Initial PFT Results Are In. Here’s How Marines Between Ages 17 And 39 Are Faring

Health & Fitness
Marines with Headquarters Battalion begin a 3-mile run during their Physical Fitness Test aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, March 14, 2017.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres

This year, some significant changes to the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test went into effect — tougher standards, new exercises, a revamped sliding grade scale based on age, and more stringent requirements for a top score. As Task & Purpose previously reported, the aim was to make the test more challenging — and the data, as well as feedback from Marines who recently ran the test, indicate that the service may have succeeded.

This year saw a slight decrease in first-class scores, and a significant bump in second and third-class PFTs. But even as top scores dropped, average scores and overall performance on individual events increased.

The preliminary data cited here, obtained by Task & Purpose through a Freedom of Information Act Request, is limited to Marines ages 17 to 39 — while a full age range was supplied to T&P;, the sample sizes for Marines over 40 were too small to be a reliable indicator of emerging trends. The 2017 data is a partial set based on the scores of 46,668 male and 2,990 female Marines between the ages of 17 and 26, plus 12,561 male and 648 female Marines between 27 and 39, who took the annual test between January and April this year.

Here’s what the initial data show:

Marines ages 1726

For younger Marines, the preliminary data shows similar trend lines for men and women. Female Marines 1726 earned 15% fewer first class scores than they did in 2016. Second-class scores shot up 60% and third-class scores more than tripled. For male Marines in the same age bracket, the trends went in the same direction, but the numbers were less dramatic: First-class PFTs dropped slightly, second-class scores rose slightly, and third-class earners more than doubled.

Marines ages 2739

Female Marines between 2739 saw a significant drop in top scores. First-class scores shrank by 10%, while second-class scores nearly tripled and third-class scores more than quintupled over the previous year. Male Marines saw similar trends: 10% fewer first-class scores, more than double the number of second-class scores, and 10 times as many third-class scores.

Despite seeing a drop in top scores, fewer Marines are failing their physical fitness tests. Failures for Marines between 1739 have decreased each year for the past five years, indicating that overall fitness in the Fleet Marine Force is on the rise, even if being the best is just a little harder than it used to be.

Overall, average PFT scores have increased in each of the last five years for Marines 2739, and officials say there’s a reason for that.

“The fact of the matter is, full physical maturation doesn’t happen until the mid to late 20s, in the strength and cardiovascular component,” Brian McGuire, the deputy director for the Marine Corps Force Fitness Division, told Task & Purpose in June.

“We do know Marines are not the strongest in the earlier part of their career, but they get stronger as the years go by,” McGuire said. “Cardiovascular fitness has a more certain decline, but the Marines from 26 to 32, that’s where we’ve seen the highest PFT scores. Not necessarily in the youngest age group.”

Related: Here’s What Marines Have To Say About The New PFT Standards »

Individual event scores are on the rise for Marines in their late 20s and early 30s, as well: For men, pull-ups increased to an average of 20 trips over the bar this year, compared to 17 for the two previous years; run times for both men and women have decreased, and the number of crunches averaged has shot up for both groups. Among female Marines between 27 and 39, they averaged eight pull-ups this year, after seeing a slight decrease in average flexed arm-hang time for the previous years.

This trend — more crunches, more pull-ups, and faster run times — continues with the youngest devil dogs, as well.

Male Marines 1726 also knocked out more pull-ups this year than in the past five years. Female Marines, who officially switched to pull-ups in January, averaged seven. Men who opted for push-ups averaged 64, while women averaged 41.

In the coming weeks, Task & Purpose will be supplying a more in-depth review of this year’s PFT data and how Marines have adjusted to the new test.


Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra

Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.

However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:

Read More

You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.

Read More

A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.

Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.

"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."

Read More

Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.

Read More
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. (Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani)

With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Read More