How to prepare physically for Marine OCS

March 27th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Officer Candidates climb the ropes at Marine OCS

If you are not prepared physically for OCS, you will be sent home, or go home broken.

First of all, the Marines use the Physical Fitness Test to gauge your fitness level. The PFT consists of:

  • Dead hang pullups (as many as you can do without dropping off the bar – highest possible amount is 20)
  • Crunches (2 minute time limit – highest possible amount is 100)
  • 3-mile run in sneakers (shortest possible time is 18 minutes)

OCS Events:
A good portion of every day at OCS will be spent on PT. Some of the events are listed below:

FBDs: Functional Body Development Course
Run Circuit: A circular course in the immediate OCS area consisting of many exercise stations designed to build endurance and overall body strength.
Fartlek Course: A 3 to 4 mile trail, consisting of eight to eleven exercise stations, designed to build endurance.
Obstacle Course: A 100 meter long series of obstacles that must be negotiated in a prescribed amount of time.
Confidence & Tarzan, Courses: A series of high obstacles created to build an individuals self-confidence while teaching military skills.
Combat Readiness Test: Consists of physical events that one could likely face in combat situations.
Conditioning Hikes: These range from 3 to 12 miles with combat gear.
Pugil Sticks: Simulates close combat fighting.
Combat Course: This is a 1.5 mile course which simulates a combat environment by stressing all around security and noise discipline while negotiating a series of obstacles.
Endurance Course: A 2.5 mile course testing a candidate’s physical endurance and ability to cross and negotiate various obstacles.
– Retrieved from on 03/27/2011

At OCS, you generally don’t run more than ~4 miles. Don’t think that just because you’re able to run 4 miles means you will breeze through OCS, nothing can be further from the truth. You will often be running in boots, utility uniform, carrying your M16A2, etc. As for the humps (hikes), they shouldn’t give you much of a problem, as long as you listen to and follow the advice you are given by the staff.

First things first
The first thing you should do it get appropriate running shoes from a running store. You need to get the right kind of sneaker for your foot type and running style.

Make sure you incorporate a stretching routine for all major muscle groups in to your training program! You should know that the #1 cause of disenrollment from OCS is injury. Stretching promotes strength and flexibility, both of which will help you prevent overuse injuries. You will do group stretching at OCS, but I recommend supplementing it with your own.

Training too hard it just as dangerous as not training enough. I can’t stress this enough. If you over train and give yourself a stress fracture, you will be sent home. If you’ve never run before, find a good article on running for beginners. If you’re already in shape, make sure you don’t overdue it with the weekly mileage increases. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to train for OCS, you’ll be glad you did.

The Marine Corps recommends you train for 45–60 minutes at a time, 3–4 times a week, while maintaining a high level of intensity (heart rate of 160–180 BPM). You should run 3–4 miles, twice a week, aiming for 8 minute mile pace at the bare minimum. When I went to OCS I was running just less than 7-minute-miles, and was I was in the slowest third of candidates.

Marine Corps physical fitness centers around the following 7 exercises:

Lateral Pull downs (Latissimus Dorsi)
Squat (Quadriceps)
Bench press (Pectoralis Major)
Pull-ups (Latissimus Dorsi)
Military press (Deltoid)
Bicep curls (Biceps Brachii)
Leg curls (Hamstrings)

Workout Routine
My routine focuses on the seven exercises but also includes other exercises that will help you at OCS. I do 6 days of weight training per week (A, B, C, A, B, C, rest), doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps for each exercise (12 reps for leg exercises).

Day A
Calf press
Leg curls
Leg extensions

Day B
Bench press
Bicep curls
Military press
Shoulder shrugs

Day C
Tricep pushdowns
Pull downs
Dumbbell tricep extensions

All links point to the exercise on so you can see the actual movement I do.

Abs & crunches
As you notice, I did not include abs in the above workout. You should do abs (and lower back, for balance) as often as you need to max the PFT (100 crunches in 2 minutes). I use a decline bench for abs and I do back extensions for my lower back.

To improve your pullups I recommend the Armstrong Pullup Program and the Recon Ron Pullup Program. For crunches, check out Killer’s Crunch Program.

Marine OCS workout plan
The Marine OCS website has it’s own suggested workout plan in case you haven’t seen it.

Train hard and don’t quit — this could be you next year!
Officer Candidates graduate from Marine OCS
Kilo 2nd Increment graduation from Marine OCS, Summer 2010

  1. Zack
    November 26th, 2012 at 20:24 | #1

    Thank you for posting this info. I am trying to get ready for PLC next summer, but I didn’t know where to begin except that I needed to do more pullups, so thanks again.

  2. David
    September 12th, 2017 at 12:11 | #2

    Interested in joining as an officer. I am prior service, and I have some college completed.

  3. September 12th, 2017 at 12:36 | #3

    David – thank you for your service. You should talk to your local OSO to find out what options you have. Best of luck.

  1. December 17th, 2012 at 12:15 | #1