The 11 components of proper police fitness

By Inspector Kelly Keith
PoliceOne Guest Columnist
Atlantic Police Academy

Suspect: Male, 6’2”, 250 lbs, large build
Police Officer: Female, 5’7”, 120 lbs, slender build

If the suspect attacks the police officer, what factors determine who wins this altercation?

• Spontaneous Attack
• Weapon Readiness
• Winning Mindset
• Number of Officers
• Tactics
• Fitness
• Strength
• Fighting Ability – Control Tactics

How can we best train police officers in fitness and strength, which will ultimately enhance fighting ability/control tactics?

If the above-mentioned police officer trained with weights everyday is it possible that she would be able to match the strength of the suspect?

“…as police trainers we need to enhance the other fitness components, which will enable the officer to win!”
As police trainers with a limited amount of time, are we getting the best return for our time by getting our recruits/officers into the gym on weights and/or running?

Does this type of fitness training turn out the officer that is going to defend him or herself better and have a fitter officer at the end of training?

Training with weights and running are absolutely great ways to build foundations, but as police trainers we need to enhance the other fitness components, which will enable the officer to win!

A simple example is Rotary Power. Rotary power will address how hard you can swing your baton, punch, kick and/or throw a suspect to the ground. Rotary power is also needed in most escapes from the ground. Officers can increase rotary power just as easily as build bigger biceps!

There will always be strength differences. It is obviously not possible to always be stronger or in better shape than all of our suspects, however by understanding our strengths and addressing our weaknesses police trainers need to enhance the eleven components of fitness for each officer not just aerobic power and strength.

The fitness components

Many fitness factors have to be considered to optimize a police officers fitness and ability to defend him/herself.

Muscular power / speed strength – The ability to produce force in a brief amount of time…in other words the product of force and velocity. Should a police officer possess strength, but cannot apply this strength rapidly, the amount of strength he has is irrelevant if it cannot be applied in time.

Thus to develop power you must apply speed to the desired movement or specific tactical situation.

This is an imperative factor for a police officer, as the ability to produce force in a brief amount of time is vital in any physical confrontation. There are many very strong police officers that are not able to transition this strength into “speed strength” which I believe is more beneficial to police officers.

Muscular strength – This is considered the ability to produce maximal force. Strength is vital to optimize muscular power but is different in the speed that the force is exerted. Research indicates that most people can perform about 10 repetitions with 75 % of their 1-rep maximum. Thus if someone can bench press 100 pounds for 1 repetition they are most likely to be able to perform about 10 repetitions with 75 pounds.

Fast twitch muscles – generally low endurance – higher power but less endurance thus less than 10 repetitions with 75 % of 1 rep maximum.

Slow twitch muscles – generally high endurance can perform more than 10 repetitions with 75 % of 1 rep maximum.

Research Shows – Previously untrained men & women gain about 2-4 pounds of muscle and 40 – 60 % more strength after 2 months of regular strength training – it then slows down but typically continues for several months.

Gender: Men typically have more muscle than women – muscle is positively influenced by the presence of testosterone (male sex hormone).

Generally larger muscles are stronger muscles (1-2 kilograms of force per square centimeter of cross sectional area). Simply speaking – men generally have more muscle than women – thus generally men are stronger than women.

Muscular endurance – This is the ability to perform repeated muscular actions, which can be very important in any physical confrontation that lasts longer than approximately 15 seconds. In any altercation the addition of Muscular Endurance will lengthen the time period you can physically perform optimally under stressful metabolic conditions.

Muscular endurance is an important aspect of a police officers training program. The principle of Specificity applies, which means that the muscular endurance is activity specific. A marathon runner although has muscular endurance in his legs would not mean that he can skate the same distance. By simply running, police officers should not believe they could grapple on the ground longer than a subject that trains for this stimulus.

Flexibility – This is the ability to move the joints through a range of motion. In weight training it is vital to exercise both sides of a joint so as to not limit joint flexibility.

Benefits of Flexibility:

• Less energy to move a joint through a range of motion
• Decreased risk of injury
• Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
• Increased neuromuscular coordination / opposing muscle groups work in a more synergistic or coordinated fashion.
• Improved muscular balance and postural awareness
• Decreased risk of lower back pain
• Reduced stress – stretching promotes muscle relaxation.

Balance – The ability to maintain the center of body mass over a base of support. This is another very important factor for a police officer as the officer’s ability to be stable when the body is in motion is a crucial element in a physical confrontation.

Body composition – Age, height, gender, body type, body mass, muscle fiber type etc. This can greatly affect a police officer however there are many of theses components an officer cannot do anything about (age, gender etc). Each officer brings their genetic inheritance into the mix however, how they train, how they use available strategies and integrate them in a performance dictates the degree of success.

Cardiorespiratory fitness / aerobic endurance – The ability to persist or sustain activity for a prolonged period of time.

For best results strive for 50 – 85 % of maximal oxygen uptake to get optimal cardiorespiratory results. Duration will vary depending on intensity.

Generally police officers with greater Cardiorespiratory fitness have more stamina, less fatigue and fewer risks of injuries

Agility – Agility is sometimes thought of as the culmination of nearly all the physical abilities that a person possesses. It is the ability to stop and change direction quickly. I cannot think of any confrontational situations that require speed in only a straight-line movement.

Agility is composed of:

• Coordination
• Stabilization
• Biomechanics
• Speed
• Strength (stabilizing / propulsive)
• Energy system development
• Elasticity
• Power
• Dynamic Balance
• Mobility

There are studies that show a tennis player shows greater agility when he has a tennis racquet in his hand than when he does not. Thus training agility is optimized when the implement you wish agility to be utilized is used when training (baton, sidearm empty-handed etc.)

This is often overlooked as an aspect of fitness but extremely important one for a police officer. One of the most important qualities of Control Tactics is for the officer to get off the line of attack. Most pol
ice attacks by are spontaneous; whether it is a fist, knife or bullet if the officer gets off the line of attack he is far more likely to win the confrontation.

Quickness / reaction time – This is reaction time and movement time in response to a specific stimulus. This fitness aspect is very important to Policing as well. How fast can the officer get to his equipment when the stimulus is presented to the officer – draw sidearm, baton etc. If this aspect is enhanced the police officer can enhance his/her chances of success in a confrontation.

Quickness allows a small officer to prosper in a big “man’s” game and gives a large officer another way to improve their tactics.

Speed – Basically how fast a person can move from point “A” to point “B” forward, backward or laterally. Pure speed can give a police officer an advantage in getting to cover, tactically re-positioning, getting to the aid of a victim, or catching a suspect in a short foot chase.

Coordination – Coordination can reflect how well joints manage the muscular firing patterns between or among them. It is crucial in hand-eye relationship needed in Policing.

Coordination is prominent in transition exercises (like baton to sidearm). It is also important in shooting, and many other firearm activities.

In future articles I will break down each fitness component and show you ways to improve each!

(reference: Bill Foran; High Performance Sports Conditioning)

About the author

Inspector Kelly Keith is a 18-year veteran of policing. He is an inspector with the Atlantic Police Academy instructing physical fitness, officer safety, use of force and firearms. Kelly is a jiu-jitsu instructor (second-degree black belt – jiu-jitsu – bronze medalist at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, Vancouver) and has studied wrestling, boxing, tae kwon do, and judo.

He is also a certified personal trainer, certified strength and conditioning instructor and a certified sports nutrition specialist.

Kelly can be reached by e-mail or by phone: (902) 888-6417

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