It seems that I inadvertently opened a can of worms, completely by accident, in last month’s column. The “best Tactical Exercise” column that posted last month, while always open to interpretation brought a slew of emails from fitness minded officers offering their favorite exercises as counter points.
So what is the best Tactical exercise?
Last month’s column was all about resistance based exercises, using an external resistance to prepare an officer for tactical situations where balance, power and flexibility are all necessary at the same time. As one comment in the email machine pointed out “what about body weight exercises?” Good point!
So without any more fanfare let’s take a look at three of the best tactical body weight exercises. NOW before I get inundated with emails about “other” exercises here is how I look at things. With my sports medicine and biomechanics hat on I always look at tactical exercises from a few points.
1. Exercise should never cause injury.
2. Many popular exercises actually promote injurious patterns thus encouraging on the job injury.
3. Officers are already in challenging postural situations so we should limit exercises that make those poor postural patterns worse ie. Pushing more than you pull.
4. We tend to make fitness too complicated and most of have little time to dedicate to staying fit, even though it is necessary for your job.
So, with body weight training let’s take a look at a few of my personal favorite exercises and as always the fun part is that this is always open to discussion.
Body weight exercise #1: Slider Lateral Lunge
That’s right, one of the best tools to build tactical fitness, flexibility and power is a simple furniture slider. That’s right the “tool” available at your home store. It can be used for almost any exercise. In this case place one foot on the floor the other on the slider. Slowly perform a side lunge or a skater movement. Be careful to only go as far as you can control, once you hit ‘that end point’ use the stationary leg to drive you back up to the standing position. 3 sets of 10-12 will do the trick.
Body weight exercise #2: Split Squat
Just as it sounds, take a deep stance and imagine standing on a set of rail road tracks. Drop the back knee down pausing just before you touch the floor, pause and using the front leg ‘drive’ yourself up to the start position, repeat for 15-25 reps before switching legs. As you get stronger prop the back leg up on a bench to increase the difficulty. A word of caution, do not use your back to raise and lower, keep a ‘military like posture’ during this exercise.
Body weight exercise #3: Burpees
No tactical workout can be complete with the venerable and loathed burpee. That’s right the up/down (with a push up) to a MAXIMAL vertical jump is still in the game. My take on this one is simple, go as hard as you can UNTIL you can no longer get maximal jump power. This may mean 5 reps, 10 or more. 3-5 sets with a short 15-30 second rest will do the trick. For you hardcore burpee mavens out there go out to the local playground and do your burpees under the swing set, your vertical jump now has a pull up component on a wide and often hard to grip bar… tactical training at its best.
Of course pushups, planks, side planks, pull ups and squats or walking lunges are still on the table and excellent exercises but the 3 mentioned here are my favorites for officers of ALL fitness levels to build power, increase functional range of motion, improve fitness while increasing job specific physical ability. Plus these exercises have a low chance of injury while remaining easy to perform and taking little time. Let the debate begin!