The pull-up portion of the PFT is typically either a big help in points, (especially for those who struggle on the 3-mile run) or it can hurt your score pretty significantly if you’re having trouble with them.

Since 20 pull-ups is a perfect score (100 points), each pull-up is worth 5 points towards your overall PFT Score. This is why they are so important, adding on a single pull-up is the equivalent of adding 5 crunches or taking 50 seconds off of your run time.  So if you’re struggling to put up a good number in the pull-ups, it’s imperative that you put more focus into them.

Keep in mind that not every Marine can or ever will bust out 20 pullups, so don’t panic. I know we’d all love to hit the 20 mark, but reality says that not all of us ever will for one reason or another and there is nothing wrong with this. Like in any USMC event, as long as you give it 100 percent all the time, you will be fine. There is no need to panic if you are enlisting into the USMC and can only do 1-3 pull-ups. This is actually very common and most of you will improve your pull-ups while in the DEP up to the 12-18 pull-up range, so once again, don’t panic.

You also need to understand that you must do a proper “USMC” pull-up in order for it to count. They will not count your pull-ups if they are not done in the proper manner. Here are some basic rules in regards to official Marine Corps pull-ups and as always, you can ask your recruiter to show you how to do them or you can watch the following video:

  • You can do them either palms in or palms out. This includes while in boot camp and as a Marine. Find which method works best for you, and master it.
  • When you mount the pull-up bar, you must hang there for a second or two until they tell you to begin. You don’t just hop on the bar and start busting them out. No sir.
  • Your chin must cross the bar, so having your head tilted back will give you an advantage.
  • You can rest while doing your pull-up and you can adjust your hands.You just can’t get off the bar and get back on.
  • When you come down, your elbows must lock out completely (dead hang) before you go back up. If they don’t, your pull-up wont count.
  • When you are done, you must dead hang until told to get off. You do not just jump off the bar when you feel like it.
  • You cannot flap and sway all over the place while doing pull-ups. You must be in control.

Your ultimate goal is to be able to complete 20+ perfect pull-ups and earn that total 100 points toward your PFT.  But for now it’s important that you set a realistic goal within a realistic time frame.  If you can only do 5 pull-ups now, don’t expect to be doing 20 within a month. Here is the method that Future Jarheads preaches and it seems to work wonders for your confidence level if you follow this plan:

If you cannot bust out 15 pull-ups right now, then you need to not worry about the 20 pull-up mark. Let’s say you can only bust out 3 pull-ups. Your next goal should be 5. Once you reach this level, your next goal should be 10. Once you hit 10 pull-ups, you want to make your next goal 15 and once you can bang out 15 on a regular basis, you shoot for 20. By doing it this way, you gain some confidence as you reach each goal mark. You should always aim for your next goal. Since no one jumps from 2-3 pull-ups to 20 overnight, this is why you have to set smaller goals that are more realistic. Most people will improve quickly up to a certain number and then they will hit a wall. So don’t panic and don’t worry if you can’t reach a certain number. We all are not made to bust out 20 pull-ups, so be very honest with yourself.

Not everyone is a pull-up stud. Some guys can hop on the bar for the first time and bust out 20, while others can train for months and still fail to reach the mark. 

For those who are taller and have longer arms, pull-ups are going to be more difficult as there is a greater range of motion to be covered.  Logic also tells us that if you are heavier, it will be more difficult, so for those of you who are heavier and trying to lose weight, you will most likely notice your pull-ups slowly increasing as you shed the extra pounds. That does not mean to wait until the pounds are off to start training with them.

Be sure to read through the comments for some advice and tips about pull-ups from your peers. And if you have anything to add, feel free to do so.

17 responses

  1. Joe

    I use to think all Marines can do 20, but now I know better.

    August 2, 2011 at 18:13

  2. This is the best thing for pull ups http://www.chicagomarineofficer.com/Downloads/PT/thearmstrongworkout.pdf its called the Arm Strong pull up Program

    August 3, 2011 at 12:11

  3. Ethan

    im at 17 pull ups. I dont believe this part of the PFT is to difficult but i also i am also lightweighted. My advice is if you have a pull up bar at home, use it every time you get a chance. Do them when you wake up, when you go to bed, after you take a shower…basically any spare time you have. I dont have a pull up bar at my house so i just go to the gym every day. When ever i hit the gym, my primary goal is to do pull ups consistantly throughout the workout ( about an hour or 2). I would reccomend anyone to get a pullup bar that will fit in a door. Again, i dont have one but i know you will see significant improvement.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:22

  4. Gor

    Gor Mnjoyan My average overhand( the hard pull ups) was probably 5. Underhand was about 12. My tip is very simple, repetition. Try doing as many pull ups as you can a few times a day, and you will see results. I’ve been doing pull ups for a few days straight and now my overhand(hard pull ups) go up to about 12. Another tip is, change your grips to wide or narrow, you’ll be surprised at how comfortable you’ll get after getting used to it. Also, since you use back muscles for overhand, a good pull up to get your back strong is called a chin up, but you put your hands in the middle of the pull up bar right next to each other(its the concept of the diamond push up) so when your hands are next to each other, and you do a pull up, you should feel your back muscles tense. And that’s one thing that has helped me.

    August 3, 2011 at 13:04

  5. pyramids(1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1), weight pull ups(once i got to 5), push ups, and PATIENCE did wonders for me. Just do them it’s the only way you can get better

    August 3, 2011 at 13:17

  6. Gianni

    guess just keep practicing when i first met my recruiter he was really blown that i couldn’t do a pull up just keep trying if u can’t reach the bar practice hanging or get a stool or chair and lay the top part of ur feet on the seat and pull urself up and slowly go down

    August 3, 2011 at 14:03

  7. kach

    put a pull up bar in ur room (for about 15$) and do as many as u can everyday

    August 3, 2011 at 18:56

  8. kach

    i did that and got 22

    August 3, 2011 at 18:57

  9. Trey

    What got me doing 24 pull ups was just doing pull ups. like 3 days a week do 75 pull ups a day. do as many as you can untill you reach 75.

    August 3, 2011 at 21:25

  10. Jesse

    Best advice I have for improving pull ups is to work on them often and do as many as you can until you just cant force your self to get another one, and then have someone spot you and make you work for some more.

    August 4, 2011 at 00:12

  11. Joey

    Buy a cheap pullup bar at walmart and hang it in your room and do some pullps every day. That is what worked for me.

    May 29, 2013 at 19:22

  12. Chris Shirley

    Can you do the pull ups with your palms facing you for Marine Recon?

    October 16, 2013 at 14:27

    • Either way is fine. Just do them which ever ways is easiest for you.

      October 18, 2013 at 09:29

  13. Josh Jordan

    As a current poolee, when I first joined back in June 2014, I was doing bout 7-8 pull ups. After being in a car accident in July, I had to start at 0 and work my way up. Ammo can lifts definitely helped me to build the strength back in my arms. Also if you have a weight vest or even a backpack that you can put some weight in to cause “resistance” this will also help a lot.

    September 23, 2014 at 22:41

  14. Quigs

    20140706 was the day I went through MEPS, there I did 11 pull ups and 55 crunches weighing in at 130 pounds. Now, just shy of 4 months later I am maxing out pull ups and sit ups with a 9:45 run weighing in at 137 pounds. In that time I ran 5 days out of the week for 2 miles or so, and did upper body workouts every other day such as ammo can lifts, pull ups, and diamond push ups. Just keep active, and make sure you are doing pull ups the easiest way possible which will yield a higher count. Bang them out as fast as you can, tilt your head back, and drop like a rock as soon as your chin is even with the bar. Good luck and train hard.

    October 25, 2014 at 22:09

  15. Luke

    I have been doing push-ups and my maximum amount of pull-ups almost everyday. I haven’t seen much improvement so I was wondering what else I can do to improve the number of pull-ups I can do.

    November 9, 2014 at 08:31

    • Just follow some of the tips and advice in this page and maybe try the “Advanced” section in this site.

      November 15, 2014 at 07:55

Sound off with your comments!! Don't be shy!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers