How to Get Fit Like a Marine

Can you pass the United States Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test? Here's how to prepare for it.

The Marine training regimen is a combat-conditioning program designed to keep "America's Best" ready for combat and instill consistency across the board. The training prepares every Marine, regardless of age or rank, to pass a required combat fitness test (CFT) that emphasizes functional fitness and the tough physical demands of the Marine Corps.

There are three main events in the CFT, each conducted on a 300-point scale.

  • Movement to Contact Movement. A timed, 880-yard sprint that tests endurance. The maximum time allotted for males is 2:45; the maximum time for females is 3:23.
  • Ammunition Lift. Tests upper-body strength/endurance. A Marine must safely press a 30-pound ammunition can overhead as many times as possible in two minutes. Elbows must be locked out at the top of the lift to ensure full repetitions, and the Marine cannot rest the ammo can on the ground or the test is over.
  • Maneuver Under Fire. The final test, the most taxing of all, includes a 300-yard Shuttle Run that challenges a Marine's ability in a variety of ways with crawls, carries, ammo resupply, grenade throwing and agility. The maximum time for males is 2:14; the maximum time for females is 3:01.

Now that we've covered the combat fitness test, let's go over how you can train like a Marine.

Marine Training

Marine fitness uses a program called High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT). HITT prepares Marines for combat and encompasses all areas of physical fitness. By implementing some of the latest scientific methods, HITT prepares a tactical athlete not only for combat but for everyday life. Because the physical demands require many attributes, HITT focuses on speed, power and endurance while reducing the likeliness of injury in an intense environment.

A typical program is based upon a Marine's deployment cycle, and each level of fitness is scaled according to the individual or unit. Athlete HITT is the fundamental block for strength and endurance. It teaches a Marine the basics by using barbells and kettlebells, linear and lateral agility drills, and resisted running.

Next is the Combat HITT phase, which develops functional strength and endurance with the use of suspension trainers, ammo cans, partner training and incline endurance training.

After the combat phase, a Marine can move on to the warrior phase with Olympic lifts, plyometrics, battle ropes, cones, hurdles and more.

Dynamic Warm-up

To minimize the risk of injury and maximize training, all workouts should begin with an active warm-up that includes gradual movements and gives the muscular and nueromuscular systems an opportunity to reach a training intensity that allows for optimal blood flow and mobility throughout the body.

Athlete High-Intensity Tactical Training

The Athlete phase of training is designed for Marines who have an acceptable level of fitness but are not yet ready for more intense exercise. At this stage, the Marine is provided with a three-level system that gradually increases with experience and time.

Combat HITT

During this phase, the Marine is preparing for pre-deployment. Combat training includes a lot of suspension-based drills, buddy drills, sled drags/pushes, battling ropes and more physically demanding exercises to ensure the Marine is prepared physically for combat.

Warrior HITT

The final phase of training is recommended for those who are in superior shape. It is the most physically demanding, and it pushes the Marine to the limit, incorporating all three phases. It limits rest intervals and is used for late stages of pre-deployment and upon return.


Perform each exercise for three sets of 10 reps unless otherwise noted, with minimum amounts of rest between exercises. Rest 30-45 seconds between sets. Check out the video above to watch strength coach Chuck Gershaw demonstrate a High-Intensity Barbell Complex.

Barbell Complex

  • Barbell Deadlifts
  • Barbell Pendlay Rows
  • Barbell Back Squats

Dumbell Complex

  • Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
  • Renegade Rows
  • Overhead Press

KettleBell Complex

  • Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge, 3x10 per leg
  • 2-Handed Kettlebell Swing
  • Double Kettlebell Squat

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock