Marine Corps Initial Strength Test

Marine Corps Initial Strength Test IST
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct a maximum set of dead hang pull-ups during a final physical fitness test at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas.

The Marine Corps Initial Strength Test, or IST, is given to new recruits to ensure they are ready to begin training. The Marine Corps IST consists of pull ups, crunches, a 1.5 mile run, and for recruits training for infantry occupations, ammo can lifts.

Recruiters administer the test prior to enlistment, and recruits take the test again during their first week of boot camp. 

For recruits who wish to become infantryman, recon Marines, combat engineers, and the Marine Corps’ most demanding military occupational specialties, they will have to pass a tougher MOS-specific “enhanced” IST. This includes lifting a 30 lb ammo can overhead as many times as possible within 2 minutes. 

The minimum standards for passing the Marine Corps Initial Strength Test for both non-combat and combat MOSs are listed below.

Marine Corps IST for Non-Combat MOS

Marine Corps New Enhanced Physical Fitness Test
Marines with Headquarters Battalion conduct crunches during their Physical Fitness Test at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Photo by Lance Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torre.

Males

  • 2 pull ups
  • 44 crunches (2 minutes)
  • 1.5 mile run (13:30 minutes)

Females

  • 2 pull ups or 12 second flexed-arm hang
  • 44 crunches (2 minutes)
  • 1.5 mile run (15 minutes)

Marine Corps Enhanced IST for Combat MOS

Males

  • 3 pull ups
  • 44 crunches (2 minutes)
  • 1.5 mile run in 13:30
  • 45 ammo can lifts (2 minutes)

Females

  • 3 pull ups or 12 second flexed-arm hang
  • 44 crunches (2 minutes)
  • 1.5 mile run (15 minutes)
  • 45 ammo can lifts (2 minutes)

Remember, those are the minimum standards. You should be training to exceed these standards and pass the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test—which includes a 3 mile run. Training to the minimum standard will not help you become a top performer, and could even lead to injury. 

Recruits training for more physically demanding jobs will have to pass an MOS Classification Standard about 8 weeks into recruit training. This includes exceeding the minimum standards of the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and Combat Fitness Test (CFT). They will need to do six pullups; a three-mile run in under 24:51; perform 60 ammo-can lifts in 2 minutes; conduct a movement to contact in 3:26 seconds or less; and maneuver under fire within 3:12.

Recruits who fail to pass the standard will be placed into an alternate MOS.

Train to a Higher Standard

Your first week of boot camp, you’ll be under a lot of stress. The first night, you get no sleep because you’re filling out paperwork, getting yelled at by Drill Instructors, and struggling to get used to your new environment. You’ll get more vaccinations than you’ve ever had at one time, and be getting used to a new sleep schedule.

Our point by saying all that isn’t to stress you out about the IST, but to inform you that you will be sleep deprived and under a lot of stress when you run the IST. If you can only reach the minimum standard before shipping off to boot camp, the odds are stacked against you.

You might have been able to do 14 pull ups at the recruiter’s office, but only 6 when you have to run the IST at the recruit depot. We strongly suggest training to the higher standard of the Marine PFT and trying to max out your score before you go.

Marine Boot Camp Preparation Guide
The complete guide to preparing for Marine Boot Camp.

As an active duty Marine, your PFT score directly affects your promotion potential. Maxing out your PFT score should be an ongoing goal throughout your enlistment. 

Looking for help with your pull ups? We’ve written the ultimate guide to doing more pull ups, which will help you maximize that portion of your PFT score.

We’ve also written an entire Recruit Training Preparation eBook available on Amazon. It has running programs, strength and endurance exercises; and how to mentally prepare for Marine Boot Camp.