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Why police officers should adopt Lt. Dan’s workouts during their careers and beyond retirement

With the benefit of hindsight, I can share that my physical training regimen allowed me to retire physically, legally and emotionally undefeated after a career full of challenges

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Looking back, I guess I’d say: I worked out like my life depended on it. And, as it turned out, it did.

Photo/Dan Marcou

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On my patrol cars, the motto reads, “To protect and serve.”

From the first day of my law enforcement career, I understood that serving the public came naturally to me. However, I quickly realized that protecting others would require a high level of fitness and skill. Therefore, to achieve this goal, I developed a personal workout regimen that prepared me for the challenges I faced on the streets in protection mode. I trained throughout my entire career with the mindset of a professional athlete, focused on winning and firmly believing that losing was not an option.

I prepared to engage in and win foot pursuits, legally overcome physical resistance with technique, backed up by upper body strength and endurance, acquire the skill to legally defeat multiple attackers, train others in the skills required to legally prevail and pass a yearly SWAT team physical exam.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can share that my physical training regimen allowed me to retire physically, legally and emotionally undefeated after a career full of challenges.

To retire undefeated, you must work hard to survive physically, legally and emotionally – losing any one of these battles can lead to devastating consequences for officers

Without further ado, here is the workout regimen that I believe all police officers should consider adopting.


Developing muscular strength and endurance was often useful on the street, especially when it was necessary to overcome aggressive resistance or rescue a downed officer.

Key point: When lives are on the line, you might be able to bluff tough, but there is no faking strong.

When weightlifting, I preferred free weights. I worked out three to five times a week, taking a day off between weight workouts, which looked like this:

  • Bicep curls (with a curl bar), 3 sets for eight repetitions.
  • Reverse curls (with a curl bar), 3 sets for eight repetitions.
  • Upright rows (with a curl bar), 3 sets for eight repetitions.
  • Military presses (with dumbbells), 3 sets for eight repetitions.
  • Flies (with dumbbells), 3 sets for 8 repetitions.
  • Bench press (with olympic bar), 5 or more set, increasing weight each set for between 8 to 3 repetitions.
  • Incline bench (with olympic bar), 3 sets for eight repetitions.
  • Pull downs (on machine), 3 sets of eight repetitions.

While lifting weights, I also did push-ups (on my knuckles), sit-ups, pull-ups and flexibility stretches.

Key point: I stopped going for “max” early on.

I found that performing lifts for three repetitions, using a weight where the last reps require a significant effort, allowed for the development of maximum strength while minimizing the risk of injuries commonly associated with “going for the max.”

Key point: I did not condition my legs with weights. I felt it would be best that my leg conditioning be done during my runs and defensive tactics training.


For my leg strength, cardiovascular endurance and stress management, I embraced running through beautiful terrains for moderate distances off-road. I have run up local bluffs, through the Alps and across the Blue Ridge Mountains. My runs have taken me alongside the Mississippi, Danube, Potomac and even the Volga Rivers. I’ve explored wooded trails, national parks, battlefields and deserts.

To maintain my prolonged ability to run, I ran:

Dan and Bailey Running.JPG

Lt. Dan running with his dog, Bailey.

Photo/Henry Marcou

  • On dirt, grass and snow-covered (not icy) surfaces only. Avoiding cement surfaces substantially cut down on the impact on my joints.
  • Distances of three miles or less, and rarely more, believing too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
  • With my trained dogs, making it a more enjoyable experience.
  • Steps, hills and sprints intermittently, when I was a police officer. These drills paid off when I needed explosive power during initial steps in foot pursuits.
  • In high-quality shoes. I replaced shoes before the support wore down.

Key points: I never took vacations from workouts, rather I made workouts a part of enjoying vacations. I also regularly ran steps at my police department, folding in a combat firearms course, training to fire accurately, while my heart rate and respirations were elevated.

Defensive tactics workouts

Defensive tactics (DT) training proved a key factor, which ensured my physical survival. Three and a half years into my career, I was asked by a commander to teach other officers to “do whatever it is that you do.” I agreed.

As a DT instructor, I was not only able to supplement my income over and above my full-time job as a law enforcement officer, but I was able to supplement my martial arts training by adding substantial repetitions of practice, while also teaching police defensive tactics techniques to other officers.

While training in martial arts/defensive tactics:

  • I concentrated on doing the technique in perfect form.
  • I avoided joint lockout, even when called for by martial arts instructors. Locking out joints in mid-air did not feel healthy to me.
  • I found “shadow fighting” (practicing all techniques against an imaginary opponent) was a valuable part of my workouts.
  • I maintained a mental attitude, believing my training would prevail over any criminals who chose to be resistive or assaultive.
Right now, a very dangerous person is preparing for the day they meet you. Are you preparing for them?

Working out after retirement

To stay fit, I have continued working out after retiring. However, I have tempered my workouts. Here’s how:

  • Defensive tactics: My defensive tactics/martial arts workouts are done on my own now to avoid contact injuries and falling. I concentrate on performing techniques smoothly in perfect form without intensity. Shadow fighting, done smoothly, remains a key part of my regimen. I retired from training others, but I have occasionally taught clinic at my home martial arts academy and home agency.
  • Weight lifting: I still lift weights, concentrating on a full range of motion, while using dumbbells of moderate weights. The dumbbell exercises I now do for three sets of eight include bicep curls, reverse curls, military press and flies. I also still add push-ups (on my knuckles), sit-ups, pull-ups and flexibility stretches to my weight workouts.
  • Running: I run up to three miles every day with my dog, Bailey. We still run through beautiful areas on grass or dirt.


As I maintain the habit of working out daily, I recognize that my workout regimen was crucial for surviving some of life’s toughest challenges during my career. Now in retirement, because my workouts have kept me healthy, I can fully enjoy the best of what life has to offer.

Looking back, I guess I’d say: I worked out like my life depended on it.

And, as it turned out, it did.

How about you?

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.