Don’t ever complicate it. Follow these 3 principles instead.
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...
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...
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...
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...
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....
If you are training from the POPAT, PARE, COPAT, or any other Physical Abilities Test, you will definitively benefit from this advice. I asked experts in the industry including trainers, testers, professors and current Law Enforcement Officers for their advice.
I asked two simple questions, one about PAT training and obstacles, and the other about life in the force. Each of these pieces of advice is super valuable, so I encourage you to take action and your next step towards your Law Enforcement career.