Some Marines have doubted whether women have the upper body strength needed to do pullups properly, but data from the latest Physical Fitness Tests is proving otherwise.
Starting in January, female Marines were no longer allowed do the flexed-arm hang on the PFT. Now, both men and women have a choice between doing pullups and pushups.
In 2017, about 9,500 women ― or 65 percent of all female Marines ― opted to do pullups, said Brian McGuire, deputy director of the Marine Corps’ Force Fitness Division. Nearly half of them did enough for maximum PFT points.
Last year, roughly 2,000 female Marines did pullups when the flexed-arm hang was still an option.
Since the flexed-arm hang was phased out on Jan. 1, female Marines between ages 17 and 20 have been required to do seven pullups to get the maximum of 100 points on that section of PFT.
Of all the female Marines who opted to do pullups, nearly half did at least seven. Of those, just under 1,000 did seven pullups; about 800 women did eight pullups; 1,300 did nine pullups and roughly 1,000 did 10, McGuire told Marine Corps Times.
The average number of pullups for all female Marines in 2017 was seven, but averages can be misleading, McGuire said, because both male and female Marines tend to come off the bar after maxing out their score, even if they are strong enough to do more pullups.
The communities with the most female Marines opting for pullups instead of pushups were Officer Candidates School and The Basic School, said McGuire, who expects that both the number of women who do pullups and how many pullups they can do will rise going forward.
Former Marine Maj. Kyleanne Hunter said the results show the benefits of having male and female Marines train side-by-side.
“Given that TBS and OCS were the communities with the highest number, I think it highlights how both training and mixed-gender units have a positive impact on women’s ability to compete with their male counterparts,” Hunter told Marine Corps Times.
Phasing out the flexed arm hang was one of several changes to the PFT and Combat Fitness Test that took effect this year. Although all of the services have separate physical standards for men and women, the recent updates to the PFT and CFT have come closer to being gender-neutral.
Not only do both female and male Marines have to do pullups for the first time, but men and women have to do nearly the same number of crunches on to get a maximum score on the PFT, and women are doing more ammo can lifts for the CFT.
“Whether intentional or not, the Marine Corps has been evolving toward a single fitness standard,” Lt. Col. Misty Posey, who took command of the Corps’ only female recruit training battalion in July, told Marine Corps Times earlier this year.
She made clear she was not advocating any changes to Marine Corps policy.
The Marine Corps has released advice about how female Marines can successfully train to do pullups.