Marine Corps Initial Strength Test (IST)

Marine Corps Initial Strength Test (IST)

The USMC Physical Fitness Test is administered every six months. All Marines are provided time to train and are expected to maintain an adequate degree of physical fitness.

The standard physical fitness test consists of three events that measure cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and endurance and mobility.

Fitness changes within the Marine Corps are ever evolving. Over the past several years, the service added the Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and updated the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and the Initial Strength Test (IST) for new recruits.

The Corps is also adding the option to replace crunches with the plank pose, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Fitness is essential to the day-to-day effectiveness and combat readiness of the Marine Corps. The service considers physical fitness an indispensable aspect of leadership. The habits of self-discipline required to gain and maintain a high level of physical fitness are inherent to the Marine Corps way of life and must be a part of the character of every Marine. Marines who are not physically fit can be a detriment to the readiness and combat efficiency of their units. Accordingly, every Marine should engage in an effective PCP on a continuing and progressive basis.

The Initial Strength Test for Recruits

If you are thinking about joining the Marine Corps, you will have to pass the Initial Strength Test (IST). The IST is a shortened version of the PFT. A recruit only has to do pull-ups, push press, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run. The IST is the first physical test aspiring Marines must pass in order to attend recruit training. You should practice it on your own before your first time taking it with Marines.

The IST consists of four events: Pull-Ups, Crunches, Timed Run and Ammo Can Lift. The minimum and recommended standards for Marine recruits selecting a load-bearing military occupational specialty and passing the Initial Strength Test are as follows:

Minimum Standards Recommended Standards
3 Pull-ups 10-15 Pull-ups
45 Ammo Can Lifts 76+ Ammo Can Lifts
44 Crunches (2 minutes) 80-100 Crunches (2 minutes)
1.5-Mile Run in 13:30 1.5-Mile Run in sub-10:30

Those Marines who are not selecting a load-bearing activity MOS like infantry and artillery etc. should be able to pass the IST with the following minimums:

Men have to complete a 1.5-mile run in 13 minutes and 30 seconds; women have 15 minutes. Both men and women must do 44 crunches in two minutes.

Minimum Standards Recommended Standards
2 Pull-ups (men)

12-sec flexed arm hang (women)

10-15 Pull-ups (men)

3 pull-ups (women)

44 Crunches (2 minutes) 80-100 Crunches (2 minutes)
1.5-mile Run in 13:30 (men)

1.5-mile Run in 15:00 (women)

1.5-mile Run in sub-10:30 (men)

1.5-mile Run in sub-12:00 (women)

But the goal is NOT to be at the minimum standards – strive for better than that. Reaching for the maximums is more of the Marine way of thinking and doing.


Note from Author: These recommended standards are MY recommendations, not the military’s, for candidates PRIOR to attending boot camp. Keep in mind that attending boot camp or any Marine Corps training with only minimum standards will not serve you well to be a top performer. In fact, achieving ONLY the minimum standards creates more problems for you with injuries, remedial PT/running programs, and distracting you from learning your true job: Being a Marine.

Exceeding the Standard IS the standard!

The Marine Corps is a challenging profession. More information can be found at the Stew Smith article archive.

For more specific info on the USMC PFT:

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