Fitness Tips to Prepare for the Police Academy

The first step in becoming a police officer is pretty straightforward. Generally, a police department must hire you before you can enter the police academy (it is best to check with your local department to see what their requirements are). Candidates must meet the basic requirements which include being a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on your local department policy, have a clean criminal record, and have met the minimum education requirement of a high school diploma or GED.

While a bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary, it may be required for more advanced positions in law enforcement, and will help you look more favorable in the hiring process. During the process, candidates must also pass a medical exam, including meeting the vision and hearing standards, and prove they have the physical strength to meet the high demands that the academy requires.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, what have I gotten myself into? The physical demands of the police academy can be downright scary, and you can think of nothing worse than feeling like a fool in front of your leaders and other cadets. Well, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled some information to help you prepare physically for your training including workouts and nutrition guidelines.

Physical Preparations and the Cooper Standards

First, let’s discuss the physical demands of the job. Police officers face potentially dangerous and physically taxing situations every day. This may mean chasing down a suspect, handcuffing someone who is resisting arrest, or even helping an injured victim after a traumatic event like a car accident.

Whatever the situation may be, police officers must be able to rely on strength and stamina to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible. Thanks to your rigorous training at the police academy, you’ve set yourself up for success to handle these demands. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In order to properly prepare for the physical aspect of the academy, we must examine the requirements for the Police Physical Abilities Test (PAT). Many law enforcement agencies follow the Cooper Standards, however the specific test requirements may vary by academy, so it’s best to do your research at the beginning.

The physical assessment is meant to determine your aerobic capacity (long run), anaerobic power (sprint and leg strength), upper body muscular strength and endurance (bench press and push-ups), core body muscular endurance (sit-ups), lower body muscular strength (leg press), flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings (sit and reach), and your body composition, which is your percentage of body fat. While all of these requirements can seem daunting, we’ve prepared some workouts and resources to help guide you as you prepare to enter the academy.

Depending on your current fitness level, you’ll want to allow yourself plenty of time to prepare and complete a fitness routine that meets your goals for entry into the academy. Typically, the academy will test your baseline abilities on the first week. Do your research and figure out what the minimum requirements are based on your age and gender at your academy of choice.

On page seven of the Cooper Standards you can see what recommended ranges are for each test. You’ll want to plan for at least six weeks of training before you enter the academy, though many sites recommend a longer training period if you have the time.

Workouts to Get You In Shape

Preparation is truly about personal preference. Some may prefer to design their own fitness regime, others may choose to follow a pre-designed workout routine like the FBI SWAT Workout designed by Stew Smith or the 90-day training program developed by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and still others may want to hire a personal trainer to keep them in line.

Our goal is to provide some workouts that will help you build your own routine, and allow you to test your progress as you move through the weeks. Your goal should be to set aside one hour a day and complete a workout or a run 4-5 days per week. It’s important to get at least one rest day in, although it’s ok to stretch on the rest day to keep your muscles loose.

It is imperative to note that before you start any fitness routine, especially one that you anticipate to be very rigorous, you should schedule a full physical with your physician.

Now, let’s begin.

All workouts from strength training to running should begin with stretching. Stretching is important to help keep your muscles flexible and maintain good range of motion in the joints. There are different stretches that are great for a general warm up, and others that are helpful to do before running.

For a general warm-up, try the following:

Arm Swings

Shoulder Rotations

Hip Circles

Knee Circles

Jumping Jacks

For a warm-up before a run, try the following:

Walking Lunges

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Side Stretch

Dynamic Pigeon Pose

Hip Circles

Calf Raises

Stork Stretch

Now that you’ve completed a warm-up, you’re ready to get started.

As your ultimate goal is to achieve a specific number of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and a timed long and short run, you should practice them to help you improve.

A good place to start is with something called the Pyramid Workout Plan. Essentially, this lets you work up from an easy level to your maximum level of fitness. How it works is that for each rep you would perform one pull-up, two push-ups, and three sit-ups. So, on your second rep, you’d have two pull-ups, four push-ups, and six sit-ups. On the third rep, you’d have three pull-ups, six push-ups, and nine sit-ups.

Go up the pyramid as far as you can, and then back down. This may take time to progress, but once you are able to complete the pyramid, your final total would be 36 pull-ups, 72 push-ups, and 108 sit-ups.

In addition to the pyramid workout plan, you’ll want to incorporate strength training. If you know you have specific requirements for a bench press or leg press, be sure to include those in your routines. For these exercises, start with one or two sets of 10-15 repetitions and add an additional set every two weeks. You should have a day of rest in between working out same muscle groups.

Other helpful exercises:

Barbell Squats

Deadlifts

Shoulder Press

Bent-Over Barbell Row

Plank

If you are a new runner, you will want to jog or run for at least 20 minutes three to four times a week for the first two weeks. If you are a very new runner, try a combination of walking and running. After two weeks, increase the number of minutes to 25 and continue to add five minutes every two weeks. Toward the end of your training you’ll want to start timing yourself so you can determine your pace and speed.

The best way to improve your time in running is to practice interval training. The Four-Mile Track Workout works best for many military and short distance runners. Essentially, you run for a particular distance at a certain pace, and then increase the pace for the same distance. This workout is broken down into 1/4 mile sprints and jogs and 1/8 mile sprints and jogs for a total of four miles. If you are new to running, break it down to a two-mile total run to start.

The other half of fitness: your diet

Now that we’ve got your physical fitness on track, it’s time to incorporate healthy eating habits into your daily life. You might be hoping that there is one specific diet out there for you to follow to achieve your nutrition goals, but the fact is adopting a healthy lifestyle requires a little bit of work on your end. But once you do the basic research and figure out your needs, it will be easy to stick with.

A good baseline to determine what your current eating habits are like is to track your daily intake. You can do this manually with pen and paper, or with an app like MyFitnessPal. This app is particularly helpful because after answering a few questions it can help determine your daily calorie goals. Tracking helps you become aware of the amount of calories that are in food, as well as what is in them such as protein, fat and carbs.

Track honestly for a week. Log every single bite of food that goes into your mouth. At the end of the week, review your eating patterns and think about where you can begin to make small changes.

As you work toward eating consciously, there are a few hard facts to face that may be tough to swallow. If you are truly ready to focus on putting your best foot forward for the academy, you’ll be just fine.

Eliminate fast food.

There is nothing healthy about fast food, and it is typically high in sugar, jam-packed with sodium and full of bad fat. Eliminating fast food will not only keep you on track toward your fitness goals but you’ll see the benefits in other areas too, including slashing your risk for diabetes, increasing energy and improving your memory.

 Avoid junk food and try to eliminate empty calories.

Empty calories are those foods primarily made up of solid fats and added sugars and add little to no nutritional value. Foods that count as empty calories include cakes, cookies, soda, pizza, and ice cream.

Your goal is to eat a diet that is high in lean protein and complex carbohydrates. This combination will provide you with energy throughout the day as well as a hefty dose of fiber to keep you feeling full.

To make sure you are eating the proper amount of food to be healthy, you’ll want to determine the right number of carbs, proteins and fat to eat based on the number of calories you consume. In step one, two and three of this article you’ll learn how to determine how much of each you should consume each day. Use your total number of calories calculated from your MyFitnessPal as your baseline for your calculations.

Complex carbohydrates are foods that have a low glycemic index meaning they are slow to digest and help keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Good complex carbs include grains like quinoa, whole wheat pasta and oatmeal, fruits like apples, berries and bananas (avoid canned fruits as they can contain syrup with added sugar), fiber-rich vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens and colorful veggies like peppers, beets, asparagus, and squash and beans.

You’ll also want to make sure you have lean protein in your diet. Protein is what helps build bones and muscles and after a tough workout, the protein you eat is what rebuilds the muscles you’ve worked. Protein rich foods include eggs, whey protein (in powder form, perfect for smoothies), chicken breast, turkey breast, almond butter, canned tuna (solid white), nuts (walnuts, almonds, and pecans), grass-fed beef and Greek yogurt.

Contrary to popular belief, you have to eat fat to burn fat. This is because “when you don’t have any fat in your diet it’s like you don’t have fuel to burn calories” says registered dietician Keri Glassman. The fat you should eat should come from unsaturated sources like fish, seeds (like flax and chia), nuts, olive oil and of course, avocados.

There you have it. A workout regime and healthy diet plan to set you up for success in the academy. Remember, consistency is key – so create your plans, stick with them, and you’ll be cruising past the other cadets on your very first day.

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