Category Archives: USMC Boot Camp Training

IST Run Workout | How To Train for Marines Boot Camp

How To Train for USMC Boot Camp

A lot of recruits prep for boot camp training by setting their targets on passing the initial strength test (IST). Well, that’s certainly something to think about, but what you really want to be training for is getting your body ready for extensive, rigorous training. In other words, don’t aim for the bare minimum requirements that allow you to participate in recruit training. You should really be preparing to get your body ready for the more long-term goal of really completing boot camp with the best results possible.

How To Train for Boot Camp Running

To properly train for boot camp, you really want to be working more towards the physical fitness test (PFT) that is tested on day 60 of boot camp, rather than the IST test, which simply gets you in.

The PFT test is comprised of three tests and based on your performance, you get points up to 300. The lowest passing score is 150, with minimums for each of the three tests. Males recruits must run 3 miles within 28 minutes to pass and female recruits must run 3 miles in at least 31 minutes to pass.

If you can and you have enough time before shipping out, aim to regularly run 4 miles. That way, you’ll definitely be able to complete the minimum on the physical fitness test, and you’ll already be quite used to doing even more than that. That’s ideal though; don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t there yet. Absolutely get yourself to do at least the IST minimums, and from there, just keep trying to go longer or faster. If you can only do the bare minimum, your chances of being held back for additional physical training is a lot more likely in boot camp, and it isn’t fun to not graduate with your platoon.

See our initial post on Marine Boot Camp Workouts.

Marine Corps Boot Camp Training Workouts

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 it, but also in excelling and actually graduating 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. Rather than just aiming to complete it, you should try to be platoon leader or graduate at the top of your class. Even if you don’t complete those goals, it’s where you should have your focus.Even if you play high school sports or you’re already fit, 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.

Marine Corps Recruit Knowledge

What does someone interesting in going into the Marines need to know? What is crucial important knowledge that recruits can focus on before going to boot camp? Well, there’s a lot to memorize and a lot that can help…more really than just a simple checklist. The best thing you can do is read as much as possible from a variety of sources. You want to know some specific details to memorize, but you also just want to read about Marine Corps life and culture.

Read About the Marine Corps on Wikipedia

Obviously you should first read about the corps at marinecorpsrecruits.com…and no we aren’t biased. OK, maybe a little bit. Seriously though, Wikipedia has tons of basic information that will simply help you get a general understanding of what the Marine Corps is about: the history of the Corps, specific details on different units, information on any MOS you may be interested in, etc. Pretty much anything that you might be curious about will have a nice summary in Wikipedia, so it’s a nice source for Marine Corps topic overviews.

Learn The Marine Corps Chain of Command: Including the Current USMC Commandant

You’ll have to learn the chain of command during boot camp, but wouldn’t it be really great if you didn’t need to spend your extremely limited free time trying to memorize the chain of command when you could’ve simply squared that away before your shipped off for boot camp? And here’s a tip: great Marines go the extra mile. That means, don’t just learn the ranks and names of the chain of command. Find out the real names of your leaders. You will of course not know all of them before you are at boot camp, but you can certainly find out the name of the highest ranked Marine. You don’t want to get caught not knowing that one; it’s like not knowing who the President is. (There’s a joke in there for anyone paying attention).

Become Familiar With Marine Corps Terminology

When you first arrive at boot camp, one of the first things you’ll learn is that Marine Corps terminology is a little different than at home. At boot camp, and throughout your military careers, you’ll be expected to use the “correct” Marine Corps words. Don’t say window, say port hole. Don’t say hat, say cover. There’s a bunch of Marine Corps terminology that you’ll learn in boot camp. Get a head start on that before you go so that you don’t slip up and end up forcing you and your platoon to do more push ups.

Memorize the Marine Corps General Orders

Learn the Marine Corps General Orders before you ship out to boot camp. There are only 11 and they’re pretty important, so recite them until you can say them in your sleep. Have someone pick a number 1 through 11 and recite the order of the number they’ve chosen. If you can only recite the orders in chronological order, you’ve haven’t really learned them. Your drill instructor will most likely yell a random number at you and expect you to call it back, so make it easy on yourself.

Read Books on Marine Corps History and Boot Camp

There’s really no substitute for a thorough book on Marine Corps history or boot camp. There are several boot camp specific guidebooks or first hand accounts out there. We wrote a post suggesting some good Marine Corps Books and guidebooks for anyone headed to boot camp soon. There are more, find a few that appeal to you.

Marine Corps Recruit Abuse

In 2007, a Drill Instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Sergeant Jerrod M. Glass, was charged with 244 counts of recruit abuse. Shortly after, Sergeant Brian M. Wende, Sergeant Robert C. Hankins and Sergeant Mark A. Delarosa were brought up on similar or related charges.

For Sgt. Delarosa, one of his former recruits said he had been spit on and had been kicked in the shin during drill practice. Captain Patrick J. Callahan, part of Delarosa’s defense counsel, tried to claim that Delarosa simply cared about how his recruits would perform in battle in Iraq and made statements about how the Marines are not like the Air Force or Army. “We push these recruits. We say mean things to recruits.”

This is a poor example of DI behavior. There are strict guidelines about what is allowed and not allowed in boot camp and the rules and guidelines set forth in the standard operating procedure (SOP) are there partially to protect recruits.

It is intentional for Drill Instructor to seem like “Gods” to the recruits. Drill instructors create an environment where recruits are made to feel that they are always being watched. Most of the time, this is not a bad thing as, at its root, the objective is to get recruits trained to obey the chain of command and really focus on their goals. But effective training also requires recruits to have trust in their Drill Instructors, and that means Drill Instructors must absolutely adhere to a set of boundaries.

There is often an old-school mentality that recruits come from undisciplined backgrounds and need the tough-love attitude to wake them up and show them what its like to be tough. How else are they going to be ready for battle right?

Wrong. Thousands of Marines are trained every year by dedicated Drill Instructors who successfully complete their training responsibilities without ignoring standard operating procedures. There are thousands of former recruits, current Marines, who are or have been in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan who performed remarkably without being trained by undisciplined, wayward Drill Instructors.

The USMC takes it seriously, so recruits, if your DI is breaking the law, you do have the USMC’s own rules on your side. The Senior Drill Instructor is personally responsible for the behavior of DI’s under their command and at any time in your training, you may report abuse. During the 3rd phase of training, the Company Commander will hold a hearing with each recruit to ask, point blank, if your DI ever made inappropriate contact with you. If you end up receiving any medical treatment, you’ll be asked how it happened and any infraction or suspicion is supposed to be investigated.

Are Drill Instructors allowed to swear and cuss at recruits?

No, drill instructors are not supposed to swear or cuss at recruits. They do yell…a lot. Drill instructors are known to come up with some much more interesting alternatives than swearing that, at least in retrospect, gives recruits much more memorable “words of wisdom”.

Can drill instructor’s hit you?

Absolutely not. No. Drill Instructors are fully capable of challenging you without abusing the recruit-drill instructor power dynamic. They can instill discipline through working you out until you cry, but if a DI hits or kicks a recruit, they may lose their rank or even be court marshaled.

Marine Corps Recruit Parents

Marine Corps Recruit Training

Marine recruit training happens at Parris Island, SC or San Diego, CA. Both USMC recruit depots are used for the training of enlisted Marines. Training is broken down into three phases.

Three Phases of Recruit Training

The first phase involves basic instruction and physical and mental challenges. This phase is often one of the toughest mentally for recruits because they are not yet familiar with the Corps or their fellow recruits; it’s a brand new world for most of them.

The second phase is rifle training. There is a doctrine in the Marines that “Every Marine is a Rifleman.” Every Marine, whether enlisted or officer, is trained in infantry combat abilities no matter what their military occupational specialty (MOS) will be.

The third phase is field training.

Recruit training culminates in a 54-hour “Crucible” that requires recruits to utilize the skills they’ve developed throughout the three phases of training.

When writing letters to your loved one, don’t address them as a Marine. That is a title that they will earn, a prideful moment at the end of training. Don’t send them gifts or anything except letters, as they will not be able to receive them. The three months of recruit training are 100% dedicated to making sure they are graduate boot camp with skills that may save their lives or the lives of their fellow Marines.

Tips for Parents of Marine Recruits

  • Give your loved one letters of encouragement and remind them of how proud you are of them. There will be times when they’ll be doubting themselves and your letters can give them a major morale boost.
  • Don’t send any gifts or supplies. They will not not receive them. The Marine Corps will supply them with everything they’ll need. Recruits can only receive letters.
  • Do not address them as “Marine” in letters; that is a title earned at the end of boot camp.
  • Do not wait for phone calls, that is rarely allowed. Similarly, don’t expect letters all the time as recruit life is very scheduled and hectic; they will usually be allowed brief time in the evenings and on Sundays, but those time blocks often need to be used for studying and preparing their uniforms and so on.
  • Send them off with a family photo; they’ll be able to put it in their footlocker and will help remind them that you’re proud and supporting them.
  • Don’t write about negative or stressful things in your letters. They’ll be going through a lot of stress already and should be able to focus on their training.
  • Don’t be discouraged if their letters sound scared/frustrated at first. The earliest days of boot camp are typically when recruits are feeling the most unease and questioning if they made the right choice. Morale and pride develops at training progresses and they’ve made progress and start to view their fellow recruits as part of their team.

How to Do Pull-Ups USMC-Style

In boot camp, all male Marine recruits are required to do pull-ups. Women have to do flexed-arm hangs, which are just as important and can be an extra pain because they don’t get a moment to rest and mentally readjust (not to mention that if a woman is honestly holding it as long as possible, her muscles will start to shake and some people get embarrassed…but it’s what should actually happen). This article, however, focuses on just pull ups because the technique is different.

How To Do Marine Corps Pull Ups

The correct way to start your pull-ups is to mount the bar with your hands facing toward you or away from you. You may do one or the other, but both hands must face the same direction. Your legs do not have to stay straight; they may be held straight or bent as long as they are not raised above your waist.

In boot camp, recruits must lift their chin ABOVE the bar and then fully extend their arms again. Kicking to gain momentum is not permitted. Recruits are required to come to a full pause in the down position to prevent any momentum movements to help boost the recruit up.

How Many Pull Ups Do Marines Have to Do?

Each pull-up on the PFT is worth 5 points, and is scored up to a max of 100 points (20 pull-ups). The minimum required number of pulls ups for male recruits is 3 pull-ups.

Marines The Crucible

For 54 straight hours, recruits’ endurance, teamwork and skills will be pushed to the limit. Through perseverance and courage, they will finish as platoons and earn the title Marine.

For USMC recruits, the final and ultimate test of boot camp is The Crucible.

During The Crucible, recruits must:

Overcome Obstacles as a team
Perform lengthy day and night marches
Night infiltration movement
Complete combat resupply and casualty evacuation scenarios
Team combat field firing
Leadership tests
Core values training
Perform with very little sleep and food

FAQ About The Crucible

Q. What is the army equivalent of the Crucible?

What the Marines call “the Crucible”, the army calls “Victory Forge”.

Q. How hard is the Crucible in boot camp?

Hard. It’s definitely a challenge, the hardest physical and mental challenge that most recruits have ever faced, however, it comes after weeks of boot camp training. Recruits have been trained to handle anything that comes their way during the Crucible. The hardest two parts for many recruits are the lack of sleep and completing the obstacles as a team. It’s not as hard as special forces courses, but it is often considered the hardest of the military branches basic training programs.

Q. What happens if I fail the Crucible?

Failing the Crucible is an unlikely event. If you’ve managed to make it all the way through boot camp training, you’ll be able to pass the Crucible. It is a challenge, but recruits are physically fit by that point in training and it does not require skills that have not already been stressed throughout boot camp. However, if a recruit were to “fail” the Crucible, they would be recycled back into the company graduating after them and they would have a chance to try it again.

Gas Chamber Training Boot Camp Video

Within the first few weeks of boot camp, USMC recruits will learn how to rely on their gas masks and will go into a gas chamber. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience, but it is not deadly and teaches recruits how to avoid panic in the chance that they may have to serve in an environment with hazardous materials.

Watch Marine Recruits Train In The Gas Chamber At Boot Camp

Recruits and the Gas Chamber

About three weeks into boot camp, during Weapons and Field training, recruits will be trained on how to use a gas mask. As part of this training, recruits will be led to a gas chamber where they will have to take off their masks. It’s not a particularly pleasant thing to experience, but no permanent damage will occur.

It is preceded by classroom training, where recruits are instructed on how to use a gas mask and why it is important.

Q. What kind of gas is used in the Marine boot camp gas chamber?

A. The gas is called chlorobenzylidene malonitrile, CS gas for short. The gas is non-lethal, used by all military branches and police departments. It’s the gas that is commonly used to disperse riots, unruly gatherings, and so on.

Q. How long are recruits in the gas chamber without their masks on?

While it may seem a lot longer, the truth is that recruits are only in the gas chamber for a matter of minutes, usually 3-5.

Q. What happens inside of the gas chamber?

Recruits enter the gas chamber with their gas masks on. The door to the gas chamber will then be closed. It is a somewhat disconcerting feeling, but it is done for good reason and recruits all go in together at the same time. Recruits are then instructed to break the seal on their gas masks. Recruits will inevitably feel and inhale some of the gas and recruits eyes will start to water, some coughing usually happens. They will then be told to re-seal their masks again.

Then, recruits will be instructed to remove their masks more by putting them on top of their heads. This time recruits will start to feel the gas more as it reaches their lungs. Their eyes get very watery, coughing gets more intense and the gas can be felt on the skin…a mild burning sensation similar to a sunburn. Some recruits tend to start to panic at this stage as they feel that they are losing control. That is actually one of the points of this exercise, to help train recruits to regain control and rely on their training.

The recruits are directed to put their masks back on, regaining control again. Then, for a third time, recruits are instructed to remove their masks, this time entirely. They are told to hold their masks out in front of them. They are then told to leave the gas chamber with their arms spread out. Recruits typically come out with watery eyes, coughing…some recruits even throw up.

Q. What’s the purpose of the gas chamber in boot camp?

The goal is to get recruits to understand and have confidence in their gas masks. It’s to train them that the mask will protect them so that they will not have doubts about it when it’s actually being used in battle or on a mission. It teaches them that if they do inhale tear gas, they will not die from it. It teaches them to regain control if they start to panic.