The power of life and death: how many occupations carry that kind of decision making? Doctors? Nurses? Theirs is not so much a decision to take a life as much as it is their duty to save one. Doctors don’t kill people, rather, they heal. I’m not so cavalier or misguided to think cops walk around picking out people who need killing, but the truth is every once in a while we must make a life or death decision by using our firearm to stop a threat. Sometimes that decision results in someone dying. However, we most often resort to putting our hands on people, rather than shooting them. We tussle with bad guys, try to control them with certain techniques, and at times even resort to fisticuffs.
My three decades in law enforcement taught me the likelihood of being involved in a fight is very high, particularly if you’re a cop who is proactive. Cops who make street stops and otherwise throw a wrench in bad guys’ plans are often rewarded with a fool who wants to mix it up. It’s a fact of life that when someone says, “I’m not goin’ anywhere,” he means it. Get ready to rumble.
One of the best ways to prepare for that moment is to regularly work out with a heavy bag. Whether you hang one in your basement or garage, or use one at your gym, it’s one of the best and most appropriate workouts a cop can include in his tool bag. Heavy bag workouts are important for men and women; bad guys do not discriminate—they will sucker punch any cop regardless of sex, size, or circumstance.
Why work out with a heavy bag? To begin with, what could be more germane to what we do than defend ourselves in a fight. We interact, in large measure, with societal misfits. People who don’t like to follow rules tend to be non-cooperative and don’t hesitate to take a swing at cops. Working with a heavy bag will build stamina and punching power. Remember, most street fights only last five or ten seconds. It’s not like watching a boxing match. You have a narrow window in which to throw a punch that’s accurate and powerful. And even that ten second increment of time can tire you if you aren’t in shape.
I recently spoke with Chris Manuel who owns Team Manuel Karate & Kickboxing Gym in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Chris is a former police officer who grew up around boxing and fighters. His Father taught boxing at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, and Chris followed in his Dad’s footsteps, becoming an amateur boxer and kick boxer. Chris eventually turned pro and competed in boxing, kick boxing, and MMA fighting.
“Police officers will benefit from working out three days a week on the heavy bag,” said Chris. “It’s a routine that is intense, one that builds punching power and strength, both of which cops need on the job.” He went on to say that bag workouts are particularly valuable when one does not have the luxury of being able to work out for long periods of time. “A twenty to thirty minute workout hitting a heavy bag will accomplish as much as someone who puts in an hour work out with weights. It’s a total body exercise and a great core strengthener.” Chris and I discussed an ideal heavy bag work out might for a beginner. We agreed it was important to develop punching skill and strength; the workout below addresses those two points for the novice.
Before you begin, a word about what you will need. Equipment is simple: hand wraps, boxing gloves, and some type of timer. I use an Everlast timer which also has a bell that sounds to signal the beginning and end of each round. These three items can be purchased for less than $50 online or at any sporting goods store. If there’s a clock with a second hand hanging near the heavy bag you can use that instead. Keeping track of time is important; the rounds will be 2 minutes long with a 1 minute rest in between. That’s a total of only 15 minutes, but if you are making the most of each 2 minute round, that 15 minutes will more than suffice.