3 ways cops can take their physical performance to the next level
Try the three moves described here by a fellow LEO to build strength and avoid injury
By Amir Khillah
Every professional can benefit from ongoing training to hone the skills they need to succeed on the job. Police officers are no different – in fact, LEOs need specific training to help them stay safe on the streets, including strength training for the more physically demanding aspects of the job.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “sport-specific” or specificity of training. You haven’t? You’re probably not alone. That’s fancy talk for “train like you fight and fight like you train.”
Here are three exercises that will take your toughness and performance on the street to the next level.
1. Strengthen your back to prevent lumbar pain
One of the most common job-related injuries for police is lower back problems. I don’t know if the culprit is climbing in and out of a low patrol vehicle or carrying 20 pounds of gear around your waist for 12 hours every day (or both), but lower back pain plagues many officers.
Core stabilization exercises can help prevent lower back problems. Back hyperextensions can be done without any equipment. Lay flat on your stomach, place your hands on the back of your head and interlace your fingers (I’m sure you are familiar with the position), then arch your head and shoulders up as high as you can while keeping your feet on the ground. Make sure you move in a deliberate and controlled manner to prevent injury.
2. Tighten your grip
We’ve all had a suspect bolt on us as soon as we placed hands on them. Weak grip strength and adduction muscle groups were probably to blame. The pull-up is one of the best upper body exercises you can do to build grip strength and the adductor muscle groups.
Don’t stop reading now. “Pull-ups? I can’t do pull-ups.” I know, I know. But there is a modification you can do to get started, and before you know it, you’ll be knocking out sets of five, 10 and eventually 15.
If you struggle to do one pull-up, invest in a thick resistance band, loop it on itself on your pull-up bar in the middle of your grip, step on the other end of the band and use it to rebound yourself up on the bar. Gradually reduce the rebound utilized and eventually eliminate the use of the band.
3. When did my legs turn into Jell-o?
Here we go on a 22-city block foot pursuit. You’re feeling good for the first couple of blocks, closing the gap, and then the suspect goes over a fence. You’re not sure if you can make it over that flimsy rusted fence, but you don’t hesitate and you hit the fence, sailing over.
You think to yourself, “That was easier than I expected.” You take a few more steps – and then it happens. Apparently, your legs decide to check out and take a break. You wonder what contributed to the gelatinous state of your legs as you watch the suspect round a corner and lose sight of him.
We’ve all been there before, no shame in that. But here is a great exercise you can do to ensure suspects’ legs decide to quit before yours do. Plyometric box jumps will give you explosive power, as well as more endurance than traditional weight training or cardio alone. Think of plyometric training as a hybrid between strength and endurance training.
Start with a lower box (a step aerobics box works just fine), and position yourself in a good athletic stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. Jump onto the box with both feet at the same time. Focus on landing softly on the box and on the ground. Work your way up to a higher box – a weight bench works great.
If you are just starting out, use the step-up modification. Step up one foot at a time, alternating the initiating foot, then step down. Once you are comfortable with the step-up modification, you can transition to jump variation.
Challenge yourself, but focus on quality over quantity
Your current fitness level will dictate the number of sets and repetitions for your individual exercise prescription. Make sure you are doing enough to challenge yourself without compromising form. If you focus on the quality of execution instead of quantity of repetitions you will be able to avoid injury.
As your body adapts to the number of sets and repetitions, you will need to adapt to continue to see results. If you were barely able to do seven pull-ups when you started, and now you are knocking out seven without a problem, it’s time to go to eight or nine repetitions while taking care to maintain good form.
To see and feel the best results from your workouts, keep track of your progress. A training journal is a valuable tool to help you push through your “limits” and reach new heights. Keep track of sets, repetitions and how you feel during your workouts.
Gut it out, toughen up and sweat in training so you don’t bleed on the street.
About the author
Amir Khillah is a retired professional fighter and holds a master’s degree in human performance, a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology/kinesiology. He is a police academy subject control instructor and a full-time police officer. Visit his website at www.CenturionMSC.com.