Fitness is critical for all law enforcement officers, especially those on tactical units.
Police work requires great endurance, strength and agility attributes that can mean the difference between life and death.
There are two types of endurance; cardiovascular and muscular. Cardiovascular endurance refers to the type of endurance where you can run up a flight of stairs and not feel out of breath at the top. Muscular endurance refers to running that same flight and not having your legs feel like jelly at the top.
How do you gain the stamina and endurance needed? Cardiovascular exercise is the answer. Cardiovascular exercise is defined as any activity that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up. Here's the catch: You must sustain your heart rate in your training zone for at least 20 minutes (see sidebar for training zone calculation).
If you have the time, 30 or 40 minutes of the activity would be even better. It is important to note here however, that recent findings do not recommend cardiovascular activity in excess of 60 minutes. Studies show only 20 percent of the calories you burned in the first 60 minutes are burned after the 60-minute mark. Plus, the chance of injury increases with time and fatigue.
As far as cardiovascular exercise options, there are many choices: running, biking, swimming, rope jumping, stair climbing, ski-machine, etc. It is vital to pick an activity that you enjoy as this will increase the likelihood you will do it consistently.
An important consideration is to match your physical conditioning to your actual job duties or needs. This is much like the Sport-specific training athletes do. For example, in law enforcement, running is more common then bicycling in most cases. Likewise a well-designed conditioning program should find the officer engaged in running more often than using the stationary cycle. This also targets the specific muscles used in the job task.
While it can be beneficial to substitute various exercises from time to time (cross-training) to avoid boredom and break through training plateaus, make sure you are training in the weight room for what you wish to improve in the field. Training must mimic job function.
(Success With Agility Training)
Agility is defined as the ability to stop, stat1 and change direction of body movements very quickly. The benefits of having great agility in the field of law enforcement, especial1y in tactical divisions such as SWAT, goes without saying.
Contrary to what one may think, agility can be improved, it is not just for the genetically gifted. Even if you do not have regular access to your department's obstacle course or training facility, there are simple exercises you can perform, Below is a sample routine sure to enhance not only your agility, but your endurance and cardiovascular fitness as well.
As with all agility and speed drills, make sure you have proper footwear and a non-slip surface to train on.
Exercise 1: Jumping Jacks: Begin your agility circuit by warming-up with these for three to five minutes. Stay light on the feet and keep your knees bent to reduce strain on the low-back.
Exercise 2: Squats: Clasp your hands behind your head and look-up slightly. With your toes pointed forward and feet shoulder width apart, slowly descend into a sitting position. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, stand up, stopping just Short of locking the knees. Concentrate on squeezing the thighs and glute muscles.
Aim for three sets of 15 reps.
Exercise 3: Lateral Slides: Similar to the Edgren Side Step (see Testing Agility), this movement is the foundation of agility training. Mark two lines on the floor about 5 yards apart. Standing between the lines, crouch down to transfer stress from your low back to legs and move from side to side, touching each line, as quickly as you can. Pick the feet up and shuffle from side to side, do not let the feet cross over each other. Aim for three sets of 60 seconds each.
Exercise 4: Squat Jumps. This exercise develops fast, explosive power in the legs. Squat down with your thighs parallel to the floor and your arms down at your sides. Then jump up as high as you can and outstretch the arms as if you're trying to touch the ceiling. Upon landing, return to the starting, crouched position and repeat. You may find it helpful to mark the wall at the height of your jump in order to record your progress. Attempt two sets of 15 jumps.
Exercise 5: Clapping Push-ups.
Give the lower body a break and assume the classic push-up position on hands and toes. With hands shoulder width apart, lower your chest until it touches the floor. Now push up with enough force and speed that you can clap the hands together at the top of the movement. Start with two sets of 10 push-ups. Build up to three sets of 15.
Exercise 6: High Knees and Chopping Feet. Want to develop quickness?
For 30 seconds, run in place, bringing the knees as high into the chest as you can, swing the arms as well if you need to. After 30 seconds, change the pace to chopping feet where you simply keep the feet moving like you're stomping your feet. Stay on the balls of the feet, coming just inches off the ground. After 30 seconds, go back to high knees. Then rest 60 seconds, Repeat twice.
Cool down with some light stretches and deep breathing.
Do the above routine in its entirety three days per week. Gradually increase the sets and time when your endurance improves. Done consistently, this agility circuit will provide you with better agility and better overall fitness.
Testing Agility Ability
To establish a baseline with which to compare future progress of officers, perform the Edgren Side Step Test as follows:
Allow the officer to warm-up and then perform a submaximal trial run.
The officer stands astride a center line within a 12-foot-wide box.
On the signal "Go," the officer sidesteps to the right until his/her foot has touched or crossed the outside line (6 feet from center).
The officer then sidesteps 12 feet to the left until his/her foot touches or crosses that outside line.
The officer sidesteps the 12-foot span, back and forth to the outside lines. as rapidly as possible for 10 seconds.
Each completion of both outside lines and back to center is scored as one point.
Deduct points if the officer does not touch any outside line or his/her feet cross over. Record points and retest in six weeks.
The Heart Of Training
To ensure you receive the benefits from your cardiovascular training, it is important that you monitor your intensity. Too little intensity will not provide you with all the benefits cardiovascular training can offer. Too much exertion can lead to ovel1raining and serious injury. Below is the formula to determine your heart rate training zone. The numbers represent hart beats per minute (BPM):
220-Age = __ Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
MHR x .65 = __ BPM (low end of training zone)
MHR x .85 = __ BPM (high end of training zone)
Simply subtract your age from 220 and the difference is your maximum heart rate. For conditioning, we want to work at an intensity between 65 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
An easy way to monitor your heart rate is to simply take two fingers and place them either on the radial pulse on the underside of your wrist or on the carotid m1ery, on the neck, just under the base of the jaw.
Count the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds then multiply the number by four. This will give your current heart/pulse rate.
A final word on heart rate zones: recent studies find that if weight loss is your goal, it is better to work longer at the lower end of your training zone (60 percent to 70 percent). While if stamina and endurance are what you desire, training towards the higher end (75 percent to 85 percent) will better serve your needs.
Sean Kenny is a certified trainer; popular lecturer and internationally published author on health and fitness He often works with law enforcement on the design, implementation and evaluation of fitness protocols. For more information, call (661)831-0805, e-mail: [email protected], or visit www.anythingfitness.com. Kenny is an occasional contributor to POLICE.