A female Marine recruit navigates through an obstacle at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., on April 21. (Cpl. Richard Currier/Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps announced major changes over the Fourth of July holiday weekend regarding how much it will allow service members to weigh — and the biggest shift comes for women.

Female Marines will be allowed to weigh five to seven pounds more than before for each inch of their height, according to new guidelines published by the service. A 5-foot-6 woman, for example, was previously allowed to weigh up to 155 pounds, but can now be 161. A 5-foot-9 woman was allowed to be up to 169 pounds, but can now be 176.

The changes were among those outlined by the service’s top officer, Gen. Robert B. Neller, in a message released Friday. Neller also called for an overhaul of the service’s combat fitness and physical fitness tests, annual requirements that determine who is allowed to stay in the Marine Corps.

The boosted maximum weight requirement for women comes as the U.S. military moves to fully integrate women in all combat jobs for the first time following a historic decision last year by the Pentagon. In preparation, some female Marines have hit the weights — and then found themselves above weight requirements, Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February.

Neller made his decision after getting the results of what he called a “comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” he said in his newly released message.

“We will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure our standards continue to contribute to the effectiveness of our force and enhance our ability to respond when our nation calls,” he said.


Lance Cpl. Katelyn M. Hunter does pull-ups at Camp Foster in Japan. (Marine Corps photo)

Other changes that will stem from Neller’s review were outlined by Marine Corps Times over the weekend. In one significant decision, the general gave Marines the option to replace pull-ups — which were not required for women — with pushups on the physical fitness test.

For years, the test has included pull-ups, crunches and a three-mile run. But female Marines were allowed to do a much easier exercise on a pull-up bar known as the flexed-arm hang. That will be replaced entirely with pushups, with male and female Marines alike able to achieve top scores only if they do pull-ups.

The Marines also will ease body-fat requirements for Marines who are considered out of standards, so long as they can still post high scores on their fitness tests, Neller decided. That addresses a long-held frustration among those who didn’t fit existing standards because of their muscular builds.

Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, the commanding general of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, said in a statement that the new testing plan raises the bar for physical fitness for all Marines.

“Marines today are stronger, faster and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that,” he said. “Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps, and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”