One of the first things future Marines do as soon as they’ve gone to MEPS and enlisted in the Marine Corps, is start a boot camp training workout schedule. It’s absolutely crucial to your success as a Marine recruit in boot camp, not only in terms of completing boot camp, but also in excelling and actually graduating boot camp near the top of your class. Aiming to not just finish things, but to shoot for high achievement and high competency, is crucial for a successful Marine Corps career. You shouldn’t only aim to finish boot camp; you should aim to be platoon leader or graduate at the top of your class. Even if you don’t complete those goals, it’s where your eyes should be looking. So, even if you play high school sports or you’re already fit for some reason, you still need to develop a boot camp training workout regime that is going to push you to be your best.
Marine Corps Boot Camp Workout
Sadly, the truth is that a lot of kids show up to recruit training sorely out of shape. It’s not enough to simply pass the basic requirements to join the Marines. That’s enough to get you in the doors, but it’s not necessarily enough to graduate boot camp. There are a lot of recruits who have trouble achieving minimum test requirements at varying points along the training schedule. Some are overweight. Some are underweight. Some don’t have the upper arm strength to achieve the required pull-ups or arm hangs. Some can’t complete the swim test. When that happens, the recruit is held back, removed from their platoon for additional work on whatever area they are struggling in. They then join a new platoon and prolong their boot camp training time by weeks in some cases. That adds more difficulty to an already very difficult undertaking.
Workout & Train for The Initial Strength Test
The initial strength test requires recruits to pass minimum standards for pull-ups (or flexed arm hang for women), crunches and time limits for running a mile and a half. So the first thing to train for is to meet those minimum requirements if you are already struggling. See our post about how to do Marine Corps-style pull-ups.
How to Train For USMC IST
Basically, if you’re a male, you’ll need to do 2 pull-ups. Regardless of if you’re male or female, you’ll need to do 44 crunches within 2 minutes. Males need to be able to complete a mile and a half run within at least 13 minutes and 30 seconds.
If you’re a female, you’ll need to do a flexed-arm hang for at least 12 seconds and the mile and a half in 15 minutes.
How To Do USMC Pull Ups & Flexed Arm Hangs
So, in order to pass the initial strength test (IST) and do well in boot camp, future Marine recruits should really focus on arm strength exercises. The pull-ups and flexed-arm hangs are among the most common elements of the IST that recruits fail. Pull ups are worth 5 points on the test.
To be prepared for Marine Corps pull-ups or flexed arm hangs USMC-style, you need to focus your workouts on building up upper arm and upper back strength.To build up your biceps, start with a standing easy bar curl or dumbbell curls. Make sure your elbows stay in towards your sides and don’t flare out, otherwise you aren’t exercising the muscles you need to focus on. Do each lift and then stop and start again without using momentum to help. In the Marines, you need to come to a full stop before doing your next pull up. Warm up with a set of 10-12 repetitions. Then do a set until you can’t complete a full lift WITHOUT losing your form. Don’t use momentum. Don’t stick your elbows out. Don’t bend your back. Try to do the same number for each arm.
If you have a hard time completing a single pull-up (it’s common, don’t feel bad, just work harder), you’ll want a spotter. Try to complete a pull up, then do three sets of lateral pull-downs. Do a set of 8-12 repetitions for warm-up, followed by two sets of 6-8 repetitions. If this is easy for you, increase the weights or increase the number of repetitions. Doing push-ups can also really help for people who struggle with pull-ups and flexed arm hangs because push ups strengthen your chest area which is a big part of completing a pull up or flexed arm hang.
As your ability to perform pull ups or flexed arm hangs increases, keep improving by adding a dip belt to your workout.
You may also want to check out the boot camp training schedule to see what kinds of activities recruits are expected to perform and where in the training matrix those activities fall on. You’ll want to certainly be physically fit for the early workouts, but you’ll also want to think about things you expect to be difficult for you and put some extra training time on those. For example, if you struggle with swimming, you’ll want to concentrate on your “swimming muscles” and include swimming as part of your training workout.
See our next post about USMC boot camp run training.