U.S. Marine Corps fitness test drops crunches for boards



Members of the United States Marine Corps will no longer be forced to pump themselves rep after rep of crunches when they undertake the famous branch physical fitness test (PFT). Exercise will be abandoned altogether in favor of the plank as the new standard for assessing core strength and fitness, according to Task and objective. The board was first introduced to the PFT as an alternative to crunches in 2020, which means that participants can currently choose to take the crunches or the planks for their test. The PFT also includes pull-ups or push-ups and a three-mile timed run.

The switch to boards will not happen overnight. The direction to modify the test, which came from an administrative message authorized by Lt. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, who serves as the commanding general, training and education command, indicates that the plank will become the core exercise mandatory in 2023. The delay in completely dropping crunches gives Marines and recruits enough time to train and prepare for the board.

The standards to be passed for the exercise will drop in 2022 to a wait of 1 minute and 10 seconds at the bottom of the scale (compared to 1 minute and 3 seconds currently) and a wait of 3 minutes and 45 seconds to reach the maximum score. (compared to the current 4 minutes and 20 seconds).

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This modification of the test was not made on a whim. Planks were added after research showed crunches were not the best way to gauge the physical readiness the Body needed – and potentially put you in a potentially risky position. “For decades, the Marine Corps has used crunches to improve and assess abdominal endurance,” states an article published by the Marines Human Performance Office. “However, research has shown that crunches with rested feet require significant activation of the hip flexors. This has been linked to an increased risk of injury, including lower back pain from increased lumbar lordosis.”

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Additionally, the brass at USMC found the board to be a better test for their needs. “Isometric holding of the board requires constant muscle activation, activates almost twice as many muscles as crunching, and has been shown to be the most reliable in measuring the true endurance required for daily activity function,” the release said. “With increased base strength, Marines are less likely to sustain injury or fatigue during functional tasks such as hiking, lifting and crawling.”

It’s a smart move by the USMC, but remember your goals may be different from those of a member of the Marines. As they train for this very specific endurance test, most people probably use planks in their workouts to build strength and stability and to sculpt their abs. For best results, you should probably aim for the lower USMC score and hold the plank position for about a minute at a time. Instead of aiming for marathon holds, focus on keeping your muscles engaged and your body in a perfect position to get the most out of the movement.

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