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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Nearing the End of My Application Process

I now live and work in Washington, DC.

At the end of the month, I head to Pensacola, Florida for some last flight-related physicals.  I am told not to worry about them, but I’ll update the blog to explain what I go through.

For now, my old Pittsburgh OSO is putting me in touch with the DC officer recruiting team to have me run some PFTs to try to get my score up.  Yeah!

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:

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My pullups, post-PFT…pre-PFT?

I talked to an anonymous Marine officer on recruiting detail about getting into OCS “these days.”  Apparently, with a recent glut of candidates, you OCS hopefuls can’t count on a >225 PFT, the passing grade, as your ticket in.

Some are estimating that with so many qualified candidates, anyone under a 275 isn’t going to be a lock.

You gotta do your pullups!

You gotta do your pullups!


Personally that was concerning (with my 266), but the good news for me was that my application was sent in too early, so I still have chances to redo my PFT.  Since I would have had a near-300 if my pullups were over 15 (75/100 possible points), I am working hardcore on my pullups.

The good news is, Yay!  I set a new personal record this week!  I got 19!  So I am pretty happy about that.  I could only do 10, 11 on a good day in a row last summer and now I’ve worked all the way up to 19.

Hope that’s motivational for you!

Armstrong Pull Up Program

Fact: No one I know who has used this program has failed to reach 20 pull ups, given enough time. If you are dedicated, you’ll get there. Simple.

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Armstrong Pull-up Program

1. This program was used by Major Charles Lewis Armstrong, USMC to prepare himself to attempt to set a world record in number of pull-ups completed in a single exercise session. The program provides the necessities for successful physical improvement namely, VARIETY,

Pullups at OCS

Be one of the candidates who gets 20 pullups the first day of OCS!

OVERLOAD, and REGULARITY. Users have achieved remarkable results in only 6 to 8 weeks. This means that most, if not all, have been able to meet the performance level they have set out to achieve, a single set of twenty repetitions.

It can not be overemphasized that his program depends upon regularity. Daily performance of the exercises listed in the following paragraphs holds the true key to reaching and to maintaining the twenty repetition level.

The Morning Routine

Each morning perform three maximum effort sets of normal pushups. The pushup is one of the best, single exercises for strengthening the entire set of muscles that makes up the shoulder girdle. Major Armstrong described his morning routine in the following manner. “After rising, I would drop onto the deck and do my first set of pushups. I would then move into the head (bathroom) and start my morning toilet. I would return after a few minutes and do my second maximum effort set after which, I would go back into the head to shave. After shaving, I would return to the bedroom and complete the third and final set. Having completed all of the pushups, I was awake and ready for a relaxing shower. “

This routine should be followed during the entire training period. Since it takes most of us at least four weeks to reach our goals, you will probably find that you have inadvertently established a morning routine that is easy enough to keep as a lifetime habit, if not, you will at least appreciate the morning shower a little more.

It has been noted that this pushup routine helps to alleviate any soreness during the first couple of weeks. It is recommended that you use the pushup routine everyday during this period so that you feel more comfortable during your initial adjustment to this regime of exercises.

Read On: Training Routines