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Use of Force Fitness

Is there an exercise that can help me when I go hands on with a suspect?  This question was posed by a few officers during one of our Tactical Fitness classes.

The short answer is no, there is not just one exercise that will help you be better when you have to use force.  The long answer is that there are some ‘core’ exercises that all officers should do to help give you the tactical advantage when you have to go hands on.

First let’s look at positioning.  As you reflect back to BLET and defensive tactics training, your foot positioning and your stance are vitally important.  Depending on whether you choose to “blade up” to the subject or choose to square up the subject, where your feet are and how you use your hips is important.

Our favorite exercises to assist these maneuvers are split stance rows and presses, split stance push-pulls and the ever vital kettle bell swing.

1. Split stance Row: Using a band or a cable take a wide split stance.  The backward leg is the pulling arm.  Keeping roughly 70% of your weight on the front leg do your row/pulling movement.  Ensure that your balance and stance are firm and pay attention to your back foot.  Is it on the ball of the foot or flat and turned out to the side? A little rotation through the torso and shoulders is ok but do not twist.

2. Split Stance Press:  Using a band or a cable do the same as described above BUT this time you back is to the resistance.  Your choice to hold the cable under or over the arm.  Often we recommend that you  alternate the cable position  each set.

3. Cable push-pull:  One of our favorite movements for a few vital reasons.  It works balance, stability, core strength and the best part is that it’s a potent counter rotation movement.  Life my friend is all about countering and mitigating rotation.  So this exercise serves many purposes and has a lot of job specificity.  You will need 2 bands or an adjustable height cable column for this exercise.  As in the row or press exercise above one arm is pulling (the row) the opposite arm is pressing.  We recommend alternating stances with split, athletic and off center foot positions. 

4. The kettle bell swing:  Easily one of the best movements an officer can do but we see a lot of technique errors on this exercise.  This is an explosive exercise so speed is good on the upward portion of the swing, explode through the hips to get the KB moving.

a. The arms are an extension of the hips/core and do very little work.

b. The ‘hip hinge’ is the key to performing this exercise properly.  Each rep the back stays flat but the hips hinge at the bottom of each rep.  THEN when you are hinged and the KB is between your legs explode forward with the hips to drive the KB forward and up using your arms to transfer that power from your hips to the KB.

These 4 exercises can be a workout all by themselves.  3-4 sets of 12-15 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets is a very effective routine that will help to keep you tactically fit.  Plus all these exercises encourage thoracic rotation, hip drive and punch/pull motions that are all necessary to not only reduce injury but to give you the advantage when you do have to go hands on.

It is important to remember that being fit is only one part of effective “hands on” police work.  In addition to maintaining your strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, you have to learn and practice those skills that will enable you to effectively control a subject once you DO go hands-on.  Few things are worse than when you’ve made the decision to put your hands on an individual, for whatever justified reason, and then, once you’ve got hold of them, you realize that what you’re doing is ineffective.  Practice your techniques as much as you exercise for fitness.  The competent combination thereof is what will make you more successful once the hands-on confrontation is in play.