Are you fit for SWAT? Test yourself with these 8 physical fitness exercises

Too many officers start out in top condition but allow their physical fitness to diminish

You think you're ready to become a SWAT officer? Not so fast. Of the many things this job requires, physical fitness is definitely up there toward the top. And just because you may have already made the team, that doesn't mean you can let your physical fitness diminish; this puts yourself and the rest of your colleagues at risk.

So, how do SWAT leaders ensure that every man or woman in the stack is physically fit for SWAT duty? The answer is simple: Demand the fitness required for successful and safe operations by requiring team-endorsed mandatory annual fitness testing.

It’s important to do three things before you implement physical testing:

Members of the LAPD SWAT team in a training session on April 26, 2015.
Members of the LAPD SWAT team in a training session on April 26, 2015. (Marc Cooper/Flickr)
  1. Have a designated team member get appropriate fitness instructor certifications;
  2. Have each team member physician-approved for testing;
  3. Identify your testing protocol and determine what a passing score is.

Here are eight exercises I used as part of my team’s testing protocol. They are as simple to administer as they are accurate indicators of overall fitness. They can also be practiced during any team member’s personal workout.

1. The Bent-Knee Sit-Up

Bent-knee sit-ups are an excellent indicator of the muscular endurance of the lower back, as well as an outstanding exercise to build that endurance. Back injuries end more careers than bullets.

Doing 50 sit-ups in 60 seconds would garner a score of 100%.

2. The Sit and Reach

The sit and reach measures lower back flexibility, during three slow and deliberate attempts of the person being tested to reach as far as they could toward or beyond their own feet.

Reaching 2.5 inches beyond your toes is 100%.

3. The Push-Up

Push-ups measure upper body muscular endurance. Endurance comes in handy when you have to hold aim on a suspect for a great length of time, carry a shield for an extended building search, or even hold a resistive suspect’s arm in position to handcuff.

A total of 49 push-ups correlate to a score of 100%.

4. The Maximum Bench Press

To measure pure upper body muscular strength, which is essential for any SWAT officer summoned to effect the most extreme physical rescues and resistive subject control, nothing tells the tale like the maximum bench press. 

215 pounds benched would earn a 100% score, although officers should most certainly be encouraged to continue to build on this number.

5. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are often abandoned (even by the fittest) as an exercise option, but they should not be left undone. This exercise develops the upper body muscle group required to pull yourself onto a roof, over a fence, or even to utilize many take-down and hold-down techniques.

For many, one is better than none, but a 100% rating is 14 pull-ups.

6. Standing Long Jump

A great plyometric measurement of the explosive power of the lower body is the standing long jump. It measures the same power that allows an officer to catch a suspect in the first few steps of a sudden flight on foot. It also propels a team member up a flight of steps in full gear.

To jump 100 inches from a standing position would correspond to 100%.

7. Squat Thrusts

An excellent measure of lower body muscular endurance is the squat thrust. It is essential for team members to practice this exercise. Being successful is 50% fitness and 50% technique. The squat thrust, the pull-up and the push-up are three top-notch exercises to develop muscular endurance.

A total of 20 squat thrusts done in 30 seconds would constitute 100%.

8. The 12-Minute Run

The last event to be performed should be a 12-minute run. The distance completed in the time allotted is then calculated to determine the score. For example:

  • For a team member under 30 years of age, 100% is 2 miles.
  • For 30–40 years of age, 100% is 1.82 miles.
  • ​​For 40+ years of age, 100% is 1.75 miles.

The 12-minute run measures cardiovascular endurance, but as the team members compete, their grit is on full display as well.

A standard mile-and-a-half run is also an option.

Fit for the FIGHT

As a police trainer for 39 years, I have watched many officers in top condition allow their physical fitness to diminish to the point where they needed assistance to get up from a kneeling position. This is not only sad, but in most cases where injuries were not the cause, completely preventable.

The secret to winning a righteous fight is in the word itself:
F- Fitness
I – Intensity and integrity
GH – God’s Help (realizing God helps those who help themselves)
T – Tactics and techniques performed with tenacity

If you are a police officer, you must physically train for the fight. It’s coming! Are you fit for it?

This article, originally published March 2016, has been updated.

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