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Functional Fitness, Part 2

Written by Kathleen Vonk

One of many potential functional workouts is the 3D Dumbbell Matrix by Gary Gray. There are many variations to this workout, but the routines basically incorporate the performance of several consecutive movements with no rest in between—performing them as fast as possible while maintaining sound form. All exercises are performed standing up, as the entire core will be engaged for stability and support. Tightening the abdominal and core muscles will also help to perform more reps and push more weight.

Here is one sample workout: 10 alternating military press (5 each arm), 10 alternating “Y” presses (like the song YMCA), 10 alternating reaches straight out to your sides (like a “T”), 10 alternating straight punches, 10 alternating cross reaches (right hand crosses in front of the body toward the left hand with torso rotation and vice versa), 10 alternating upper cuts, 10 alternating cross upper cuts with torso rotation, 10 alternating bicep curls, 10 alternating stationary lunges (step out in front), 10 alternating lateral lunges (to the sides while keeping the toes pointing forward), 10 alternating transverse lunges (torso rotation at a 45 degree angle behind you, keeping the front foot stationary and toes pointing forward), and then repeat the last three lunge exercises but add a military press or bicep curl on each return.

Plyometric training is specific work for the enhancement of explosive power. Vertical jumps, squat jumps, tuck jumps, single and double leg hops, long jumps, push-ups with clapping in between reps, trunk rotation with a medicine ball in hand, and many forms of passing and throwing a medicine ball are all examples of plyometric exercises. Keep the work interval short and the rest interval longer for adequate recovery, but upper body plyos can be alternated with lower body plyos to save time and maximize workout efficiency.

For example, start by doing 10 stationary squat jumps with no extra weight. Drop and do 10 military push-ups with an airborne phase in between each rep. Continue with 10 tuck jumps, then hold a dumbbell or medicine ball out in front of you and quickly spell out your name in the air (standing). Move to skipping in place getting as high as you can with your knees, then do 10 vertical wood chops out in front of your body with the ball or weight.

If you can’t do standard full-body push-ups in the plank position, start from your knees and let your upper body fall toward the ground. Catch yourself with your hands and explosively push your body back up to the kneeling position. Work your way up to full-body push-ups, then work toward incorporating an airborne phase into the push-up.

Another great upper-body plyometric workout is medicine ball tennis. With a partner and a tennis court, use a medicine ball of your choice (weight varies). Use only one half of the entire tennis court, with each person responsible for the smaller doubles area on each side. The goal is the same as in tennis, with only one bounce of the medicine ball allowed.

You must utilize side trunk rotation rather than throwing the ball over the net, but try to throw it so hard that your competitor misses or cannot handle the medicine ball after the bounce. Again, keep the intervals short and allow for adequate rest. Other options include granny shots, chest pass, overhead throws, torso twist throws, sit-up throws, and slamming the medicine ball on the ground in front of you.

If you don’t have room and/or a partner for these types of plyometric drills, you can easily use a concrete wall for similar drills. You can also swing dumbbells in a torso twist, wood chop, or write your name or the alphabet in the air in front of you while you stand with the medicine ball in your outstretched arms. The key is to move the ball, dumbbell, or weight plate as quickly as you can. Plyos require adequate recovery in between sessions, so schedule at least two days of rest before you engage in your next plyometric session.

Even though cleans, jerks, snatches, and variations of all three seem to be reserved for more advanced athletes, there is a lot to be said for such exercises in the public safety profession. Optimal sports performance is usually based on the ability to develop power. This is also true in our occupation when our lives may depend on our explosive functional abilities.

Therefore, it would be advantageous to explore and incorporate these exercises into the fitness routines of police, corrections, court, fire, EMS, and security occupations. Consult the National Strength and Conditioning Association (www.nsca-lift.org) for proper technique and protocol before performing these exercises. Keep in mind that they can be done with lighter weights and dumbbells as well.

Pull-ups with hands facing away from the body are also an overlooked requirement when addressing police fitness, as you may or most likely already have had to pull yourself up and into a window or over a fence. If body weight pull-ups are not possible or too difficult, take advantage of some of the available training aids such as a 1 ¾-inch elastic band that will assist in the pull up and eventually get you to the point of performing them with no assistance. An officer should be able to do at least one pull up with the added weight of full duty gear for obvious reasons!

Today’s kids (future criminals), as well as current criminals are all watching the ultimate fighting shows and practicing on each other. Some develop a “no fear, no consequence” mindset with little restraint and/or remorse. One day you may have to fight these very products of our society, if you haven’t already.

The tools we carry on our duty belts are not 100% reliable, and you may not even have time to access them. Kickboxing cardio classes and actual sparring drills with appropriate protective gear, coupled with resistance, cardiovascular, and functional training, are outstanding options and even necessities to help deal with such adversaries.

If you enjoy any competitive sport, you will find significant improvements in your performance after incorporating functional training and plyometrics into your workouts. If you never have, try some type of individual or team sport you have had an interest in, without worries of whether you’re good at it or not.

Anything that involves reactionary movements, hand-eye-foot coordination, or elements of speed, agility, and quickness will benefit your performance in public safety. As an added benefit, it will most likely result in feelings of accomplishment, well-being, and social fulfillment.

Kathleen Vonk has been a certified police officer in Michigan since 1988, currently with the Ann Arbor Police. She designed and implemented the Police Wellness Instructor Course for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, for which she is a subject matter expert, consultant and instructor-trainer. See www.loukatactical.com. She has been the primary fitness instructor for the WCC Police Academy in Ann Arbor Michigan since 2001. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Health Promotion Director by the Cooper Institute. She earned a BS in exercise science and a BA in criminal justice. She can be reached at kathyvonk@aol.com.

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2009

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