MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- The semi-annual Physical Fitness Test is just around the corner for most Marines aboard Fightertown, but there is still time to pump-up that all-important PFT score.
"A good PFT is important," said Staff Sergeant Austin P. Snyder, the training staff non commissioned officer-in-charge for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. "It affects your ability to get promoted and some military occupational specialties require a first class PFT."
The first events many Marines face during the PFT are pull-ups and the flexed-arm hang.
"Pull-ups are difficult for most Marines," Snyder said. “With each pull-up being worth five points, each one that you don’t do can hurt you in your overall score.”
Repeatedly performing pull-ups, chin-ups and the flexed-arm hang is the most specific way to get better at doing those exercises, according to Harriet Fisher, a fitness coordinator with Semper Fit. If the Marine cannot perform the desired number of pull-ups, they can try half pull-ups.
Snyder recommends doing pyramid repetitions to improve pull-ups. Start with one pull-up then 10 seconds of rest, two pull-ups and 20 seconds of rest, three pull-ups and 30 seconds of rest, and so on until you are unable to do more repetitions than your previous set. The same principle works for the flexed-arm hang by replacing pull-ups with hanging increments.
“Repetition is the key to success with pull-ups and the flexed-arm hang,” Snyder said. “You need to get your muscles used to pulling your weight over the bar.”
Crunches are the next exercise for many Marines during the PFT.
"A hard thing about crunches for many Marines is form," Snyder explained. "Some Marines forget to breathe between each crunch and burnout. Others forget to keep their arms on their chest which breaks form and may force them to start over."
Crunches should be incorporated into every physical training session, Snyder said.
“A basic rule in strength training is to work opposing muscle groups,” Fisher said. “Middle and lower back exercises should be included in your abdominal training.”
The three-mile run is the last and usually longest event Marines confront during the PFT.
"Sometimes Marines get into trouble at the halfway point of the run," Snyder said. "Many Marines exert too much energy during the first half of the run and don't have enough juice to make it back at the same pace."
Snyder recommends that Marines run in their off time and mix distance runs and sprint sessions to build strength and endurance.
To strengthen the muscles used for running, the basic walking lunge works very well, Fisher explained. The proper form for a lunge is to step out with one leg and lower the rear knee and the body down until the knee almost touches the ground. The forward knee should not extend past the foot.
Whenever Marines run, it is important to think about injury prevention and safety.
"It's important to be safe and stay hydrated," Snyder said. "When you go running, you should wear a reflector vest and carry a source of water. Stretching is also important to prevent injuries and to ensure maximum range of motion.”
Marines should consider running in the morning to avoid summer heat and the high pollen count, Fisher said.
Editor’s note: This is the final story in a three-part series focused on nutrition, running in March in honor of National Nutrition Month.