Scouting magazine

How to help Scouts prepare for and pass fitness tests

MANY SCOUTS IN M.E.’s troop can’t do even a single pull-up after months of “practice.” She needs ideas for helping these boys meet their Tenderfoot requirements.

Editor’s Note: We posed M.E.’s question to Chris Hunt, advancement team leader for the Boy Scouts of America, who offers the following guidance: “If there has been no improvement — not even by a fraction of a pull-up — then in the Boy Scouting program, the requirement is not fulfilled. If a Cub Scout does his best, he is signed off even if he does not fulfill a requirement as it is written. In Boy Scouting the only exceptions to not meeting requirements as written are for Scouts who are not able to do so because of a disability.”

Hunt also suggests that the problem might be lack of practice more than lack of ability. “A non-threatening conversation with the Scout — such as might be held at a Scoutmaster conference — about when and where he practices, how difficult it has been and so forth may be helpful,” Hunt says. “Most Scouts, when approached in this way, will usually be candid about what’s been going on.”

Make sure a pull-up bar and a small, stable stool are positioned in the youth’s bedroom doorway. Every time he passes through, the boy should stand on the stool, hands on the bar in the “up” position, and sag his knees doing what I call a pull-down, resisting gravity as much as he can to slow the descent. He will be exercising the same muscles and will soon discover he can go back up! In 30 years, I have yet to find a single boy of any shape or size who failed his Tenderfoot fitness test after doing this for a month.

Advancement Chairman S.M.

The typical Tenderfoot Scout is prepubescent, which makes muscle growth — and therefore improvement in strength exercises — a more difficult proposition than for older boys. Even two or three months of practice may not be long enough, and it’s no big deal to wait that long.

Pull-ups are usually the sticking point. If there’s improvement in all the other metrics, and he’s truly practicing, going from nothing to nearly there is improvement in the broadest sense. Also, note that chin-ups are not the requirement; pull-ups are. And they are different. Pull-ups are palms facing away from you; chin-ups are palms facing toward you and are easier.

Assistant Scoutmaster C.G.

We have them do their first fitness tests shortly after they join, then do the follow-up tests either before or after summer camp. If after a few meetings they cannot do the pull-up, but have shown improvement in the other areas, we sign off. We look at it as an overall improvement; nothing in the requirement says they must do one more than they initially did.

Assistant Scoutmaster J.M.

Scouting allows for exemptions and alternative requirements for boys who have special needs and medical and physical challenges. That’s what makes Scouting the program for all boys. [For information on alternative advancement requirements, see section of the Guide to Advancement 2013, available online at]

Assistant Scoutmaster S.M.J.