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...
Simple. Not easy.
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...
The POPAT (the Police Officer Physical Abilities Test) can be a challenging feat. Between the Agility Run, the Pull/Push Machine and the Vault, there are numerous possible sticking points. Each person has their own sticking points, and no two people have the same training background and experience.
While this article is specific to the POPAT, the principles remain the same for the PARE. Generally, the vault on the PARE is less challenging because you don't complete the vaults in succession, and you perform them earlier in the course. There are 3 common reasons for this: your don't use your arms, you're not jumping and you're too exhausted. In this article, we tackle these obstacles and how to train to master the vault.
This week we have been breaking down the energy systems, how they work and how to train them. If you want to learn about the energy systems in general, the ATP-PCr system or the Anaerobic system follow the links.
Today we are talking about the Aerobic system. This is the most complex of the 3 systems and is how the body uses Oxygen to generate energy via a process called 'cellular respiration', which occurs in an organelle called the mitochondria. The mitochondria is commonly referred to as the "power house" of the cell because it is within the mitochondria that most ATP is produced.
Here are my 3 favorite exercises to help prepare you for the Vault. While these exercises will definitely help you, the vault still requires a general level of athleticism. Keep practices and you will get both faster and more efficient.
The vault requires both upper body and lower body strength, and the ability to coordinate them.
Complete the below workout as quickly as possible, resting as little as possible.
Today's workout is a tough, endurance workout.
Only successful attempts of the 6'/5' jump count as reps.
- Stop Watch
- Tape measure or 6'/5' yoga mat
Bodyweight training is effective, fun and dynamic. It’s also extremely versatile, in that you don’t need a lot of space or equipment to perform the exercises. Most of the workouts/exercises are ones that you could perform in your living room, or even a hotel room when you’re on the road.
The most important aspect of bodyweight training, as with traditional strength and resistance training, is to emphasize technique. Only progress to a harder variation or increase your repetitions when you can complete your workout with perfect form. You can still develop plenty of strength with poor form, but in the long run you are setting yourself up for, in the worst case, a devastating injury or, in the best case, an impassable plateau.
Below are my favorite bodyweight exercises to help prepare for the POPAT/PARE.
1. Push Up: It’s the classic. It may have been your nemesis in high-school gym class, but when training for your Physical Abilities Test (PAT) it is your best friend (or at least a decent roommate with some irritating traits, but some redeeming qualities). To pass the POPAT, I recommend being able to pump out 35 strict, full body push ups without any lag in form.
- Regression: Incline Push Up. Perform pushups using an elevated bar (ex: barbell on a squat rack). Progress to being able to perform 35 reps with strict form (i.e. not letting the back sag, or letting the shoulders dump forward). Once you can consistently perform 35 reps for multiple sets (i.e. 2-3 sets), start lowering the bar, and becoming more parallel with the floor.
- Progression: Feet Elevated. Elevate your feet by putting them on a box or a chair. A common mistake is leaving your hands too far in front of your shoulders. This compromises your pushing ability, but it allows you to push your weight back towards your feet making the ‘push’ part of the push-up easier. Don’t cheat. If you can’t perform reps with your feet elevated, try using a lower elevation of the feet or spreading your feet between 2 chairs/boxes.
2. Straddle Hollow Body Hold: this is by favorite core exercise, and coincidentally, one of the exercises that gives gymnasts their classically ripped cores. You should consistently be able to hold a Straddle Hollow Body Hold for 30s for 3-5 sets for general fitness. For performance, I recommend having a solid 60s hold for 3-5 sets.
- Regression: Armadillo Hollow Body. Instead of performing the hollow body hold in the straddle position, bring your knees to 90 degrees while keeping your thighs vertical. Use your arms to reach down past your hips and ‘compress’ your torso, being sure to keep you lower back flat on the floor.
- Progressions: Straddle Hollow Body Rocks. While maintaining your straddle hollow body position, begin to ‘rock’ by elevating your feet and then descending them 12-16 inches. Your feet should not hit the ground. Strive for 35 reps for a total of 3-5 sets.
3. Walking Lunges: the ultimate leg conditioner. Start walking forward for a distance (ex: 200m). Only rest for the amount of time it takes to walk back the distance that you have lunged. Repeat for 3-4 sets; progress and regress by playing with the distance and the speed of the sets.
4. Body Weight Squats: aka the Push Up for the lower body. Perform 20-30 reps in a set for 3-5 sets. Ensure that your form is correct, keeping your back flat and your knees outside your big toes.
5. Hanging: most people try to pull themselves up to a bar, long before they’ve learned how to hand from it. Instead of struggling to get your chin up to that bar for only 1 or 2 reps, start with hanging. Aim to hang from a chin up bar for a full minute, for 3 sets. Slowly build up strength by lengthening your hanging time. For most people, hanging for even 15 seconds can be challenging. Whenever possible, try to maintain a hollow body position (posteriorly tilted pelvis) throughout your hang. This will ensure proper and ever progression of your hanging ability.
- Regression: use a chair or a box to support some of your weight.
- Progression: add weight or time to your hang. You can also perform an L-Sit for a grip and core strength developer.
6. Crawling: this is usually the one that catches people off guard. Crawling? You mean like a baby? Yes. Or, alternatively, like an animal. Try to keep your limbs moving in synchronous alternating left-hang-right-foot with right-hand-left-foot. Even crawling just a few meters can be brutal, and an effective way to strengthen your core and upper body.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. These are some of my favorite body weight exercises, but there are literally thousands to choose from. Keep track of your progress and always strive to get stronger.
B.Kin, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology CPT.
Short answer? It depends.
The more often you train, the more results you will see.... to an extent. How much you train isn't as important as how well you recover.
How well you recover is highly individual, and a product of multiple factors...
First, take a 22 years old with an athletic background? She's fresh out of college, where she ran track, is working reasonable hours and has a sunny-disposition. She can probably train 2x a day for 7 days a week, eat pizza, and make still progress.
How about the 45 years old guy who's overworked? He's been working at a dead-end job for 15 years, has slowly gained weight and takes melatonin to get to sleep every night. His recovery abilities probably aren't quite as generous as they used to be. He will need to be more conscious of how he sleeps, what he eats, and how he spends his downtime.
The one thing both of these people have in common? Good habits will maximize their results.
2. Training Experience (aka Training Age)
If you have experience with resistance or cardiovascular training you can usually train more often than a brand-spankin'-new beginner.
Being able to train twice a day is one thing, but you also need time to recover from every session you put your body through. That includes extra sleep (quality sleep), and time to prepare proper meals to meet the needs of your recovering body (which is literally re-building the tissues you damaged during your training session).
4. Type of Training
Some types of training take more of a toll on your body than others. For example, long-distance running and heavy resistance training can be devastating to your body, and leave you walking with less than a spring in your step for days following.
Lighter resistance days or short/high-intensity workouts will usually allow you to bounce back much quicker. This allows you to accumulate more training volume over multiple sessions than you could have in the single, much more demanding, session.
Keep in mind, the grueling long-distance runs and the heavy-double resistance days have their place, but you don't need to be training that way every week.
5. What are your goals?
If you have more demanding goals, you will need to have higher training demands. This means not only training hard but also training smart.
However, if your goals are general health, or if you just want a Physical Abilities Test (PAT) time that meets your application requirement, you can trade in the 'extra' training days and replace it with the activities that make life worth living. Not feeling the gym today? Take a hike (in the literal sense), go for a bike ride, or even just a walk around the block.
*6. A great recovery day is better than a poor training day
I don't mean you get to sit on your butt and binge-watch Scandal. But taking a day out of the gym and spending it with your family or friends can be just as valuable as yet another day in the gym, as long as you've earned it. Sprinkle in a short recovery style workout (ex: 1 min skipping, 25 BW Squats, 15 Push Ups, 30 walking lunges, FINISH), and 10 minutes of mobility work and your day off can have just as positive of an effect on your training.
But Mark.... How often should I train!?!
Ok, fine. I'll give you some actionable guidelines. However, understand that the below recommendations are extremely general, and how often you train combined with what type of training you are doing is something you need to figure out on your own (or, preferably, with the guidance of a great trainer.
Here are some basics:
Strength and Resistance: As a general guideline, if you're new to strength/resistance training I would recommend training 2-3 times per week. Use your soreness as a judgment on how much you can handle.
Cardiovascular/Aerobic Conditioning: If you are performing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), I would recommend training 3 times per week.
B.Kin, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology CPT