The G20 Summit in South Korea gets underway next week. With that, so too have protests, some of which promise to be less-than-peaceable as citizens rally against the goals and agendas set forth by the summit. Naturally, our thoughts turned to security, and then more specifically to SWAT teams. From there we wondered how these men prepare physically and mentally for the call of duty. Then we turned to Eric Fleishman, celebrity trainer and instructor to, among numerous other law enforcement agencies, SWAT teams.
The physical rigors of being involved in law enforcement can be daunting to many “do-gooders,” preventing them from even starting the process of becoming an officer. But every police officer, sheriff and highway patrolman will tell you that the physical demands required to become a member of a SWAT team are truly the pinnacle. With kicking down doors, repelling off buildings and being constantly in harm’s way in the basic job description, you have to be very buff and a little crazy to be the best that the badge has to offer. The three factors of physical change — diet, exercise and sleep — must be aligned perfectly to ensure optimum performance of brain and brawn. From split-second decisions that can save a life to steady breathing techniques needed for dead-on marksmanship, a SWAT team member must personify strength, focus and drive. Their workouts must prepare them for the daily barrage of intense challenges. Here, then, is the SWAT workout.
Perform under pressure
By calming his mind, the SWAT team member controls his body. He feeds off adrenaline to increase his mental focus when dynamic physicality is the only option. For him, success is realized while under duress, so putting elements of that into his training prepares him for real-life situations.
SWAT exercise: The Unholy 100
Position yourself beneath a chin-up bar. Begin doing push-ups. As you start to tire, stop and immediately begin doing chin-ups. Go back and forth without rest until you’ve completed 100 total combined reps. (Functional chest and back)
Maintain an elite level of performance
SWAT exercise: Leg press
Most SWAT officers like to warm up with about half of their body weight. Then raise the weight and drop the reps to build strong hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves. Remember, as you slowly bring the weight down toward you, stop at 90 degrees. That’s when the weighted load is challenging your muscles, not your joints and ligaments. Then push the weight up to nearly straight, but never lock out your legs at the top.
Here’s a guide: Set 1: 100 pounds, 20 reps; Set 2: 200 pounds, 12 reps; Set 3: 250 pounds, 10 reps; Set 4: 300 pounds, 8 reps.
SWAT exercise: Non-weighted walking lunges
Choose a path that allows for a long step. As you reach forward with your foot, keep your back straight and your head held high. Midway through a single step, your knees, both front and back, should be at 90 degrees. SWAT team members add in a double bounce to heighten their physical challenge. (4 sets of 50 long lunges)
Marksmanship and the muscles
By creating high levels of focus and concentration, a SWAT officer can steady his mind and body to achieve a state of pure precision. Before a single weapon is fired, the melding of the physical and the psychological must take place. One key way to introduce this concept to the body is through static holds. During normal exercise movements, implement a momentary hold before the explosive, positive movement.
SWAT exercise: Lateral raises
Start with dumbbells in front of you. Slowly bring them up to the side, tipping the weight slightly inward as if you were pouring milk. Before leveling, stop, hold for 2 seconds. Then, slowly bring down to original position.
3 sets of 12 reps — 15 to 20 pounds
SWAT exercise: Wide lat pull-downs (cable)
Using a false grip (without thumbs wrapped around), pull the bar down to your upper chest. Hold at the bottom for 2 seconds. Slowly release and return to original position.
3 sets of 10 reps — 90 to 150 pounds
SWAT exercise: Bench press (flat)
Bring the weighted bar down to your chest, pausing for a 2 second hold ½ inch from the bottom. Exhale, and explode upward.
3 Sets of 10 Reps — 90 to 135 pounds
Morale and mental fitness
When dealing with life-or-death situations that involve intense psychological pressure, SWAT team members find themselves harboring stress, leading to depression. These beleaguered mental states can upset the delicate balance that keeps theses officers sharp. That’s why meditation and flexibility classes help the SWAT team unwind.
SWAT exercise: Basic yoga class
1 hour, 3 times per week
Of course, besides basic physical fitness and mental alertness, most SWAT agencies maintain a secret amount of insider technique shared only with team members. These unique “tricks of the trade” range from elite martial arts takedowns to “go pills” that provide a “skip in the step” far beyond what Red Bull provides. Nevertheless, with lives on the line and an important job that must be done, SWAT teams stay as strong and as agile as they can, always one step ahead of the bad guys.