You've been on the job for a few years now. The normal wear and tear of a police career has begun to settle in on your body - shift work, poor nutrition, inadequate rest, a sporadic fitness program, and maybe even a second job, have all combined to cause you to be out of shape. On top of all of that there's the stress that goes along with being a cop and finding yourself smack dab in the middle of crisis after crisis. It all takes its toll.
There are ways to address some of these problems; the simplest and cheapest way is to exercise. The benefits of a regular exercise program are many. The best part of this self-healing prescription is that it's cheap and one size fits all. If you're just starting out, or just coming back to a regular routine of exercise, it's important that you work on your core.
What's the core you ask? Some people confuse it with simply being abdominal work, but while that is an important component of core strength, it's only one part. The core consists of a myriad of muscles that support and stabilize the spine, shoulder and pelvis, all of which provide a solid foundation for movement in the extremities. In other words the strength in your arms and legs emanates from your core.
Here's an analogy that illustrates how important core strength and conditioning are: Recall the last time that someone asked you to open a jar. Perhaps it was your spouse; he/she couldn't get the lid to budge. Now, did you hold that jar at arm's length, or did you bring it in close to your body and really "crank down" on the lid? That's an example of core strength. That's why when you throw a punch with a fist held close to your torso, versus flicking a jab with a fist held out toward your opponent, you pack explosive power. Take down holds, cuffing, etc., all of these moves should come from your core with your arms working close to your torso. Remember though that the same principal - that explosive power emanates from your core - holds true for the bad guys as well. That's why we avoid standing directly in front of anyone.
Let's start simple with our core strengthening and conditioning - and a good place to start is with the abs. In future articles we'll move on to other muscle groups. I will list five abdominal exercises that will result in a strong, solid set of abs that will help support your upper body, including your back which is problematic for cops that sit for prolonged periods.
The accompanying video shows the proper protocol for each exercise. The first three exercises were deemed to be the best by a study done at the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University.
The Bicycle Crunch
This is the top exercise for the abs; it works the rectus abdominus and internal and external obliques. See the video.
The Captain's Chair
The second best movement according to the study, it requires a piece of gym equipment while most other movements do not. See the video.
The Exercise Ball Crunch
Not only works your abs and obliques, but also your balance. It's the third best exercise. See the video.
The Vertical Leg Crunch
Great reverse crunch with your legs in the air. See the video.
This is a good one for all fitness levels - no movement at all but a great core strengthener. Hold for thirty to sixty seconds; perform three to five reps. See the video.
That's it; five basic, easy to perform exercises that will get your midsection in shape - creating that six pack that you hear so much about. Of course if you want to actually see it, your diet must be such that you cut down on high fat, high calorie foods that offer little in the way of energy and nutrition, but that's a whole other subject.
Once you get your abs in shape we can move on to other core strengthening and conditioning exercises. Remember that without a strong core, you put yourself at risk for back problems and strained muscles. As cops we need the ability to be explosive on a moment's notice. Do two or three of these exercises at least twice per week. Perform them in sets of five (except the plank); ten to twelve repetitions. Get in shape - your body will thank you; the bad guys won't.
Stay safe brothers and sisters!