Photo Information

USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea – Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit pause their workout to pose for a “meathead” group photo here, Sept. 13. Physical training gives Marines more than just bulging biceps, it serves as an outlet for anger, keeps an anxious mind occupied and builds unit camaraderie through shared pain and success. (Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Paul Robbins)

Photo by Sgt. Paul Robbins

"Meathead" Marines: Warriors behind biceps

19 Sep 2013 | 1stLt. Dave Baugh

“Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They've got really short hair and they always go for the throat.” – Rear Adm. "Jay" R. Stark, November 10, 1995. This reputation is a proud sentiment within our Marine Corps and is a result of dedication, physical courage and the bond between Marines.

It’s no secret that the ‘Marine-physique’ has made a name for itself. Maintaining an impressive physical appearance leads to confidence; almost borderline arrogance for some. This shallow effect of our training is where many outsiders end their analysis of a Marine’s character. It isn’t uncommon for a bystander to call us things like “meathead” or “gym rat.”

Yet this depiction is only a fraction of what fitness means to a Marine.

It’s part of our warrior ethos to maintain peak levels of physical fitness. It’s what drew several of us into this organization many years ago. It’s part of our daily lives. This is what separates the Marines from the rest.

Yet, we all started somewhere. Either you came in as a burly high school football player, a lean endurance athlete or a reformed fat kid who worked hard enough to make the standard. Whatever the beginnings, bearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor now puts us in the tightest fraternity in the world. An integral part of our kinship is forged through the mutual pain, competition and success of physical training.

Fitness is an incredibly important aspect of our lives and is the foundation for a well-rounded Marine. The “whole-Marine concept” is a mindset we strive for by maintaining a balance between improving our educational and professional traits with our combat proficiency. Fitness is an integral pillar for keeping the other traits in good order. The willpower to get into the gym provides the mental fortitude to accomplish our educational and professional goals. When the mind is disciplined, the body follows suit.

The most concrete aspect of a physical training routine is structure. And from structure comes discipline. Many Marines use PT as their center of gravity in a world of chaos. An hour or so each day, specifically slated for a workout, is the cornerstone that everything else revolves around.

The problems, projects and pains that come with life all stop and nothing else matters but the puddles of sweat on the ground and the feeling of going “beast mode.” Even during a day that seems like a complete failure, a good PT session will always be a positive accomplishment that leaves a Marine better than the previous day.

A Marine may have an advantage in either anaerobic or aerobic exercise due to their background, but it is imperative that we maintain aspects of both qualities. For instance, the PFT and CFT present challenges in very different ways – for some, the CFT is a breeze, and for others, the PFT is barely a training run. However, both measure the standard of the U.S. Marine as a well-rounded warfighter capable of overcoming a wide-array of obstacles in a combat environment, whether through endurance or strength, or both.

Another added benefit of PT is that when done with others, it builds the team mindset. It’s an outlet for anger, keeps an anxious mind occupied and builds unit camaraderie.

Deployed in an environment that doesn’t have a gym? We adapt. Sandbags, water jugs, tires or anything else that can be picked up, tossed, carried, curled, squatted and pressed can be used for a creative workout to challenge the body and the mind. Several Marines even use an intense training regimen as therapy for stress associated with combat.

We can take comfort in knowing that if a situation required a Marine to buddy-carry another out of harm’s way, the “meathead” carrying the injured has the capacity to do so. This shared sense of physical pride gives us our competitive edge and a unique confidence that makes us United States Marines.

PT gives us much more than washboard abs and legs of steel. Besides, it gives us our motivation to uphold our reputation as the Rottweilers and Dobermans of the military; and we enjoy that reputation.
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit