Strength training specific to law enforcement

Q: I am just an avid reader of workout routines and am always trying to find new routines to do. I came across your routine on Return to Cop Land at because I too am entering the law enforcement profession and have found that routine to be easy to follow yet also intense. I was wondering if you had any other routines, or where else I can find other routines to follow especially one who is going into law enforcement? 

Thanks, greatly appreciated!!!

Jim G.


My Answer: I have a number of routines and workouts in my books, but most of them are for bodybuilding.  I’m writing up a book on strength training for law enforcement, so keep an eye out for that.

Now there’s some debate as to whether sport-specific training is just a myth.  In other words, do law enforcement personnel need specifically designed strength programs, different from firefighters, military or athletes?  Or can they get by with any cookie cutter program?

Like other tactical and public safety athletes, LEOs need to develop strength, speed, endurance and mobility.  LEO’s need to develop general physical preparedness (GPP).

Strength training is not sport-specific. It is generalized training.  You cannot mimic in the gym every possible physical situation you will encounter in the field.  Movements in the field can’t be duplicated in the gym. With gym training, you can only develop general fitness and athletic qualities: strength, speed, endurance, mobility. Sport-specific training is playing the sport itself.

In law enforcement academies, we make this distinction between physical training (PT) and skills training (DT, which stands for defensive tactics, a martial art for cops).  With PT we develop GPP, and with DT we develop our “sport” or job-specific skills (arrest and control). 

PT and DT are 2 sides of the same coin that is LEO physical performance.  If you develop greater strength and power, then that newfound strength has to be calibrated through skills training (DT).  It’s like a gun: what use is increased firepower if your aim is off?  PT increases an officer’s athletic firepower, and DT calibrates an officer’s targeting system.

From what I’ve seen, the people who perform the best physically as LEOs are ex-football players (martial artists come second).  LEOs have to go on foot pursuits, and they end up tackling a suspect.  Sounds like football, right?

So tactical strength and conditioning should bear a resemblance to football training.  Football players do a lot of the following:

  • Running, particularly sprints.
  • Weight training, focusing on deadlifts, squats, bench presses, power cleans
  • Stretching
  • Agility drills

Keep in mind that the purpose of tactical strength training and conditioning is to enhance your ability to arrest and control criminals, not to bench 225 for reps.  Although physical standards should be set, sometimes the standards are arbitrary and have no correlation with actual performance in the field.

Strength training for football is an ideal training model for LEOs, because it accomplishes 2 things:

  1. It increases your muscular force.  You want your force to overcome the physical resistance you encounter in your job.
  2. It builds you up to an optimal weight for your height so that you’re quick and mobile but can withstand impact.  You want to have enough mass to deal with the extra load of your equipment as well any blows you receive from suspects.

While the football model of strength and conditioning is a good training model for LEOs to emulate, there are some additional physical demands specific to law enforcement:

  • Grip strength: In order to arrest and control, LEOs need to have a powerful grip.  A lot of LEO’s have massive forearms, and that is the result of the work and training that LEOs do.
  • Restore mobility: Bearing the continuous load of your equipment (bullet resistant vest, gun belt) day in and day out compresses your spine.  This often results in lower back pain as well decreased joint mobility.  So while it’s important for tactical strength training to improve performance, it should also include mobility exercises to restore range of motion.
  • Rotator cuff: The rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder joint.  A strong rotator cuff helps in shooting accuracy.

This report details the physical demands of law enforcement and what are the best exercises to develop the strength and conditioning for the job:


Available on Kindle and as an E-book from Gumroad.


Q: Hi James, this is Mike.  I have two questions:

  1. For a density training phase, the sets range between 6-12 sets per body part.  Does that mean a quads triset containing front squats, sissy squats, and leg extensions for three sets equals to a total of 9 sets for quads? Or I should just count it as 3 sets for quads?
  2. Compare training to failure during the exercise with doing multiple sets like supersets, trisets, and giant sets, etc. without breaking form. Which do you recommend? Any advice?
Thanks for your kind help!! The videos you share always inspire me!!

All the best,

My Answer: A triset consists of 3 sets strung together, so 3 trisets count as 9 sets.  As far as training to failure, try not to go to complete failure on trisets, supersets or giant sets.  Once your form starts to break down, then you should end the set.

Q: Hi James! Thanks for all your information. You helped me put on 30 pounds of mass! I never thought I would be this big, back when I was at 130 lbs.

I had a few questions for you though now that I’ve gotten up to 160 lbs. I’ve been following the target diet you told me about last year (30% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat) at about 3100 calories a day. I’ve been training at least 4 times a week.

I seem to be plateauing at 160 pounds. I can’t seem to make any gains. Should I up my calories even more? By how much?

I also feel like I’ve been getting a little too large for my preference in my midsection. I’m guessing I’m around 15% body fat now. Do you have any suggestions?

I appreciate all your work and thank you so much for helping me reach my goals!!


P.S. I am 6’0 tall, 22 years old, 160 lbs.


My Answer: Good job in packing on 30 pounds of mass!  Now that you’ve hit a plateau, you should change things up.  With training you alternate between density and decompression phases.  With diet it’s the same way: you alternate between high and low caloric intake, high and low protein intake, high and low carb intake.

In my books, I refer to the ZigZag Diet, where you alternate between 5 days of high calorie and 2 days of low calorie intake.  I suggest you scale back from the high calorie intake and alternate between 5 days of iso-caloric intake (33% protein, 33% carbs, 33% fats) and 2 days of low carb, low calorie eating.  Think of the 2-day low calorie phase as hitting the reset button on your metabolism.  It’s analogous to the decompression phases of your training.

During the 5 day phase, eat as you normally would.  During the 2 days of low calorie, low carb intake eat fewer meals in the day (2-3).  Avoid white carbs (sugar and starches like breads, pastas, pastries, rice, etc.) and eat green leafy vegetables instead.  In fact, if you want to go vegetarian during the 2-day phase, then that’s fine.


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