Warning: this is the most boring article you will read this week.
Straight up. I am going to talk about some super simple, straightforward NON-ground breaking stuff... It isn't the most exciting. BUT.... if you take what you read to heart and actually USE IT you can significantly decrease your chance of injury or even address some of the injuries you may already have.
I have already written about WHY so many cops get back pain and how they should train to maximize their performance. I highly recommend checking those article out.
The focus of this article is teaching 'Spine Sparing' strategies. These strategies will help you learn to use your shoulders and hip properly, instead of your back...
Strength and Conditioning isn't rocket science, though some of the programs I see suggest otherwise.
The best way for an officer to avoid injury is to have a simple, well rounded and consistent program. No fancy gimmicks or equipment, just solid fundamentals. That doesn't mean we can't have fun.... battle ropes, airdynes, medicine balls... they all have their place. But the bulk of your training should be focused on the highest ROI.
When I train officers, I focus on the 7 Fundamental Movement Patterns. These are: Pressing, Pulling, Lunging, Squatting, Hinging, Twisting and Running. As human beings, everything we do is a hybridization or variation of these 7 movement patterns. Sometimes it can look more complex than that, but the reality is everything can be broken down into its' movement building blocks. (Kinda like Lego! And who doesn't love Lego?).
How often you train is going to affect what each training session looks like, but the sessions don't have to vary dramatically. I have already written extensively about the 7 Fundamental Movement patterns, so if you are unfamiliar with them I suggest checking out the series I wrote about them: Part 1: Push/Pull, Part 2: Lunge/Squat, Part 3: Hinge/Twist and Part 4: Gait/Running.
Here are a couple of examples, depending on frequency, of how a training session would look...
If you have back pain, you are among millions of North Americans. As many as 85% of people will experience back pain in their lifetime, and most of those who do will experience it more than once. That is borderline INSANITY. There are many factors in play, like biomechanics, genetics and body composition, but the good news is, for most people it is preventable. Many people can get out of pain by making a deliberate decision to fix it.
For a Law Enforcement Officer, this can be a significant problem, and the deck is stacked against you. Between the car, the gear, and the physical demands, LEOs are pre-disposed to injury, unless you take proper precautions. The nature of the job requires you to be able to go from a standstill to 100% effort immediately. You're not about to tell a bad guy "Hold on a sec, I just need to quickly do some glute bridges and monster walks." If you are going to be prepared for this rapid increase in intensity, you need to train for it and have the mobility to handle it. The nature of the responsibilities of an L.E.O. require a lot of sedentary time, and it doesn't set you up for success.
In order to avoid losing time on your POPAT or PARE laps, you need to be proficient at the speeding up and down the stairs. There is an obvious solution: train stairs more. BUT, if you struggle with it there are more effective ways to train.
Here is what NOT to do: do laps on the stairs to exhaustion...
Training for the horizontal jump will translate beyond taking your Physical Abilities Test (PAT). The jump requires a combination of mobility and athleticism, It takes another level of fitness to be able to pull off the jump mid-run, without losing momentum or excess energy.
The jump requires explosive strength, which is essential for athleticism. Here are my favorite exercises to develop lower body power to master the horizontal jump.
While generally easier than the Push, the Pull station of the Police Physical Abilities Test (PAT) can be a challenge. Below are a few of my favorite exercises to help you train the pull and take it from an obstacle to a time-saving station.
It is often assumed that the ‘Push’ station of the Police Physical Abilities Tests (PATs) are a measure of upper body strength or endurance. While upper-body pressing power is a major factor, the ‘Push’ requires whole body involvement. If you only train for pressing, you still won’t get anywhere if you fail to transfer force from your core...
If you take your training seriously you need to understand the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This means that how you train has a direct impact on your results. You get out what you put in. The stimulus you provide creates the adaptation. It isn't just limited to the gym though. The SAID principle applies to all aspects of your physical life, including what you do in the remaining 23hrs of the day spent outside the gym.
Let's talk about what it is, how it affects your training and how you can take advantage of it to maximize your performance.
In late 2015 I was watching a Free Shoot session during a University of the Fraser Valley’s Men’s Basketball Team practice. After a few minutes of observation, I texted the head athletic therapist of UFV and said “This guy is going to have knee problems” accompanied by a picture. Fast forward to early 2016, he tore his ACL. It was a non-contact injury while he was changing directions at the baseline. I wasn’t thrilled that I was right, but I did take some pride in my prediction coming true...
Here is how I made my prediction and how you can start to see the big picture and prevent injuries.
I mobilize every day. Or at least.... most days.... But that's beside the point. What I am trying to say, in a less-than-elegant manner, is that mobilization is important, and it should be done often. My car, my desk, and my kitchen table all contribute to some sticky spots in my Range of Motion that I need to work out on a regular basis. BUT. I have a different set of tools than most of the people reading this. I have a pretty strong knowledge of anatomy and access to clinicians and soft-tissue tools that aren't commonplace.
But again.... that's beside the point. The POINT is that you don't need any sort of advanced anatomy knowledge, fancy or expensive tools, or to pay $50 every time you have sore calf muscles. You are perfectly capable of doing regular maintenance on yourself. All it takes is a simple understanding of a few simple principles to get you heading in the right direction. That is what I outline in this post.