4 essential elements to the perfect CO workout routine

It is imperative for every officer to discover his or her perfect workout and make exercise part of a regular routine


As a law enforcement trainer, I have noticed many officers start their career in top physical condition and retire severely physically altered. Too many officers are leaving their physical fitness to chance and ignoring their personal fitness and wellness. By leaving fitness to chance, an officer may find he or she is physically challenged by the duties expected of the job, which creates tremendous officer safety risk. 

A foot pursuit in full duty gear can be as taxing as a marathon. A struggle with a resistive inmate has more at stake for the officer involved than a heavyweight champion fighting to retain a title.

Too many officers are dying in the line of duty without being killed in the line of duty. They put their heart into their career. When law enforcement becomes physically demanding and causes an officer’s heart rate to suddenly increase, the heart isn’t able to bear the strain.

Physical demands
Since these physical moments of ultimate exertion are imminent for every correctional officer, it behooves all to find the perfect physical police workout and to do it regularly.

The most common barriers that COs have when starting or continuing a fitness program are usually barriers built in his or her mind. Here are some keys to overcoming these mental barriers.

  1. Convince yourself that you love working out. Once that is done, hold that thought for the rest of your life.
  2. Understand that no matter what physical condition you are in now, that condition can be improved one workout at a time.
  3. Do not require a partner to work out with you. Trying to work through two schedules only offers twice as many excuses to skip a workout.
  4. Have a flexible workout schedule of three to five days a week, but never less than three. 
  5. Have an out-of-town and vacation workout alternative. Two weeks off can cause a serious setback. When you don’t work out, even for a short amount of time, your entire body begins to deteriorate.
  6. Realize that the easier you make it to give up on your workouts, the easier you may give up physically on the job and COs can never give up on the job.

The perfect physical workout
The perfect workout develops these four essential elements:

1. Improve muscular and joint flexibility
It is imperative that a CO workout includes full range of motion movements. Extra time should be spent on stretching the hamstrings and lower back to reverse the inflexibility.

COs need this flexibility when they have to suddenly move to subdue a combative inmate. The key with stretching is to have a fitness professional teach you how to stretch correctly.

2. Increase cardiovascular strength and endurance
The most common cardiovascular activity is running. Running along rivers, up bluff passes, across battlefields, in a city or rural settings can enhance the experience, even for officers who do not like to run. Build in a pause to take in nature to make the run even more enjoyable.

Officers can also camouflage running with another activity whether it’s a slow jog while dribbling a basketball and shooting lay-ups for repetition or even tossing a football around. You can even try running to the spot of your ball while playing golf.

Other ideas for cardiovascular workouts include bicycling, swimming, skipping (jump roping – just look at any professional boxer), kettlebell, walking fast or any number of professionally marketed cardiovascular workouts.

3. Build muscular strength and endurance
Effecting the arrest of any resistive inmate requires a combination of technique and strength. Muscles will atrophy if not regularly stimulated. For resistance training, COs can choose from free weights, kettlebells, machines or bodyweight (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups, squats, isometric holds) for building pure muscular strength and endurance. 

4. Improve fitness levels to ensure better performance on the street
Some physical training is directly transferable to job performance. To prepare for the resistive inm, while in the weight room, concentrate on upper body strength exercises from the bench press to the pull-up. The repetitions will be appreciated when the path to victory is paved by physical strength and endurance. While doing cardiovascular workouts consider running steps and sprints to prepare for the sudden acceleration needed for emergency response.

Additionally, all elements of fitness can be obtained by a CO in any martial arts studio. The exercise is achieved while practicing skills that have direct application on the street. For those COs and trainers who maintain that martial arts techniques do not work on the job, my personal survival is at the very least anecdotal evidence that they do.

Speaking of physical, before you start working out after a long period without exercise make sure you have a complete physical.

It is imperative for every CO to discover his or her perfect workout and make exercise part of a regular routine and lifestyle.  

Once your perfect workout is discovered, workout like your life depends on it, because it does.

About the author

Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 as a police officer. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored two novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop and S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

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