Training for Police Officers: The Necessities Every Cop Needs in their Program

TAGS: build a strong back, lacrosse ball work, training for police officers, pre workout routine, burn fat, gain strength, myofascial release, soft-tissue work, hill sprints, dynamic warm up, grip work, static stretching, program design, foam rolling, injury prevention

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It’s really unfortunate that police officers around the country are getting such a bad rap these days. Of course, there are instances where they are in the wrong; however, most are great people that just want to do their jobs well with integrity and get home safely to their friends and family.

But a lot of the stuff you see in the media these days and the difficult situations they are put in today are out of their control when it comes to their safety. What is in their control, however, is how they take care of themselves physically. It’s their daily physical preparation that will keep them strong and ready for any situation that may occur.

Cops are put in some hairy situations at times and need to be ready for anything that comes their way.

Unfortunately, most cops I’ve worked with in the past don’t really know where to begin with training. They join a public gym and usually follow some dated bodybuilding split that won’t do much for their performance in their field.


RELATED: Physical Preparation Guidelines Every Firefighter Should Follow


My intention for this article is to describe the common issues I’ve found with the police officers that I have worked with and currently work with at my facility and explain how to correct those issues in their training.

So let’s get to it!

Focus on flexibility and mobility.

Every cop that I have worked with has pretty horrible flexibility and mobility. This is due to the fact that cops spend a lot of time in their cars. If you don’t address the problem, low back and knee issues are almost a guarantee. The piriformis, a large hip rotator that runs from the front of the hip to the lumbar spine, is very commonly tight among police officers. Along with that, their glutes, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and calves are also significantly tight.

Instead of me writing a confusing description of each stretch, I’ve uploaded videos on how to stretch each muscle group.

Low Back Stretch

Glute Stretch

Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch

 Piriformis Stretch

Hamstring Stretch with Band

Now, despite what some experts may say, I recommend doing some pre-workout static stretching as part of a pre-hab program. To simplify everything, do each stretch for 2-3 sets of 30 seconds each. Try to increase the range of motion with each stretch.

Another vital component of your pre-workout routine should be some soft tissue work like foam rolling and lacrosse ball work. This will enhance myofascial release which basically means loosening connective tissue within the muscles to help your muscles recover and feel better. I’ve included my favorites here as well, just make sure you do 2-3 sets of 15-20 rolls over each muscle group.

Keep in mind that some of this is going to be painful as a mother f*$ker. You just gotta man up and make sure you get it done.

Back Foam Roll

IT Band Foam Roll

Lacrosse Ball Glute/Piriformis

Take a thorough dynamic warm-up prior to training.

I’ve talked about the significance of a dynamic warm-up many times before, so I don’t want to get too in depth. However, in case you don’t know, here are some of the benefits.

  • Increase in core temperature
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Muscular activation
  • Central nervous system activation
  • Joint lubrication
  • Improved mobility
  • Improved flexibility

This puts you in a more ready, safer state to train and is a less monotonous way to work on your flexibility, which will enable you to stay healthy and prepared for whatever may come your way on the street. A good dynamic warm-up is a series of bodyweight exercises that you’ll run through after your static stretching and before you’re actually weight training.

Here’s a quick example…

  • Jumping Jacks x 30
  • Bodyweight Squats x 20
  • Lunges x 10 each
  • Front-to-Back Leg Swings x 10 each
  • Sprinting in Place x 5-10 seconds
  • Fire Hydrants x 6 each
  • Mountain Climbers x 20 each
  • Push-Ups x 10
  • Hip Circles x 10 each way

You can add in any exercises you feel you need. Just make sure you are doing a thorough warm-up to loosen you up prior to training.

Before I get into the next section, I want to discuss how important it is to take these first two sections seriously. It is the biggest flaw in most police officer’s fitness and frankly is one of the most important.

When you’re at work and receive a call, it’s not like you have 15 minutes to bust out a good stretch routine before you’re faced with a potential grappling match with a criminal. The last thing you want is to put yourself or your partners in more danger because you got an injury that could have potentially been avoided.

However, if you warm up every time you train in this manner (pre-hab and dynamically), your flexibility will be significantly improved which means you are much less likely to sustain any muscular injuries.

I also recommend going through your warm-up prior to the start of your shift. As I mentioned earlier, you won’t be able to stretch before you arrive on a scene somewhere. However, if you do it prior to every shift, you will be in much better shape than if you don’t.

This is a game changer guys, and your life could depend on it. Take it seriously!

Get strong as hell.

Now let’s get to the fun stuff.

Most cops I know focus their training on more bodybuilding than they probably realize. That’s all well and good for looking jacked in your uniform (which certainly has its perks) but it’s not going to help you in a life or death situation.

You should be training to develop maximal strength. That means using big, compound movements like the squat, deadlift and military press for heavy sets of 1-3 or even 4-6.

Now that you understand that most of you guys are pretty damn tight, you may need some alternatives to movements like the back squat at first. You can use an exercise like the goblet instead. My YouTube channel has a lot of alternatives to the bigger lifts if you have any existing injuries or are limited due to your flexibility.

The important thing is that you make getting strong a priority. You can do that by either adding weight or reps each week.

After your strength work then you can run down some bodybuilding and bodyweight training. Focus on getting stronger in hypertrophy rep ranges of 8-12.

S.W.A.T

Get the upper back strong.

Most guys and girls focus a substantial amount of time on pressing variations but not nearly enough on pulling. To keep the shoulders strong and healthy you need to do more vertical pulling and horizontal pulling than pressing in those patterns.

An easy way to ensure you do this is to alternate every horizontal push exercise like the bench press with a horizontal pull exercise like a one-arm row, and do two more reps on the pulling exercise. The same should be done for vertical pressing like the military press and vertical pulling like chin-ups and pulldowns.

Along with keeping you healthy, developing a strong back will also help you in the streets. Think about it: when you are grappling with someone you are usually trying to pull them into certain positions. That requires a strong upper back to get them into the position you want.

Spend a lot of time on this.

Build grip strength.

A strong grip is crucial for cops. Whether it be holding a perpetrator down or trying to remove a weapon from their hands, a strong grip is going to be very beneficial.

Add things like heavy farmer’s walks for distance or for time into your program. You can also do things like fat bar holds for time, pinch plate holds, and hex dumbbell holds. I also like to add in a wrist roller after strength sessions.

In your case, a strong grip could be the difference between life and death one day. Don’t neglect it.

Work on speed and conditioning.

Jogging is pretty common but it ain’t doing shit for your ability to hawk down someone that’s trying to get away from you.

Sprinting, on the other hand, sure as hell will. One of my favorite sprint variations are hill sprints. These are significantly safer if you haven’t sprinted in a while. Take your warm-up as you would before any training session. Find a good hill in your area and simply sprint up and walk down. Repeat 8-10 times.

Once you do this enough, you can move on to flat ground sprints on a track or football field. You’re not training for the NFL combine, so you don’t have to get too specific. Just make sure you keep the distances 60 yards or less and give yourself time to recover in between sets. The key is to focus on getting faster on speed days, so don’t turn this into a conditioning workout.

Conditioning can be done in a variety of ways. You can do sprint intervals where you sprint a certain distance then jog a certain distance and repeat. Jumping rope and bodyweight exercises like burpees and mountain climbers in circuit fashion are also great.

In my opinion, joining a martial arts class will have the most carry-over to your work and give you a great conditioning effect simultaneously.

Not only will you learn to defend yourself well, but you will burn fat and develop an aerobic capacity in a much more fun way. This should probably be a necessity for all cops. MMA schools are everywhere these days and aren’t too expensive. Trust me, they will be worth every penny.

Tie it all together.

As far as structuring your training program, it should look something like this:

Monday: Strength Training Upper Body

Tuesday: Speed

Wednesday: Strength Training Lower body

Thursday: Martial Arts

Friday: Strength Training Full Body

Saturday: Martial Arts

Sunday: Off/Recovery Work (Yoga, stretching, swimming, foam rolling)

Following a split like this will ensure that you are working on all areas of your fitness. Remember that you can’t out-train a bad diet, so make healthy eating a priority. Base your meals on earth-grown nutrients instead of processed BS. Once you do that, you won’t only have an awesome physique but you will feel better and stronger, as well as become overall healthier.

I want to take a second and thank every single one of you for what you do. You guys are the true heroes and I hope that everyone can start to see the good in what you do, instead of the negative that’s out there.

Stay safe you guys, and thank you for keeping all of us safe as well.

Train hard, and train smart.

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