Officers of years past did not sit in patrol cars for hours on end; they did not ride a desk; in fact what many of them did ride was a horse. Officers of years past walked a lot too. Because the primal patterns these pioneer officers were exposed to were just that – primal - they did not have the myriad of injury patterns modern officers face. Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the primary drivers of officer disability and pain and are responsible for many early retirements. These soft tissue injuries can easily be tied to long hours sitting, the gear that is strapped to your body forcing you to move differently and exercises that often promote injury instead of reducing your chances of getting hurt.
Walking and riding a horse require you to use all the muscles in your body and by doing that, not only are you burning calories, but you have to ‘engage’ the core muscles and the muscles in the legs; hence the term “primal movement.” Think about it this way: as a baby the first ‘primal’ pattern is to roll and wiggle. Anyone with kids knows that at a certain point babies no longer stay where you left them. After rolling patterns babies will begin crawling and from crawling they begin to pull themselves up to a standing position. This is how our primal brains learn to interact with the world and learn how to put all the movement pieces together - you have to crawl before you can walk.
The problem we see is that once we are adults there is no more focus on the primal basics. As adults we do not ‘play’ anymore; instead we exercise or we train, yet all movement still gets its base from the primal patterns. Conveniently there are a few basic ‘primal patterns’ that you can easily integrate into your training and even use pre-shift to ensure that your body is ready for action on a primal level.
1. Rolling patterns: As the name implies rolling patterns are a great way to ‘mobilize’ your spine, hips and shoulders while engaging your entire core. Even though some of these movements look simple I promise you that they are not but you will feel and move great after a few sets. The Bretzel stretch, kettle bell arm bars and kettle bell get ups are all job specific yet primal exercises that are easy to do and very effective.
2: Crawling Patterns: As we stated you have to crawl before you can walk. Bear crawls, crab walks, balance beam work (to name a few) are awesome exercises that really get the core to engage while challenging your body and keeping the exercise job specific.
Modern man was not designed to sit for long periods or exercise while sitting down. Since job specific fitness will save your life it only makes sense to go back to the roots of human movement so that we not only perform better, but we hurt less and reduce our chances of a career ending injury. Plus these primal movements are fun and effective since we (most of us) do not patrol on horseback any longer.
Modern man was also not designed to spend hours a day bent over. Now I can see the confused look on some of your faces as you wonder what I’m talking about. After all, cops don’t spend hours at a time bent over, right? Wrong. Think about it. Your legs, hips, waist and back are in the same position when you’re sitting as they are when you’re bent over. All those hours of sitting in a cruiser equate to an equal number of hours spent bent over. How many of you have experienced lower back discomfort when straightening up after a prolonged period bent over? That ‘prolonged period’ could have been just a few minutes but you spend HOURS ‘bent over’ in a car. It’s simply not good for you in the long term.
To maintain long term musculoskeletal health, it’s imperative that you do two things, both accomplished by performing the recommended actions in #1 and #2 above: It’s imperative that you maintain flexibility through regular thorough stretching, and it’s imperative that you move your body – through exercise or ‘play’ – in the ways you did growing up. Remember: we don’t stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. If you want to extend your youth, act youthful!