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Female Marines may face pull-ups for PFT

Jul. 10, 2011 - 10:21AM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 10, 2011 - 10:21AM  |  
A female Marine performs a flexed-arm hang.
A female Marine performs a flexed-arm hang. ()
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The Marine Corps is considering an overhaul of the Physical Fitness Test for women that would incorporate a new upper-body strength test requiring pull-ups for a perfect score.

Details of the plan are outlined in a June 17 decision paper developed by Training and Education Command, out of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Obtained by Marine Corps Times, it recommends that women be allowed to score up to 70 points for maintaining the existing flexed-arm hang up to 70 seconds. To score more on the 100-point upper-body strength scale, they'd need to do pull-ups.

Completing one pull-up would be worth 75 points on a 100-point scale, with five points awarded for each additional pull-up, the document says. A perfect score would be obtained with six pull-ups.

Male Marines must perform pull-ups on their version of the PFT, with three pull-ups required for a minimum 15-point score, and five points awarded for each additional repetition through 20 and a perfect 100-point score. The other two 100-point tests in the PFT crunches and the three-mile run would not be altered for men or women, under the proposal.

The decision paper recommends that the proposal be adopted and announced in a Marine administrative message in September. It would go into effect in January.

"This recommendation incorporates a valid upper body strength test on the female PFT which requires minimal equipment and is safe, valid, and repeatable," said the decision paper, prepared by Brian Mcguire, physical readiness programs officer for the Corps.

"Training for the test also will improve performance in military tasks. Recognizing that many female Marines may not be able to do pull-ups initially, retaining the [flexed-arm hang] albeit in a devalued manner is a good introductory measure."

Marine officials confirmed the decision paper exists, but said it is an "action officer level document" still under consideration. Information was collected in March and April during a related study involving 318 female Marines.

"The data obtained during the collection period is being used to determine the most suitable test for upper-body strength, and work still needs to be done before any recommendations for PFT changes are presented for decision," said 1st Lt. Brian "Scott" Villiard, a TECOM spokesman. "Any discussion surrounding the topic of changes to the female PFT at this time is premature."

After last summer's Sergeants Major Symposium, the Corps' senior enlisted community recommended to now-retired Commandant Gen. James Conway that the service review alternatives to the flexed-arm hang. In October, Marine leadership directed TECOM to do so, and in December the command began looking at push-ups and pull-ups as specific options, the decision paper says.

During the data collection effort, TECOM officials collected information at 12 locations across the Corps. Participants' fitness levels were similar to the average female Marine, based on current PFT and Combat Fitness Test scores, the decision paper says.

The study found that 43 percent performed at least one dead-hang pull-up, and the 318 participants averaged 1.63 pull-ups as a group. More than 21 percent of participants performed at least three, and 37 percent performed at least three when lower-body movement a banned practice frequently known as "kip" was allowed. With lower-body movement, 55 percent of all participants performed at least one pull-up.

TECOM officials reviewing the study recommended awarding a perfect 100-point score for six pull-ups because it corresponds to what the top 10 percent of participants accomplished, the document says. They suggested giving women the option of flexed-arm hang or pull-ups, and allowing those who unsuccessfully attempt pull-ups time to recover and be tested on the flexed-arm hang.

The decision paper suggests that if the proposal is adopted, female Marine PFT scores will likely decrease in 2012, as male scores did after dead-hang pull-ups were adopted in 1997. However, scores would eventually increase as pull-ups and other strength training are incorporated into Marine exercise programs for women, the recommendation says.

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