NEW ORLEANS --
Maj. Ann Bernard’s philosophy on improving pull-ups is simple: training hard means training smart, focused and with intensity.
With the Marine Corps transitioning pull-ups into the female physical fitness test repertoire, the exercise is more in the spotlight than ever. According to ALMAR 046/12, as of January 1, 2013, female Marines have the option to perform pull-ups in place of the flexed-arm hang on their annual PFT. After January 1, 2014, female Marines will be required to perform pull-ups on the PFT.
Headquarters Marine Corps released a recommended training plan (which can be found at https://fitness.usmc.mil/FPFT/default.aspx) for females to properly prepare for the change, consisting of six exercises in the initial and advanced workout programs.
“It's a good initial plan to get started and was properly developed, taking overall upper-body strength development into consideration,” said Bernard, a competitive bodybuilder and the G-6 officer in charge for Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve. “I don’t recommend Marines focus on the number of repetitions for each exercise, but that Marines instead focus on proper form and max effort. Don't rush through to get 12-15 reps or jerk weights around to get 12-15 reps.”
Safety and form of the training should be paramount to finishing the set, Bernard said.
“Heavier weights or more reps DO NOT equal harder training,” she said. “Training hard means utilizing proper form, executing each exercise with focus and intensity and exhausting the muscle group you are training. You will be sore, but you won’t be hurting yourself when you train hard. However, if you train stupid trying to look hard – odds are good you’ll hurt yourself.”
It’s not just a matter of females starting or improving their pull-up count either, said Bernard. The spotlight on pull-ups should be a reason for all Marines to improve themselves and increase how many pull-ups they can do, even if they are already doing 20. There is no reason why someone can’t be doing 25-30 pull-ups or more. Improving pull-ups is about what should be an intrinsic desire to strive for personal improvement and personal bests.
Bernard says that not being able to do any pull-ups right now does not mean a Marine doesn’t need to be on a pull-up training program.
“The program is about developing greater upper body strength,” she said. “There are plenty of diversified ways to increase the strength in the back, shoulders, chest and arms without having to initially use the pull-up bar. But you can also use pull-up assist machines or the rubber bands to help you out. We all have to start somewhere – zero is as good a number as any.”
Just because a Marine is on a training program right now, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to do 20, or even eight, by next week, warned Bernard.
“When training consistently and correctly it will take at least two to three weeks to start seeing a solid improvement in strength,” she said. “Marines who are consistent with their training and train properly will see results, Marines who are sporadic and don’t train right will never see real results.”
Marine Forces Reserve is currently developing a pull-up improvement program that will challenge Marines in order to improve its collective standard force-wide.
MARFORRES is comprised of the Force Headquarters Group, 4th Marine Division, 4th Marine Logistics Group and 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, whose headquarters are located aboard Marine Corps Support Facility – New Orleans, and operates 181 Reserve sites across the United States and Puerto Rico.