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Hard-Core Training for Hard-Core Cops, Part 2

The “functional” exercises begin with quickness drills. Get up, get down, get up as quickly as possible. Incorporating team competition to a simple T-drill and using various starting positions such as single- and double-knee kneeling, seated, prone and supine, can add camaraderie and fun to intense training.

Then, agility ball or tennis ball supine toss: Throw the ball directly above the body and into the air high enough to get up and catch it before it hits the ground. Team competition can bring forth remarkable results and effort. There are obvious differences with the agility ball versus the tennis ball because of the unpredictability of the bounce.

The stairway ups and downs work for simple, weighted activity with additional work through elevation change and for agility, hand-eye-foot coordination skill development and improvement. Again, team competition can even make it fun. Start by wearing a variable weight belt made specifically for physical activity while on the stairclimber, and progress from there.

Multi-directional lunges—forward, lateral, and transverse—are also included. Among other things, these apply to the field action of dropping to a knee, taking a cover position, getting up again and moving to the next position to repeat.

Suggested Drills and Training

One-legged training

Use much less weight and perform exercises while standing on one leg. Include the squat, snatch, clean and jerk, deadlift, and standing reach. This training even includes upper body resistance training such as military press, shoulder raises, and bicep curls while standing on one leg. This will not only improve balance but will help when you have to “make yourself small” then get up quickly and repeat, as these motions are almost always done from one foot. Even pushing off to walk is done with one foot, as is getting up from a kneeling position and jumping up to climb over a barrier.

Agility Ladder Drills

Perform footwork drills in the form of hops; diagonal movements; side-to-side; backwards; single-leg; double-leg; alternating; etc. Other drills include hopscotch, straight on foot speed work, and the “Icky shuffle.” Plyos are for power and metabolic demands (see previous article on Functional Training for LE).

Flexibility Training

Do flexibility training after your workout for reduced chance of injury (see previous article “To Stretch or Not to Stretch”). Participate in reactive, fast, power sports such as racquetball, volleyball, kickboxing, martial arts sparring, and others. If a woman is comfortable with her skill level, she should play with the guys for improved performance, response time, and power. Once per month, perform your workout in a gas mask for inoculation and adaptation effects. “911 Challenge” (workout) by Thinner Blue Line.

Each exercise and program must be personalized appropriately. Just as in real life, in a group larger than two, not everyone can do the same number of push-ups, sit-ups, or run at the same pace. In order to achieve proper progression, the programs must be similarly challenging for each person, which usually takes different physiological requirements.

Proper Rest, Recovery, and Nutrition Intake

When milliseconds matter, an operator must have all of the physical and mental capabilities. First and foremost, higher intensity training if implemented properly and incrementally should not cause much discomfort in the form of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Training that causes vomiting and prolonged DOMS is improper and not employed gradually enough over time.

In extreme cases, a condition called rhabdomyolysis or “Rhabdo” can occurr. Rhabdo, caused by extreme overexertion, is a potentially fatal condition caused when muscle fibers break down into the bloodstream so severely that they clog the kidneys, making them unable to process urine properly.

As stated best by Matthew Domyancic MS: “Although it may have been fun when we were playing youth sports and perceived to be a ‘good practice,’ workouts that make you puke and have muscle and joint soreness for days…are not good indicators of a properly designed workout. This is especially true for law enforcement officers or fire personnel with the unpredictable schedules that go with the territory.

“We are always ‘in season’ in public service and cannot plan periods off for recovery. When lives could depend on being able to perform physically and mentally, demanding skills under extreme life-and-death conditions, shortly after a workout or in the days following, people need to be ready to rock.

“Police, fire, and military personnel need to do performance-based workouts to increase on-the-job skills. However, they need to train smart and keep their nervous systems fresh and not overtrain their muscles so performance and reaction time do not suffer while operational on the job.”

In order for the body to adapt to the demands placed upon it, appropriate nutrition post-workout is absolutely required. Adequate sleep, as well as appropriate water, electrolyte, carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, are essential. Whole food proteins such as lean meats, fish, egg whites, and milk are excellent options. Generally, the less processed foods or the closer to nature the better. Those foods are rich in most amino acids and micronutrients and are effective at creating the calorie surplus needed for rebuilding the damaged muscles after a tough workout. Plus, they take longer to process, resulting in a lengthier feeling of being full.

If protein supplementation in the form of shakes, powder or bars is necessary, those that contain milk are better choices. A blend of whey and casein, which are both derived from milk, is considered the best option, as both slow- and fast-acting proteins are included. Milk also has the necessary carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen stores within the muscle. Whatever the choice, the sooner it is ingested after a workout, the more effective it will be.

Finally, just as a NASCAR team wouldn’t accept spending $10,000 on reducing the weight of a racecar by 6 pounds only to have the driver show up 8 pounds heavier, performing in these specialty positions requires the ability to manage body weight—and then some. Carrying that 20-pound weight plate around the waist in the form of body fat hinders performance.

The next time you’re in the weight room, add a weight plate to your body and perform as many pull ups as you can, then drop the plate and continue. That’s the difference that somatic muffin top makes, so get rid of it to improve speed and power and to avoid injury later on.

Performance-Enhancing Supplements

Should I or shouldn’t I? My personal answer will always be the same, and some will disagree. “Just say no” to supplements unless they are food. This is a multi-million dollar industry driven by profit. Companies don’t have to prove they do what they claim, they are not regulated by the FDA, and they don’t have to prove that they are safe. In this profession, the risk will never outweigh the benefits.

Studies have shown supplements tainted with illegal substances such as steroids and testosterone, which an officer simply cannot afford to have in the system when his blood is drawn post-shooting (it is coming). Some studies have also shown supplements to contain less or none of the active ingredient advertised, and even animal feces was found in almost 25% of nutritional supplements in samples collected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Get out and get after it! Do it properly and research everything for yourself. If you don’t have the time or desire to do this, find someone who does. It’s a way of life that you have chosen, so get out there and get some! Train hard, train smart, and rest easy for maximal performance.

Kathleen Vonk has been a certified police officer in Michigan since 1988, currently with the Ann Arbor Police. She earned a BS in exercise science and a BA in criminal justice. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2009

Rating : 10.0

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