Pull-Ups as a Test of Manhood


There are many rituals and tests associated with manhood. None of them are truly adequate on their own for a concept so powerful and all-encompassing as manhood, but each offers its own merits as a partial measurement.

Bar mitvah

Bench press

Vision quest

and the pull-up.

Pull-ups are considered a standard test of upper body strength. They were a basic part of our physical fitness test (PFT) in the Marines. In order to pass the semi-annual PFT, Marines have to meet the minimum requirements shown in the chart below.

Minimum             Fitness Requirments for Each PFT Event – Males
Age Pull-Ups Crunches 3-Mile             Run
17-26 3 50 28:00
27-39 3 45 29:00
40-45 3 45 30:00
46+ 3 40 33:00
Marine             Corps PFT Classification Scores – Male and Female
Class Age             17-26 Age             27-39 Age             40-45 Age             46+
1st 225 200 175 150
2nd 175 150 125 100
3rd 135 110 88 65

Information Derived from Marine Corps Order (MCO) P6100-12

Even a few years out of the Marines I still consider those minimums to be a required standard. Here’s why, unless you have physical problems negating the ability to perform pull-ups, you should be capable of liting your own body weight at least three times. If you can’t do that, then there’s a mismatch between your bodyweight and your muscular development. You weigh too much, you can’t lift your body. Your muscles aren’t developed, you can’t lift your body. If one is off, the other doesn’t work.

This test works great for males and females, adults and kids. Dogs lack the flexibility, but lemurs are good.

My older kids, boys at 9 and 6, do a pull-up test every week. We started with reverse pull-ups to build strength. Then we moved to assisted pull-ups. My 6yo is really proud now that he can do 6 unassisted pull-ups. My 9yo is still working on assisted ones. Me? I’ve gotten old and soft. I can rock my three but not many more.

No matter what kinds of workouts or fitness exercises you do, pull-ups are a great test of upper body strength. Try it out and make sure you can hit at least three. It’s easy to find a place for it, such as  the gym, a playground, or doorway pull-up bars are pretty inexpensive too. I pack out at 250 pounds and my doorway one works just fine.

Here’s the Marine Corps rules for a pull-up test:

Pull-up. The goal of the pull-up event is for the Marine to execute as many accurate and complete pull-ups before dropping off the bar. The procedures are:        

(1) This is not a timed event.

(2) Sweatshirts will be removed during the conduct of the pull-up event in order to observe the lockout of the elbows with each repetition.

(3) Assistance to the bar with a step up, being lifted up, or jumping up is authorized. Any assistance up to the bar will not be used to continue into the first pull-up.

(4) The bar must be grasped with both palms facing either forward or to the rear.

(5) The correct starting position begins when the Marine’s arms are fully extended beneath the bar, feet are free from touching the ground or any bar mounting assist, and the body is motionless.

(6) The Marine’s legs may be positioned in a straight or bent position, but may not be raised above the waist.

(7) One repetition consists of raising the body with the arms until the chin is above the bar, and then lowering the body until the arms are fully extended; repeat the exercise. At no time during the execution of this event can a Marine rest his chin on the bar.

(8) The intent is to execute a vertical “dead hang” pull-up. A certain amount of inherent body movement will occur as the pull-up is executed. However, the intent is to avoid a pendulum-like motion that enhances the ability to execute the pull-up. Whipping, kicking, kipping of the body or legs, or any leg movement used to assist in the vertical progression of the pull-up is not authorized. If observed, the repetition will not count for score.

(9) A repetition will be counted when an accurate and complete pull-up is performed.          

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

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3 thoughts on “Pull-Ups as a Test of Manhood

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