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Pull-ups for women? Not going to happen

Jan. 16, 2012 - 08:14AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2012 - 08:14AM  |  
Female Marines will continue to perform the flexed-arm hang as part of the Physical Fitness Test. A plan to offer women the option of pull-ups has been tabled.
Female Marines will continue to perform the flexed-arm hang as part of the Physical Fitness Test. A plan to offer women the option of pull-ups has been tabled. (Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey / Marine Corps)
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The Corps has tabled a plan to add pull-ups to the PFT for female Marines. The following scoring system was proposed and circulated within Training and Education Command and obtained by Marine Corps Times last year. Men’s scoring would not have changed.
For women
Pull-ups       points

6       100
5       95
4       90
3       85
2       80
1       75
Flexed-arm hang#
Seconds       points

70       70
69       69
68       68
67       67
66       66
65       65
64       64
63       63
62       62
61       61
60       60
For men
Pull-ups       Points

20       100
19       95
18       90
17       85
16       80
15       75
14       70
13       65
12       60
11       55
10       50
9       45
8       40
7       35
6       30
5       25
4       20
3       15
# Women who complete the flexed-arm hang for less than 60 seconds are given one point for each second they maintain the hold, with 15 seconds/points as a minimum.


A plan that would toughen the Physical Fitness Test for women by adding pull-ups has been put off indefinitely.

"The discussion to change the upper-body strength test for female Marines has been tabled for the time being, with no indication of when [or] if the conversation may resume," said 1st Lt. Scott Villiard, a Training and Education Command spokesman in Quantico, Va., via email.

Details of the plan to add pull-ups for women were outlined in a June 17 decision paper from TECOM. The document recommended instituting the plan in January, but no changes to the PFT have been made.

The paper was a pre-decisional draft, Villiard said. TECOM officials declined to elaborate on why the plan was scuttled.

Under the plan, the only way female Marines could earn a 100 percent score was if they tackled pull-ups. However, the flexed-arm hang the current measure of upper-body strength for women would have remained an option.

The change would have allowed women to score up to 70 points for holding a flexed-arm hang. One pull-up, however, would be worth 75 points and each additional would be worth five. A perfect score would require six pull-ups. If a female opts for pull-ups but fails, she would be given time to recover and retry with the flexed-arm hang.

"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," stated the decision paper, which was prepared by Brian McGuire, the physical readiness programs officer for the Corps.

Male Marines must perform at least three pull-ups for a minimum score of 15. They get five more points for each additional pull-up, which requires 20 for a perfect score.

TECOM conducted research in 2011 at 12 locations across the Corps. A study of 318 female Marines found that on average, they could perform 1.63 pull-ups. More than 21 percent performed at least three, and 37 percent performed at least three when lower-body movement a banned practice frequently known as "kip" was allowed.

TECOM officials recommended awarding 100 points for six pull-ups because that matched the capabilities of the top 10 percent of female Marines studied.

The paper raised at least one concern, noting that female Marine PFT scores would likely dip in 2012 if the new test was adopted. However, that was expected to increase again after pull-ups and other strength training was incorporated into exercise programs. That was the result for men when dead-hang pull-ups were adopted in 1997.

Despite the pull-up plan being put on hold, Villiard said, "All Marines are encouraged to enhance their training to include functional upper-body strength training."

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