Many people consider sports such as golf, tennis, and martial arts to be some of the top sports that are most reluctant to buy into modern strength and conditioning techniques. However, all these sports have seen an increase in the acceptance of these ideas in more recent years because of the success of the sports’ top stars.

In truth, these sports are not nearly as tough to turn as those athletes that lay their lives on the line for all of us. Police, fire, and military athletes often need the most modern training techniques but have been caught in old traditional means that have always been hard to change.

Yes, I said athletes! These tremendous men and women have to possess many of the same qualities of sport. The dilemma is that they may never know when they have to express these components of fitness and often have to do so in very extreme situations.

The training for those involved in police, fire, and the military is a growing aspect of strength and conditioning, so much so that the NSCA is now running specific programs for tactical athletes. Those involved in these programs deserve our very best training, yet they often get many outdated and overhyped training programs that the rest of us are exposed to.

I’ve outlined some of the most important considerations in working with the tactical athlete.

1.      Evaluate
Evaluate not just the needs of the position but the current state of the individual. The fitness and orthopedic health of the individual can vary greatly! A new cadet versus a veteran can be very different, and assessing their current fitness and health levels is an essential starting point. Because fitness testing may only occur during the entrance period of an organization, fitness may be greatly different for those who have spent considerable time in the field. There is also a need to develop testing protocols that are relevant to the needs of the job and can be measurable in both large group and individual settings.

2.      Common problems
Many of these athletes have common injuries just like any other athlete. Low back injuries, cardiac problems, and overuse injuries are areas that need to be addressed by the fitness program. Sometimes the best way to increase performance is to decrease injuries.

3.      Balanced fitness
There are many programs that state they demonstrate balance in their programs, yet they often overemphasize a single component. Most often, the endurance aspect of training and other attributes are missed because of the mindset of having to “beat up” the tactical athlete. Developing movement skills, flexibility, and strength in extreme ranges of motion are all important considerations of the fitness program. Yes, I’m sorry there will also be a need for both aerobic and anaerobic training.

4.      Analyzing strength
To say someone is “strong” is about as vague of a term as one can use. Strength has to be relevant to the demands of the sport or job. Many tactical athletes completely ignore vital aspects of strength such as isometric strength that is so important in the proper performance of their job. More time developing certain types of strength can be more advantageous for the tactical athlete because of the combative side of the job as well as the time spent in specific postures.

5.      Recovery
The most challenging part of working with tactical athletes is the extreme demands they are placed under by long work hours and often times very little sleep. Making recovery a priority will help many of the “overexertion” problems that often victimize the tactical athlete. Time away from work may be best spent on specific recovery techniques rather than performing intensive training.

Tactical athletes need to have our best programs, as the risks of “losing” in this arena is far more dangerous than losing on the sporting field. In my next article, I will cover drills that can greatly benefit the tactical athlete.

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