OCS in Review: Physical Preparation

Although I’m done with OCS, I will be writing a few more posts to help out future candidates. Basically, these are the posts that have been requested, or that I just wish I had to read before OCS.

For physical preparation, much advice I got was wrong, or misleading before I got to OCS. The workouts and much of the training has evolved considerably since past CO’s.

If I had to do it again, I would mimic OCS workouts as much as possible in my own program. So, to that end I’ll detail the current workouts at Officer Candidate School. Enjoy!

PPPA: Push/Pull/Press/Abs

PPPA is often an addition to a run or another workout. This was the only workout that pushed me to my full physical limit. Know your weaknesses, right?

First, pushup/pull-up supersets. For example, 10 pulls, 25 pushes, 8 pulls, 20 pushes, 6 and 15.  The numbers increase each time you do it. By week 8 or 9, I believe it’s something like pull-ups: 16/14/12 and pushups 45/40/35. Ouch.

Marine Corps Pushup!

Marine Corps Push ups!

Ammo can press/crunch supersets come next. I think the ammo cans are 20 or 30 pounds each (full of sand.) This is a great preparation for the CFT and PFT. These are timed events, so you end up doing about 2 min/1.5/1 minute for ammo can presses, alternating with crunches of about the same time.


Fartleks are 3-5 mile runs, interspersed with workouts every half mile or so. Fartleks are very similar to the Run Course/Mec Weight (or something like that) where you just don’t run as far, and do more workouts. An awesome cardio workout.

Example exercises: Pushups, pull-ups, crunches, sit-ups, frog sit-ups (wide knees like you’re doing a groin stretch), diamond pushups, body squats, bend and thrusts, burpees, dips, mountain climbers, sprints

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PFT Page updated

Some helpful running information is now on the PFT page here:


Click for PFT

Click for PFT page

PFT Bigger Success!

Hooray! My goal was a 275, but I got a 282 on my PFT, hopefully putting me over the top to getting into OCC-202!

Did the PFT about 0600, and the cooler temperatures definitely helped on the run portion.  I would encourage any other candidates that you can retake PFTs and apply higher scores to your application package.  Good stuff!


pft crunches

My PFT crunches, okay not really

Pull-ups: 19
Crunches: 100
Run: 21:20


Pull-ups: 20
Crunches: 100
Run: 20:58

USMC OCS-worthy PFT…again!

Tomorrow morning I will run another PFT.  Yes, my package is applied and in to the boards.  However, my 266 PFT is not awesome these days, and my OSO wants me to do better.  He is assured that the board will not meet until August 21, and we can send in any “updates” to the packet before then.  Interesting..


19 pull ups, 100 crunches, 21:20 on the run.


That’s the word anyhow.  Wish me luck!

Running in the Heat and Preventing Dehydration

With the summer months come heat, humidity, and dehydration. Listed below are some tips to stay safe while running in the heat and to prevent dehydration while you prepare for OCS or PFT.

  1. Avoid Wearing Cotton: Cotton soaks up sweat, causes the material stick to your skin, and promotes body heat buildup. Several different materials wick perspiration away from your skin, with “CoolMax” being the most popular. Wicking fabrics are designed to create a cooling effect as moisture is pulled away from the skin.
  2. Wear Sunscreen: Direct sunlight will drain your energy especially if given the chance to burn your skin. Run in the shade when possible to avoid direct sun and scorching pavement. Also, wear a hat or visor to shade your eyes and face from the sun.
    marines running

    Marines running

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PFT: Killer Crunch Workout

This is a popular training program for the crunches part of the PFT.

While it is a good program to help you get to and past 100 crunches, remember that it crunches are a one-dimensional component of fitness and are not a substitute for a full core workout. OCS is much more than just the PFT.

Day 1

Do three maximum effort sets. Rest 60-90 seconds between each set. As soon as you stop (even for one second), that set is complete.

Day 2

Pyramid day. Begin with 20 repetitions. Each consecutive set should increase by ten until you can not complete the required amount without pausing. Then do a maximum effort set. Rest 1 second per crunch of the previous set.

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Top Ten Pull-up Strength Builders

[This post adapted from & courtesy of Stronglifts here; a great weight-lifting advice website]

Yes, Pull-ups are hard and the lack of progress can be frustrating. But as with all exercises, you can get stronger at them using the right methods. Here are 10 ways to get stronger at Pull-ups fast.  This is especially aimed at those just starting to work on pull-ups, or those who have lots of room for improvement.  After seeing hundreds of candidates succeed at OCS under the worst conditions, I am confident that anyone can get up to 20 pull-ups.  Just work at it consistently!

Get those reps in!

Get those reps in!

1. Avoid Machines.
Machines balance the weight for you and force you into fixed motions. The strength you build on the Lat Pull-down and the Assisted Pull-up Machine won’t carry over to pull-ups. Don’t use them.

2. Use Resistance Bands.
Attach a resistance band to your pull-up bar and loop it around your knee, like in this video. I have Iron Woody bands: they’re cheap & quality. Check their Assisted Pull-up Package.

What’s the difference with the Assisted Pull-up Machine? Resistance bands only help you in the bottom position. You’ll have to do most of the work in the top of the movement. Assisted Pull-up Machines help you from start to finish.

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