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Why the Marine Corps is unapologetically obsessed with pull-ups

Ruddy Cano Avatar
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III/Released)

Pull-ups are regarded as a form of heavy weightlifting workout in the exercises world. When you do them consistently, almost your entire body weight is pulled off the ground and over a bar. 

Apart from being a complex and exhausting exercise that qualifies as a fitness objective for any person, performing pull-ups will assist you in numerous activities needed, especially for life in the Marine Corps or other tactical careers. The infantry puts a lot of effort into making sure physical fitness is a priority. In order to fight on the battlefield, you need to be fit. One of the first things civilians notice as a guest on base is the number of pull up bars that exist.

Here is why the Marine Corps is unapologetically obsessed with pull-ups

marine corps pull-ups
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

Needs of the Corps

Marines fight as a unit thus pull up exercises are incorporated into many facets of our culture. Small unit leaders regularly encourage competitions or a few sets when inevitably everyone must hurry up and wait. Pull-ups contribute a considerable amount of points towards the PFT – Physical Fitness Test – that may make or break your promotion each month. While wavers are possible if you are deployed and your PFT or CFT expire, you won’t need to worry about the bureaucracy – yet. That is a ‘future you’ problem that is not an issue.

Leaders must be fit

marine corps pull-ups on a ship
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III/Released)

Setting a good example is part of being a leader as much as giving lawful orders. To fully embody the leadership traits required to lead Marines, one must lead from the front, sometimes literally. It is also a good exercise when you need to look busy from doing working parties as a lower enlisted. Technically you’re doing your job, as a Marine, to be fit. You may even start to notice your NCOs cutting you some slack. That’s also a positive feedback loop beneficial to the Marine. Looking good in one’s uniform is requirement on a meritorious promotion board. Pulls-ups is the exercise that will make that happen.

An alternative training method

Personally, on days that I didn’t feel like running too far we would spend some hours doing pull-ups, pyramids and leg exercises. It is all beneficial to staying in war-fighting shape. Waiting on the packs in the armory? Boom, pull-up bars. Have a long lunch break? Do three max sets and carry on. By the time the PFT rolls around you should have no problem pumping out max points.