Throughout my career, I’ve had the honor and privilege of training many tactical athletes. Tactical athletes are categorized as military, law enforcement, fire fighters, and first responders. Their job requires functional strength, agility, speed, and stamina. A majority of tactical athletes have physical fitness requirements they must pass in order to fulfill their duties. Often times, subpar performance or failing a physical fitness test can have severe consequences. After years of service, wear and tear on the body, plus natural aging can make it difficult to continue performing at a high level. Below are some strategies tactical athletes can use to reduce injury, improve performance, and continue in their chosen career for many years to come.
Movement Quality and Posture
Overall, how well our body moves determines what we are able to do. Maintaining healthy, mobile, and stabile joints, along with good posture is the key to long term performance. Any breakdowns in the kinetic chain can limit performance and be a recipe for injuries down the road. I recommend that everybody (tactical athlete, sports athlete, fitness enthusiast, etc.) do some sort of posture assessment and movement screening so that poor movement can be addressed before it becomes a major problem. Foam rolling, dynamic mobility drills, corrective exercise, static stretching, and yoga are several tools that can be used to help improve muscle tissue quality, joint range of motion, and overall movement quality and posture.
To learn more about posture and joint mobility/stability, click Here.
Non-Load Bearing Cardio
Most tactical athletes are required to pass some sort of timed running test. One of the chief complaints I hear from a lot of tactical athletes is that running is the last thing they want to do after a long physically demanding day. Non-loadbearing training modalities are great for situations like this. Not to mention, non-loadbearing cardio can cut down on overuse injuries in the feet, knees, hips, and lower back that are common in runners. Rowing, cycling, and swimming are great tools to utilize when trying to keep performance levels high, but trying to keep impact at a minimum. It is very important to practice the skill in which you will be tested, so run at least once per week and use non-loadbearing cardio options on the other conditioning days.
To learn more about cardiovascular training, click Here.
Functional Strength Training
Functional strength is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. I define functional strength as the ability to stabilize while under load, or stabilizing while producing force on an external load. Most tactical athletes’ job duties require them to lift, carry, drag, crawl, and get up and down off of the ground. Their strength training program should include all of those movements as well. Limit the use of machines and opt for exercises that better correlate with everyday tasks. Use bodyweight, bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, stability balls, suspension trainers (like TRX or Jungle Gym), sandbags, sleds, etc. when strength training.
To learn more about functional strength training, click Here.
I want to conclude by saying thank you to all those in the military, law enforcement, security, firefighting, and emergency medical community that protect us, keep us safe, and respond when we are in danger.