In all branches of the military, physical fitness is an important requirement. Marines take TWO physical fitness tests every six months, to evaluate their functional fitness, conditioning, and strength. The Physical Fitness Test (PFT) includes a timed three-mile run, pull-ups, flexed-arm hang, and abdominal crunches, and is as rigorous as it sounds. The Combat Fitness Test (CFT) is the other fitness standard the Marines must meet in addition to the PFT. The CFT assesses a Marine’s functional fitness and simulates events and movements done in the field or combat zone. Males and females perform the same exercises and are scored on a 300-point scale.
There are three exercises that must be completed to the standards of the Marine Corps to pass the CFT:
1. Movement to Contact - A timed, 880-yard sprint tests each Marine’s endurance, mimicking the stresses of running under pressure in battle.
2. Ammunition Lift - Marines must lift a 30-pound ammunition can overhead until elbows lock out. The goal is to lift the can as many times as possible in a set amount of time.
3. Maneuver Under Fire - Marines must complete a 300-yard course that combines a variety of battle-related challenges including crawls, ammunition resupply, grenade throwing, agility running, and the dragging and carrying of another Marine.
There are good reasons for having such stringent requirements for Marine recruits. Marine Corps basic training is well-known as being among the most difficult and challenging of all branches of the service. At 12 1/2 weeks, it is the longest, so stamina and physical fitness are necessary. Not only are the fitness standards the toughest, so are the height, weight, and body fat percentage requirements.
Height, Weight and Body Fat Requirements
If a Marine aces the PFT and the CFT for their age group, the body fat measurements do not apply. Even if you were over the body fat percentage, with maximum PT scores, you are exempt (new policy as of January 2017).
Specifically, Exemption from Body Fat Measurement Test will be granted to Marines who score 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT are exempt from weight and body fat limits.
Marines who score 250 and higher on both the PFT and CFT are allowed an additional one percent body fat. MCO 6110.3A performance, they are allowed an additional one percent and are within standards.
(chart from https://www.fitness.marines.mil)
But before newly-enlisted Marines ship out to basic training, they must meet strict weight requirements, referred to as the retention weight standards, based on their height. The other factor is body fat, and there are limits on body fat percentage based on a Marine's age. For male Marines age 17 to 26, the body fat limit is 18 percent. Between age 27 and 39, the limit is 19 percent body fat, and for Marines age 40-45, the body fat limit is 20 percent. For male Marines age 46 and up, the body fat limit is 21 percent.
For female Marines, the body fat percentage limits are slightly higher. Female Marines age 17-26 have a body fat percentage limit of 26 percent. For female Marines age 27 to 39 the limit is 27 percent, and for those age 40 to 45 it's 28 percent. And for female Marines age 46 and over, the body fat percentage limit is 29 percent.
It's important to note that the weight and body fat standards of the Marine Corps are not based on appearance, but are health and performance-based. Marines face numerous tests of endurance and stamina, especially in combat, so being in top physical shape is crucial.
Out of all the branches in the military, the Marine Corps has the most challenging standards of fitness and body fat percentage standards than any branch. Failing to prepare for boot camp for the Marine Corps is preparing to fail.
Conditions for Exceeding the Weight Requirements
Applicants to the Marines who are over the weight limits need a waiver from approved by the Marine Corps Recruiting Region Commanding General, in order to enlist in the delayed entry program (DEP). Such waivers are only approved when the recruit meets the requirements of the initial strength test (IST) and doesn't exceed the body fat requirements.
Male recruits who are over the retention weight standards may be able to attend basic training under a few specific conditions. If a male recruit is within five percent of the retention weight standard for their height and passes the IST, he doesn't need a waiver.
But if a male recruit is more than five percent over the retention weight, he has to pass the IST and get a waiver. If a male recruit is more than 10 percent above the retention weight, he has to pass the IST, have body fat no greater than 18 percent and get a waiver.
If a Marine does not pass the height and weight standards, he or she will be given the circumference tape test, which measures girth of the neck and stomach. Using a body fat percentage algorithm, as long as the Marine is within the limits of body fat percentage for their age, they're considered acceptable.