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Marines prep women for new pullup requirement on fitness test

Oct. 9, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Ariel Arvidson, a 17-year-old high school student, maxes out her time during the flexed-arm hang portion of an initial strength test at the Recruiting Station Twin Cities, Minn., mini boot camp. Her recruiter is responsible for helping female poolees develop their upper-body strength in preparation for pullups. (Cpl. Ali Azimi/Marine Corps)
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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VA. — With less than three months before female Marines will be required to perform pullups on the Physical Fitness Test, commands across the fleet are focused on ensuring everyone is ready — starting with women new to the Corps.

Starting Jan. 1, women will be required to complete three pullups in order to pass the PFT. If they want a perfect score, they’ll need to do eight. And the best practice for doing pullups is simple, said Maj. Gen. Tom Murray, head of Training and Education Command: Just do pullups.

But for many, the change won’t come easy, he said. Which is why his command has been working closely with others to spread information to Marines, and even poolees who are enrolled in the Corps’ delayed entry program.

“We’re continuously reassessing the programs that we have put up and that are on the website to focus them on what’s most effective,” Murray said.

That website,, was launched in February. It includes downloadable guides for women at each level of the pullups process, from new poolees preparing for boot camp to those who can do pullups and want to sustain.

The preparation program for poolees has them working to build upper-body strength three days per week over six weeks. It suggests assisted, jumping or kipping pullups. The plan also includes other full-body exercises like pushups, burpees and sprints.

Maj. Gen. Mark Brilakis, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, said that once a poolee is in the delayed entry program, recruiters make clear that they’ll be required to perform pullups. It’s also worked into the initial strength test, he said, and the training recruiters run with their poolees.

“[Once] they’ve signed a contract and are awaiting shipment, they will probably go run PT one to two times per week,” Brilakis said. “Every one of those things involves physical training. They’ll be taught about things that they can do to increase their upper body strength and give them an opportunity to become stronger.”

Once the poolees ship off to boot camp, Murray said, athletic trainers there pick up where recruiters leave off.

“Probably one of the biggest things we’ve done down at entry level training is to put into the curriculum parts that focus on building upper-body strength and being able to do pullups,” he said.

Beyond boot camp, preparing for the new pullups requirements has become a part of unit PT. Like the program designed for poolees, the initial and advance program guides on the TECOM fitness website are three-day-a-week, six-week plans.

Female Marines were given a year to transition from the flexed-arm hang portion of the PFT. The Marine Corps announced the planned change last November. TECOM’s fitness website followed about two months later.

Marines can click on each exercise listed on the guides to watch a demonstration video. Once they move through the initial and advanced programs, they move into the sustainment phase, which has them doing exercises every day.

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