Marine Pushup Ladder Exercises

young man athlete football player, push ups exercise. green grass, sunny outdoors.

If you want to be a Marine, you need to train like one. Even if you don't won't to be a Marine, doing official Marine Corps push-ups will get you strong like one. The Marines do a four-count push-up, which is basically like doing two regular push-ups. It's twice as hard, but it has the potential to make you twice as strong. For a fun and challenging alternative to static sets of push-ups, try a ladder approach, which gradually builds from one push-up to your maximum in an allotted time. Test yourself each week to see if you can surpass the previous week's total.

Marine Push-Up Technique

First things first: You need to learn proper technique. A Marine push-up starts from the ground. Lie on your belly with your toes and legs glued together and your palms flat on the floor next to your chest. Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and your body in one stiff plank as you press yourself away from the ground until your arms are straight. Then, lower yourself down until your body almost touches the ground, and push back up. Lower down again to complete one push-up. There are four parts to the movement — up, down, up, down — each of which is one count.

Ladder Push-Up Exercises

A ladder workout is basically a pyramid — you work up from one push-up to as many as you can do, climbing the ladder by adding one push-up each round. Your stopping point is whenever you are no longer able to complete a set with proper form. Then, you'll work your way back down the ladder. You'll need a stopwatch to time yourself, or a friend with a stopwatch to time you.

How to do it:

  1. Start your stopwatch.
  2. Do one Marine four-count push-up. Rest until the one-minute mark.
  3. Do two Marine push-ups. Rest until the two-minute mark.
  4. Do three push-ups. Rest until the three-minute mark.
  5. Do four push-ups. Rest until the four minute mark.
  6. Continue in this way until your form breaks. Then work your way back down the ladder decreasing by one push-up each minute.

Keeping Track, Getting Stronger

On your first attempt, maybe you only made it to five push-ups at the top of your ladder. Keep track of your highest reps and try again in a few days or the following week. Continue to do the ladder workout once or twice a week, making sure to use proper Marine Corps form. Each week, see if you can add another minute to your ladder.

Group of fitness people doing push ups in park.

Keep the legs and feet together during a Marine push-up.

Adding in Other Exercises

You can work Marine push-ups into a more comprehensive workout using a ladder technique. Add in other body weight exercises like pull-ups and crunches, which you'll also need for the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. Former Navy SEAL and strength and conditioning specialist Stew Smith recommends this sample workout on the website:

  • Set 1: Do one pull-up, two Marine push-ups, three crunches.
  • Set 2: Do two pull-ups, four push-ups, six crunches.
  • Set 3: Do three pull-ups, six pushups, nine sit-ups.
  • Set 4: Do four pull-ups, eight push-ups, 12 sit-ups.

Continue in this way until muscle failure, then work your way back down the ladder.