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How to Get Into SWAT Shape

Acquiring and maintaining a high level of fitness can make you a better cop, on or off a SWAT team.

November 01, 2006  |  by Stew Smith

Training for any agency's SWAT team is physically, mentally, and tactically challenging. Add in long and changing shift work hours, family obligations, and not enough time in the day, and your goal of joining a SWAT team appears even more difficult. The goal of this article is to assist those police officers currently on the force in achieving the fitness level of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officers.

Obtaining SWAT team membership naturally requires you to be in better shape than the average officer, in addition to having above average shooting skills. Being a team player is just as important as advanced fitness levels and shooting well. But, it is ultimately up to the individual to have the motivation to exercise before or after shift and on days off. This ability will be a determining factor in the SWAT candidate's success or failure.

This article will help you create a program that is right for you and will take into account all the testing items of your department's SWAT team screening. Whether a patrol officer or SWAT team member, being more physically fit will enable you to better focus on the task at hand instead of being unable to perform a task due to a lack of strength or endurance.

Creating Your Exercise Routine

To create one program for all law enforcement officers would be impossible. Police forces do not have the same standards of fitness and many do not even test in the same exercises or events. It is best to find out what your city, county, or state test is and prepare properly for the fitness test at least four to six months in advance.

The workout you create for your SWAT team requirements should take into consideration the make-up of the police officer's daily routine. As a police officer on the street, most of the day is spent sitting or walking while on patrol. In an instant, you sprint, jump, climb, crawl to help someone or to wrestle a person to the ground. All in a day's work, right?

This is very similar to the skills used by a football player. As in policing, on a football field, speed, strength, and quickness are needed in an instant. But you must add to your skill set the stamina and endurance of a boxer or wrestler when it really counts to successfully apprehend a suspect.

That is why the workouts you create should include high-repetition calisthenics, heavy and light weight lifting, short sprints, and longer runs or swims to complete the total package of what is needed to be the "best on the street."

SWAT Standards

Whether you attend a local, state, or federal law enforcement academy, you will be required to enter the institution by passing a physical fitness test. SWAT and Military Special Forces physical standards prove very challenging to the  majority of applicants-even more so than the police academy.

SWAT team entry standards are just as varied throughout the United States as police academy standards. Depending upon the location of the department, many SWAT teams require you to endure water confidence and swimming tests in addition to running, rope climbing, pushups, dips, sit-ups, pull-ups, and obstacle courses. And there are various other tests not mentioned here that you might be required to pass. You'll have to do your homework to make sure you'll be prepared for your  agency's testing.

Although there are several hundred SWAT units across the United States, this article and sample workout plan focus on job-related tasks used to test the FBI SWAT teams at their field offices across the country. There are SWAT units with easier standards and others with much more challenging standards, but you should be able to create a plan for your needs using this fitness model.

The FBI Field Office SWAT Team Performance Standards Test (PST) consists of three events:

1) The Pursuit Rescue Climb

2) The Assault Dash

3) The Tactical Obstacle Course

Each event mimics actual job-related tactics and requires speed, agility, strength, and endurance. The three testing events will be broken down into body parts required for performance and essential exercises to assist in growth for that event, so you will see what exercises will assist in preparing for such tests.

For instance, the Pursuit Rescue Climb is a weighted pull-up test in which each member wears a SWAT vest weighing 25 pounds. (The vest plus two 7-pound plates equal 25 pounds.) The muscles involved are the forearm grip muscles, biceps, back, and abdominal muscles.

Some of the exercises used to help develop these areas include:

  • Pull-ups (non-weighted and weighted)
  • Negative pull-ups
  • Assisted pull-ups Towel pull-ups
  • Pull-downs
  • Bent-over rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Variety of abdominal exercises
  • Lower back exercises

The Assault Dash is not your ordinary 40-yard sprint you may have run in high school. This one requires you to wear body armor weighing 18 pounds (an 11-pound SWAT vest plus one 7-pound plate), carry a Remington 870 shotgun, and wear a helmet. Starting in the prone position, the candidate must run 40 yards as quickly as possible.

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Michael Vailencour @ 5/5/2011 10:01 AM

I'm glad somebody posted this. It gives me an idea of the kind of workouts I will practice during college and years before trying out for SWAT.

Jacqueline @ 7/28/2012 8:35 PM

I want to be on the swat team but I can't swim. Is swimming nessicary on the swat team?

Craig @ 2/13/2013 10:07 AM

Is there prior law enforcement training need? Say 3-6 years on the force before even being considered for SWAT?

daniel majors @ 6/4/2013 8:56 AM

hi swat teams iam looking in to working out with yus

diljot singh @ 6/26/2013 7:15 AM

Sir i diljot singh wants to that can a person who is not the native of your country can also apply or not what other requirements are to be fulfilled.

Dustin Hamblin @ 7/15/2014 10:30 AM

I would be intrigued to receive a full workout schedule if at all possible

B Crawford @ 11/19/2014 7:52 PM

I'd appreciate it, if all of you would learn proper grammar and spelling. Thank you!

Eli @ 6/11/2015 4:00 AM

sir, I am 12 yrs old and want to get a fresh start on training for SWAT Sir, I want to know sir what school will understand SWAT sir.

Thank you, sir

Bruce @ 8/6/2015 8:59 PM

This is as bad as when I worked as a recruiter for LAPD. Folks, you do not start out working, for any department, as a motor officer, detective, SWAT team member or pilot. You prove that you can handle police work and gain expertise in patrol procedures before you are invited to apply for a position or take a promotional test. Just like the military. No, you do not bet out of basic training one day and work in SF, recon or the rangers the next. No matter what the recruiter says.

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