Stop Training for the POPAT

Stop. Stop it right now. Seriously.

This isn't really a post about the POPAT (which is the Police Officer Physical Abilities Test). This is, in reality, a book about 'Sport Specific Training' and the flaws most people commit. There is a perception that when we are training for a sport or a specific task that my exercises need to directly emulate the sporting task. For example, using a weighted baseball bat to try and make your swing stronger or faster, or using weighted boxing gloves to try and accomplish the same thing when you are boxing. While this seems like it might be a good idea, the reality is that it is misguided and lends itself to injuries without an improvement in performance.

Instead of trying to improve the specific components of the POPAT, train to make your machine (aka your body) more efficient. A well-rounded strength and conditioning program is going to take you a lot farther than any POPAT specific training protocol will.

I am NOT saying that you can't take advantage of strategies and specific tips to help you conquer specific obstacles within your Physical Abilities Test (PAT). (My friend Mark Locquiao does a great job of teaching POPAT strategies. Check out his tips here). However, if you are training without a solid foundation then you are not only wasting your time on less effective training, you are also doing yourself and injustice once you enter the Police Force. In order to have success throughout your law enforcement career, you need well-rounded strength, full mobility, and solid conditioning training.

By now you are probably asking something like this:  "So.... If I am not supposed to train for the POPAT then how on earth am I supposed to train?"

The answer is a well-rounded strength and conditioning program. Focus on strengthening your fundamental movements and building a solid aerobic base, more than worrying about if your POPAT time is 4:10 of 3:34. At the end of the day, your PAT time doesn't matter, as long as you have met the base requirements.

Here is what you should focus on and include in your training:

1. Push

You need to have a solid ability to press and push. This includes movements such as bench pressing, push-ups, and military press. It may seem obvious that improving your Pushing strength with also help you with the Push-Pull Machine, but it will also simply make you a more well-rounded athlete.

2. Pull

Pulling is the compliment to Pushing. Having a strong pull is essential for shoulder health and hand-to-hand combat scenarios. Pulling movements include horizontal rows, pull-ups, and bent over rows. Pulling is the other side of the coin, complimenting Pushing. Having a balanced Push and Pull decreases you chance of injury and will improve your performance.

3. Squat

Squatting is an essential movement because it requires adequate coordination, mobility, and core strength. Using variations in your training like front squats, back squats, and goblet squats. Training your squat is going to improve your running speed and endurance, as well as increasing your jumping abilities.

4. Lunge

Unilateral strength is one the most effective training methods. By incorporating lunges you are not only accelerating your strength gains, you are also improving your core stability and control. Lunges are some of the best unilateral exercises you can choose, improving your stability and leg strength simultaneously.

5. Hinge

Being able to hinge is essential for preventing injury. Hinging teaches you how to use your hips without compromising your back in the process. Whether you are running, jumping, tackling or simply picking something up off the ground, hinging is essential. Hinge movements include deadlifts, good-mornings and kettlebell swings.

6. Anti-Rotations

The core is designed to stabilize. Including anti-rotation exercises in your training helps you learn how to increase stability under dynamic and asymmetrical loads. Anti-rotations exercises include Pallof Presses, bird-dogs, and single-leg or single arm movements (e.g. single leg deadlifts, unilateral rows, etc.).

7. Locomotion

Locomotion can include a plethora of different movements. (Not going to lie, I was really excited just to use the word 'plethora' in the correct context). Locomotion simply refers to moving from one place to another. On a strength day, I will usually use loaded carries such as farmer walks and overhead carries. On conditioning days I incorporate sprints and bear crawls.


Training doesn't need to be complicated. If you include each of the above movements in your training sessions you will be well on your way to improved athleticism (and your time on the POPAT).



If you need additional guidance, check out the Prepare to Protect Training Program that I put together with LEPAT inc (Law Enforcement Physical Abilities Testing Inc) for LEO Candidates. Alternatively, contact me about my Online Coaching Program for 1-on-1 advice.

Here is what Lynia had to say about my program:

"When I began training with Mark my only goal was to pass the POPAT. I came to him with poor posture, a bad shoulder and a disdain for strength training. By the end of our time together I learned how to train and stretch properly. As a result, my shoulder pain and posture improved drastically. Not only did I pass the POPAT, but I surpassed the goal set for time. I went from a fail to a time of 3:31. Once this goal was reached, I moved forward setting new fitness goals with Mark's help.
Mark provided weekly online programs and promptly answered any questions through text, email or Skype. Mark ensure I used proper technique by watching videos of my exercises and provided feedback.
- Constable Lynia T

Keep training with Pride.

-Mark Murdoch, Kinesiologist

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Author: Mark Murdoch, Kinesiologist, Chiropractic Student. Have questions? Email me. I want to help!