Throughout Marine OCS candidates are exposed to a small amount of training from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). There will be much more MCMAP training at The Basic School. These sessions are generally not very physically intense, since you will only be doing basic punches, kicks, and a few other things. However, there was a very intense workout involving MCMAP that I can recall from my time at OCS. It has been a long time, so parts of this routine may be a little butchered.
MCMAP Circuit Workout
The workout is essentially a circuit filled with body and buddy exercises along with martial arts.
There is going to be something like 8 different stations setup as in the diagram below.
Each station is an exercise with the corners being martial arts related. There are also exercises used when traveling between stations. The distance between stations is about 15-20 meters.
Here is an example set of exercises that closely resembles the ones from OCS:
Lead/Rear Hand Punch –> Buddy Drag to station 2
Crunches –> Buddy Drag to station 3 (partner does it)
Front Kick –> Low Crawl to station 4
Push-ups –> High Crawl to station 5
Uppercut –> Fireman’s Carry to station 6
Squats –> Fireman’s Carry to station 7 (partner does it)
Round Kick –> High Jump to station 8
Burpees –> Lunge to station 1
Each station should last for about 2 minutes. THE PUSH-UPS ARE GOING TO KILL YOU! This doesn’t include the time to takes to travel between stations. The PTI will wait for everyone to reach their station before starting time.
Candidates will do the rotation at least two times with a few minutes to rest in between. If there is extra time you can expect to keep going. That’s just how things go at OCS.
If you aren’t already familiar with some of the MCMAP techniques you can look at the publication. The moves are simple enough where you can learn them just by reading the instructions. You will get more training and critique at OCS. During the circuit candidates will have pads to use for punching and kicking
Not everyone out there is going to have the equipment, or even a partner, to do the workout described above. Therefore, you should modify it accordingly to suit your needs and environment. The martial arts exercises can be done without a partner, or pads. If you can’t do the buddy drags and fireman’s carry then just repeat the crawls. There are no excuses when it comes to getting fit.
The Endurance Course is the most physically challenging event that candidates will have to undergo at Marine OCS. Everyone must complete the Endurance Course in order to graduate from OCS. It is an event that WILL send some candidates home. Females, in particular, tend to have a very difficult time with the course. However, males shouldn’t get too comfortable because there were more than a handful that had to retest. Some were even sent home.
You can expect to go through the course a minimum of threes times (6-week Program).
Introduction run done as a platoon
Preliminary ungraded run
Run for score
Failing the Endurance Course when running it for score could mean a ticket home. During OCS 2012, the Commanding Officer elected to allow candidates who failed an opportunity to retest not only a second time, but also a third. It will depend entirely on the OCS staff at the time you attend. Prepare physically for OCS and you will not have to worry about doing the course 5 times to pass. The Basic School will have a course twice as long, so think of the OCS course as being a warm-up for what is to come.
Endurance Course Overview
There are dozens of obstacles in the Endurance Course. Here is a rough outline of the 3-4 mile course:
Start with the Obstacle Course
Put on an LBV and pick up a rifle
Crawl across a rope
Crawl under barbed wire
Jump over and under a series of logs
Climb a rope wall
Dive into water
Run through water
Run up a hill and get your time
These are the items candidates must carry during the Endurance Course. The canteens CANNOT be emptied. You may drink them (sometimes this changes), but dumping the water out is an integrity violation that will get you sent home. The gear adds around 10 pounds to your load. The weight isn’t a huge deal, but the rifle can be cumbersome to carry.
Load Bearing Vest (LBV)
Two full canteens
3 Permitted Rifle Carries
There are 3 authorized methods for carrying the rifle. You will find what works best for you, but do note that certain events require a specific carry (e.g., cross body muzzle down is necessary for the rope wall). Wasting time moving the rifle will only hurt you. During the introduction run pay attention to which carries are necessary for which events. That way you can move the rifle BEFORE you get to the obstacle.
This is the only method you shouldn’t use. Carrying the rifle in front of you with both hands is going to waste energy. Although, if you prefer this method just go for it.
This seems to be the easiest carry method. Candidates can even use their LBVs to offload the weight on to their bodies. Hooking the pistol grip over a canteen will make life much easier.
Cross Body Muzzle Down
There isn’t any good reason to use this method unless it is required for an event. Several candidates went this route during the ungraded Endurance Course, but most find that it hinders your ability to run effectively. The rifle is going to be bouncing all over the place, and the pistol grip will dig into your lower back.
Minimum Passing Requirements
Males: 46 minutes
Females: 56 minites
As a disclaimer, these were the requirements during OCS 2012. Marine OCS is constantly changing so don’t be surprised if things don’t match up exactly when you get there. That being said, there is no reason for the minimum times to get changed unless the course changes.
Preparing for the Endurance Course
Although it would be impossible to exactly replicate the sequence of events, there are ways to prepare yourself for the Endurance Course both physically and mentally.
Running in boots
Getting used to running with boots is going to have a significant impact on your ability to perform at Officer Candidates School. This does not apply to the Endurance Course alone. Conditioning your feet to boots will help with hiking, drilling, the Obstacle Course, and just about everything else at OCS. NROTC Midshipman and Enlisted Marines should be able to do this easily since they already have Marine Corps boots. For everyone else, it is highly recommended that you purchase some boots and start training in them as soon as possible. Ensure that you don’t overtrain and get injured. One or two workouts a week in boots and an additional day of walking around in them should suffice.
The Endurance Course contains dozens of different obstacles that candidates must navigate. Train your body to understand the transition between running and going through an obstacle. Here is a sample workout that can be modified for intensity and variation. The more confused your body becomes the better. Couple a workout like this with a pair of boots and your in for some intensity.
Run 1/2 mile
Run 1/4 mile
Repeat for 4-6 miles
For the Endurance Course, exercises with a high intensity factor and lots of movement will be most effective. Here are some examples:
10-20m Low crawl/High crawl/Back crawl/Bear crawl
20 High jumps/Box jumps
20 Mountain climbers
Uphill sprint (if possible)
Rope climb (if possible and you know the proper technique)
Jump in a body of water or dump a few gallons on yourself (perfect before doing a crawl in the mud)
Your main goal should always be to never stop moving. Don’t worry too much about sticking to the format of this workout. It is all about muscle confusion and training with intensity. If things are comfortable then you need to push harder.
I want to say that this has to be a classic OCS workout. I had heard about it from many people for several years and when I got to OCS there it was. The workout is actually fairly simple to do, but it will destroy your arms. It is also not going to be the only thing you do for a morning PT session. There may be a platoon run, or some “introduction to” type of workout that you do beforehand. I just don’t want you to get too excited thinking that this won’t be to bad. The PPPA workout is also going to be done fairly early on at OCS. I recall it being the second, or third, PT session we had after phase 1. Scheduling does change frequently throughout the years, but since PPPA focuses on helping candidates train for the CFT and PFT my guess is that it will always be one of the first training sessions. I have heard from OCC graduates that they did the workout multiple times. I only did it once during my 6-week session.
(1) 30 Pound Dumbbell (or ammo can if you have it)
There is no excuse for not being able to do this workout. If you don’t have a pull-up bar go to the park, or find one at a school. There is more than likely going to be one publicly available in the area. If you don’t have the dumbbell then find a brick or fill an empty jug of water with dirt. I don’t care about having fancy equipment when I train. There are so many ways to make use of the things we have around us to get a good workout.
PPPA: Push, Pull, Press, Abs OCS Workout
There is no rest between the pull-ups and push-ups, but you will likely get about 30 seconds to a minute after the push-ups before having to jump back into pull-ups. It is going to depend on the line to use the bar, so you may get no rest at all!.
Depending on your current physical status you can modify the number of repetitions to begin with. The Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) will say to do each exercise 3 times, but really you are going to keep on going until it is time to switch with the other half of the platoon doing presses and crunches. I would recommend continuing to reduce the reps until you hit zero. If you can start with 20 pull-ups and 50 push-ups just keep working your way down until an arm is getting ready to fall off.
Ammo Can Press/Crunches
2 min Ammo Can Press
2 min Crunches
1.5 min Ammo Can Press
1.5 min Crunches
1 min Ammo Can Press
1 min Crunches
As you can see, this event is timed and not dependent on repetitions like the pull-ups and push-ups section. That is why I mentioned earlier that you may do more than 3 sets of push-ups/pull-ups. The exercises are done with a partner, so you will have rest after each set with the time being equivalent to the time you spent doing the set. To reiterate, when training for this at home go a little further and do more intervals by adding 30 seconds and 15 seconds to the supersets. The more challenging things are when training at home the easier it will be when the real OCS workout comes around.