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Tactical Training for the United States Marine Corps CFT

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stephen D. Himes/Released

By Crystal Williams and Dr. Robert L. Herron |

The United States Marine Corps is known for being the combat in readiness force. Marines undergo a series of evaluations throughout their time in the service, one being the CFT.

The CFT stands for the Combat Fitness Test which is assessed every six months ensure the Marine is prepared for combat at all times. The CFT uses combat related tasks to measure the Marine’s functional fitness, strength, and anerobic capacity.

The fitness test is split into three events. Starting with an 880-yard sprint also known as the movement to contact. Next, the Marine will complete maximum repetitions of ammunition can presses with an ammo can weighing 30 lbs. within a two-minute period. The final event is the Maneuver Under Fire that consists of three 100-yard sprints with obstacles. Within the sprints, the Marine will complete a series of high crawls, low crawls, agility sprints, partner carries, ammo can carry, push-ups, and a grenade throw. The entire test is performed in boots and utilities to mimic wartime uniform.

Enlisted Marines must meet a minimum score of 135, and officers should make at least 235 points for a passing score for the entire event. Scoring can be found by using the charts located on the Marine Corps website https://www.fitness.marines.mil/pft-cft_standards17/ , under “CFT Standards.” 

All events are completed in under three minutes. As such, training programs should primarily focus on the Marine’s anaerobic system but also develop work capacity and one’s ability to repeat high intensity movements.

To train for this test, Marines should focus on explosive sprints, repeated sprint ability, the capacity to crawl in different body positions, and upper body strength/endurance (for the ammo can carry). Those working in tactical strength and conditioning should also be aware of common injuries that include back injuries and twisted ankles due to improper form in the partner carry. Additionally, during the ammunition can lifts, broken teeth, black eyes and broken noses are common. To avoid injury practicing the proper technique and placing grips on the ammo cans can limit the number of tasks related injuries.

In summary, practitioners that work – or aim to work – in tactical strength and conditioning should recognize the unique requirements of the Marine CFT. All branches of the military have different fitness assessment protocols and the Marine CFT is uniquely challenging.  

Crystal Williams is from Cooper City, FL and a Graduate Student studying Exercise Science at the University of Montevallo. Crystal is an Honor Roll student-athlete on the Women’s Lacrosse Team recognized for her scholastic achievement by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

Robert L. Herron, Ed.D., NSCA-CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP is an Assistant Professor in the Exercise and Nutrition Science Program at the University of Montevallo. Dr. Herron is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). Dr. Herron is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy and serves as a Non-Resident Faculty Member.

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