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Tactical Hurdle Training
Most tactical team training contains some form of moving with a weapon while maintaining a degree of safe muzzle control. There are, however, very few tactical training exercises that effectively emphasize weapons training while either squatting, twisting, turning, or stepping under and over obstacles. This is actually a more realistic maneuver than moving with a weapon on a linear path to engage a designated target.
A room entry can certainly be a perilous adventure when confronted with furniture, moving pets, partially obstructed doorways or even small children that may be present. When the entry is made in confined quarters, for example a mobile home, muzzle awareness becomes a paramount concern for fellow team members as well as innocent bystanders.
This is where it is especially important for members of the tactical team to have the proper training that will give them the ability to move with a weapon in less than perfect surroundings. It is also essential for team members to have the flexibility to maneuver over and around objects and at the same time be prepared to instantly react to a threat with their primary weapon.
In order to become more proficient at moving in this manner with a weapon, it is necessary to work on the functional aspect of increasing hip mobility and range of motion. Just ask any major college football coach and he will tell you that one of the most effective ways to enhance hip mobility is to do some type of hurdle work.
This is not the type of hurdling that you see at a track meet, but rather adjusting the height of the hurdles and utilizing them as obstacles to develop dynamic range of motion and weapons handling skills. This innovative integration of football training drills combined with weapons handling creates a very demanding, challenging, and effective tactical movement.
Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Movements
Some confusion and misconceptions exist as far as what increasing range of motion is all about and how to best achieve this state of conditioning. It is important to note that range of motion development and stretching are not exactly the same events. For the most part, flexibility training is viewed as a passive activity that doesn’t really require a great deal of dedication or effort.
It is widely believed that an increase in range of motion can be achieved by merely doing some type of static stretching exercises prior to engaging in a physical activity. It would be unwise to discourage static stretching due to the benefits that can be derived from a good stretching routine. It is, however, very important to remember that there is a right way and a wrong way to stretch.
Stretching is primarily a preventative measure utilized to elongate the tendons and prevent physical injury. As kinesiology research has revealed, it is best to stretch after a brief warm-up (jumping jacks, trunk twists, squats, etc.) as this is the optimum time to make significant gains in flexibility.
Cold stretching before engaging in any activity, stresses tendons and ligaments instead of making flexibility gains in pliable muscle tissue. It is also vitally important to breathe properly while stretching. Breathing in a relaxed manner creates less tension in muscles to be stretched. Tense muscles will stretch less easily, where relaxed breathing will allow maximum stretch positions to be reached with greater ease.
While it is true that stretching and developing range of motion are not the same, it is just as important to not dichotomize the two. Static stretching must be combined with dynamic movement in order to achieve a level of functional flexibility that will improve the tactical abilities of response team members.
This is where hurdle/hip mobility exercises can make a remarkable impact. Hurdling effectively enhances dynamic range of motion because it is more closely related to specific tactical movements. The results of increasing flexibility through both static and dynamic flexibility movements are manifested in improved tactical performance. You will find that there is nothing passive or even comfortable in developing range of motion.
As a matter of fact, it requires a great deal of focus and dedication to the effort and will be as challenging as any activity you have ever engaged in. The endeavor is made even more problematic when the team member is forced to concentrate on proper weapons handling when dealing with the discomfort of increased range of motion training. Integrating the following football drills with weapons handling creates an excellent tactical exercise for any special response team training program.
In the exercises, you should do at least three sets of these movements utilizing a setup of 10 hurdles and taking a minimum rest in between sets. For the sake of safety and to avoid any training mishaps, it is recommended that a training red gun be utilized instead of an actual weapon.
Tactical and Physical Benefits
This is obviously not as dynamic as a specific scenario based training exercise, but it is definitely a viable general physical preparedness exercise to supplement any special response teams training. Tactical training programs can become stagnant with the focus limited to only training scenarios and shooting exercises.
Rather than utilizing the tactical hurdles as a stand-alone training exercise, it should be done either prior to, or just at the conclusion of a scenario. At the most, tactical hurdling should not take more than thirty minutes of training time to complete. It is recommended that your tactical team slowly incorporate the hurdles into a tactical training program as you will notice the legs of team members will develop a degree of soreness and discomfort the very next day.
This condition is primarily attributable to the manner in which the hip flexors are being employed. Tactical hurdling obviously develops fundamental skills, but should be considered an advanced training exercise due to the complex motor skills and hand-eye coordination required to properly execute the drills.
If you really want to make tactical hurdling interesting, try attaching a laser site to your red gun. Team members will be alarmed at how much movement there is on their site alignment as the laser beam will be all over the walls and even on the ceiling as they are navigating over and under the hurdles.
With practice, of course, team members should notice a more concise site of alignment, as the laser beam will remain in a more focused and concentrated area while they are performing the exercises. This translates to more accurate shooting while on the move with a firearm. Ultimately this state of conditioning should be one of the primary goals of any tactical training.
The tactical training benefits of the hurdles are evident with the emphasis on weapons handling and maneuvering through and around obstacles. However, the physical benefits of the hurdles are impressive as well. When taking very minimal rest periods between sets, you will no doubt notice the cardio vascular benefits of tactical hurdle training by the way you are sweating profusely and also by the way your heart is pounding at the conclusion of the exercise.
Not to mention, the dynamic range of motion you will improve upon by working on your hip mobility. Tactical hurdling is not for the faint of heart; however, implementing the training into your tactical team program will definitely aid in developing the flexibility, performance, and tactical capabilities of team members.
Lieutenant Jess Gundy is a nineteen year veteran of the West Virginia State Police and is the Assistant Director of Training at the West Virginia State Police Academy. He has an MS in Public Administration and is a Master Use of Force Instructor. Lieutenant Gundy is a former member of the WV State Police Sniper Team and has set up training programs for the WV State Police Special Response Team. He may be reached at jgundy- @wvsp.state.wv.us.
Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2005
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