4. Run slower at the beginning of your run and work into a faster pace. Always finish a run strong instead of starting like fire and sputtering across the finish line.

5. Look where you are going to instead of at your shoelaces or the pavement.

6. Run at least 3 times per week every week. Work up to 4 or 5 days per week even if you only run a mile or two on some days.

Remember that there are many ways to improve your run time. The key to a good run workout is not overall mileage or speed work but consistency. Plan your runs and run your plan. Believe it or not, ANYONE can run below 18:00 minutes if they put forth the effort. If you do put forth the effort now, you will be reaping the benefits at OCS.  Here are some of the key elements that I have incorporated into my run workouts to help me. I have not done all of these at once but have done all of them at one time or another.

Medium Distance/Average Pace:

This is the backbone of any run program. These runs are anywhere from 3-5 miles at a comfortable pace. This type of run should be done at least 2 times per week in anyone’s workout.

Long Slow Distance:

These runs are a slow to comfortable pace for 5-10 miles. 10 miles intimidates most. Build 1 mile at a time. These runs are very effective at building endurance and should be done at least once every two weeks for any intermediate or better runner.

Interval Training:

Interval training should be done once someone has advanced beyond the very beginner stages of running. There are two main types I have used. One method is where you go for a 3 mile run running at a sprint for a quarter mile and then jogging very slowly for a quarter mile. The variant method would be to run at a track and rest between each interval. The normal interval here would be 1/4 to 1/2 mile.  The 1/4 mile sprints should be run at approximately 20% time of your current mile race pace.  In other words, multiply your mile pace by .20 and that will give you your approximate pace for the 1/4 mile.  Ensure you maintain a consistent pace during each interval and from interval to interval. You should do this once per week and start by doing 4-6 repetitions increasing 1-2 repetitions per week until you get to 12.

Hill Training:

Find a hill of medium grade that is anywhere from 20-100 yards long.  Sprint to the top, jog slowly to the bottom.  Start doing this for 10-15 minutes per training session.  Increase five minutes per session until you get to 30 or 45 minutes.

Fartlek Training:

Find a good 2-5 mile course.  Jog at your medium comfortable pace.  Stop every 1/4 mile and do 10-30 repetitions of some exercise (i.e. push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, lunges, dips, jumping jacks, 8 count body builders, flutter kicks, etc, etc.)  If you want to emphasize upper body conditioning, cut the run down to 1-2 miles and stop every 50-100 yards.


12 comments on “Physical Fitness Test (PFT) & Pullups

  1. manlypat says:

    You can score 300 on the PFT! Just follow these programs and tips, work hard, and stay tuned for more articles to come soon!

  2. Nick Kondovski says:

    Hey, props to this site. I am going to boot camp this July and have been steadily increasing my pull ups with the “Recon Ron” program. I like your ways however and I am planning on switching the program up with some of the information I acquired on your page.
    Semper Fi

  3. Candidate says:

    That’s good to hear, Nick, thanks for the comment!

    I recommend switching between different programs to really keep a fresh challenge. I am doing Armstrong now and hadn’t heard of Recon Ron–I’ll look into it.

    Thanks for the tip,
    Semper Fi

  4. […] PFT: Killer Crunch Workout This is a popular training program for the crunches part of the PFT. […]

  5. […] off, the PFT is not everything. While it is critical to get accepted – and being able to do a lot of […]

  6. Kevin says:

    I’m signed up for PLC this summer and am intimidated by the run for the PFT. I hope these tips help I’m going to start using them tomorrow!

  7. Frank says:

    Hi, I am a Police Officer from India. I don’t know if this is the correct forum to place my request, but whatever, here goes… We are very keen to set up a similar obstacle course used by the Marines here in our Training Centre. I think its called the O Course.

    Grateful if someone could please mail me the Lay-out of the Course at

    Thanks a ton.

  8. lorelyn says:

    give 5 physical fitness test

  9. lorelyn says:

    give at lest 5 physical fitness test

  10. lorelyn says:


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