LEO PREP ARTICLE

So you’ve decided to begin a career in law enforcement, a decision that will give you the opportunity to give back to your community, and to your country. But, you want to know how to prepare for the gruesome training ahead of you. Luckily, we’ve put together a little guide to help you get ready and prep for the academy. 

The police academy is a test of your physical fitness combined with academic coursework and training in pursuit driving and firearms ability. Although each state, city, and department may vary in regards to when you attend the academy, and what you are taught, you can make some general preparations and practice the skills you'll need that’ll prepare you mentally, and physically. 

As a graduate of a certified police academy, and current Law Enforcement Officer, I often get asked by people interested in attending the academy what it is like and how best to prepare. Well, going through the police academy is an intense, stressful, eye opening, and rewarding experience. Trust me, by the time you are done you will be a different person. I mean this in the best possible way of course. I suggest contacting your closest academy to see what their fitness requirements are, so that way you know what you’re even preparing for.

In the academy, you can expect to run, and run ALOT! I wish I could tell you what to expect, but these instructors get very creative with their fitness regimes, and you’ll learn to hate it. But now to why we are all here

HOW DO WE PREPARE? 

  1. First and foremost, consult your doctor and ask him/her whether you're fit to attend police academy, especially if you have a condition that may affect your physical abilities.
  2. Stop smoking. In this career, your health is very important, and smoking will make it more difficult for you to complete your training. If you drink alcohol, consider stopping or cutting back. If you don’t do either, onto the next point. 
  3. Aim to drink at least a gallon of water daily to keep hydrated. If you're training in the summer months, you may want to drink a little more water per day. Cut back on unhealthy beverages, such as soda and sugary drinks, oh and those “energy” drinks you put back to get you through your day.
  4. Maintain a healthy diet. Eat vegetables or fruit at each meal, as well as meat and dairy. A diet of proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates is highly recommended. Avoid eating unhealthy snacks and meals, such as potato chips and fast food. 
  5. Run every day to increase your stamina and overall fitness. Gradually increase the distance and time you run daily. Most police departments will ask you to run a distance in a set amount of time. For example, you may need to run 1 1/2 miles in 13 1/2 minutes, depending on your age and gender, the time will be more, or less. 
  6. Do a variety of exercises each day, including push-ups, jumping jacks and crunches. Set goals for yourself based on your department's recommendations. Using the entrance requirements as a target goal, up your training by making your goals more difficult. For example, if you’re required to run a mile and a half in 13 minutes, aim for 12, if you’re required to do 35 push-ups in a minute, aim for 45, and so forth. 

I suggest starting your training few months before the academy begins (the earlier the better) and get used to working out five days a week. Concentrate on cardio as this seems to be what most academies concentrate on the most. Start waking up an hour earlier each day and going on a run, then come home and eat breakfast afterwards. Power through the first two weeks of this schedule and it will become your morning routine. It honestly becomes like a cup of coffee in the morning, it’s what gets your day started. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing improvements in your time, speed, and effort you need to put forth to finish your run. 

Consistency and discipline here is key, no excuses on why you can’t run today. That will not fly at the academy, so don’t train the way prior to the academy. No one is going to make you do this, this is something you decided to do, so it is something YOU need to stick to. It will be the difference between graduation, and failing out. Below we provided a sample workout routine for you to follow. Now you can do all the research in the world, and follow all the routines known to man, but at the end of the day, it boils down to the effort you’re putting in, your discipline, and how hard you are training. How much do you want it? Are you willing to outwork the person you were yesterday? This line of work is not easy, and neither should your training be. 

So for the wrap up.

You’ll want to run, run, and run some more. Interval running will be your best friend here. Find a track, and become best friends with it. Jog a lap, sprint a quarter lap, and repeat. You’ll want to do this until you’ve reach 2 miles. 

Pushups and sit-ups are two tests that most police academies use to measure your strength/ endurance.

The form for push-ups, arms should be held close to the body and core stomach muscles should be tightened. There are many different types of push-ups that increase arm and chest strength, so feel free to experiment and change it up:

  • Incline push-ups – performed by placing your hands on a stable platform higher than the ground. Start with leaning on a wall, bed, or sturdy table and work your way down to a surface about 6 inches off the ground.
  • Wide inclined push-ups – performed by holding the hands in a wider position than shoulder width.
  • Weighted push-ups – performed by wearing a weighted vest.
  • Wide push-ups – performed by placing the hands outside shoulder width during each push-up.
  • Diamond push-ups – performed by placing the hands on the floor to form a diamond between the index fingers and thumbs during each push-up.

You should start by doing 100 push-ups a day. I recommend finding the maximum number of push-ups you can do at one time. Start to increase the number each day until you can do 25-30 push-ups at one time and repeat the exercise over time until you have accomplished 100 push-ups a day.

Over time, the number of push-ups can be increased as the body adapts and becomes less fatigued. With training, it will become easier to complete the recommended number of push-ups for the academy test.

Sit-ups are often the final portion of the police academy fitness test. Sit-ups measure abdominal muscle strength and endurance. Strengthening the abdominal muscles over time is essential for improving sit-up technique and increasing the number of sit-ups. The strength of abdominal muscles can be improved through exercises focusing on the stomach or by including core stability work, such as reverse crunches, planks and Russian Twists.  Now sticking to these three exercises will not only burn you out, but probably bore you as well. Below is a sample workout that targets all three aspects of the fitness tests, offering you a little variety. 

Sample Workout

  • 1a. 20-Second Treadmill Sprint - 30 seconds at 9.0 mph and 10% incline grade.
  • 1b. Knee-to-Elbow Push Ups (10 Each Leg) - Start in pushup position, hands shoulder width apart, and feet together. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe throughout. As you bend at the elbows, keep your upper arms at a 45-degree angle with your body. While lowering, bring your right leg forward, bending at the knee, until your knee and shoulder touch. As you return to the up position, return your leg to its starting position. Repeat with left leg.
  • 1c. Triangle Sit Ups (10 Each Leg) - Lie flat on your back. Bring your right knee in toward your upper body, and rotate your leg so your lower leg is perpendicular with the rest of your body. Bring in your left knee and use it to anchor your right foot. Put your hands behind your head, across your chest, or down at your sides. Crunch up as far as you can, and slowly return to starting position. 
  • 2a. 30-Second Treadmill Sprint - 30 seconds at 9.0 mph and 10% incline grade.
  • 2b. Single-Leg Kicks (10 Each Leg) - Lie flat on your back, with your legs straight and suspended 6 inches or so off the ground. Keeping it straight, raise your right leg over your body until your hips come off the floor. Lower slowly to starting position. Repeat with left leg.
  • 2c. Knee-to-Chest Push Ups (10 Each Leg) - Start in pushup position, hands shoulder width apart, and feet together. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe throughout. As you bend at the elbows, keep your upper arms at a 45-degree angle with your body. Lower until your chest touches the ground, but do not rest you bodyweight on the floor. While returning to the upright position, bring your right leg forward, bending at the knee, until it touches your chest. As you return to the down position, return your leg to its starting position. Repeat with left leg.
  • 3a. 30-Second Treadmill Sprint - 30 seconds at 9.0 mph and 10% incline grade
  • 3b. Regular Push Ups (10-15) - Start in pushup position, hands shoulder width apart, and feet together. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe throughout. As you bend at the elbows, keep your upper arms at a 45-degree angle with your body. Lower until your chest touches the floor, but do not rest your bodyweight on it. Push yourself back to the up position.
  • 3c. Russian Twist (10 Each Side) - Grab a medicine ball. Sit with your legs in front of you, bent at the knees. With the ball in your hand, lift your feet about an inch off of the floor, so that you are balanced on your butt. Twist your entire upper body to the left. Now twist right past the starting position, so that you are now facing the opposite direction. Try to keep your feet off of the floor throughout.

Besides the physical aspect, you can expect to a rigid schedule, because punctuality is key. You can expect a variety of written tests that will test your knowledge on Vehicle Code, Inspection, Criminal Law, some civil law, and so forth. You can also expect to be tested on emergency driving, conflict resolution, and proficiency on an array of both lethal and non-lethal weapon systems. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. 

So now you have it, what you can expect, and how you can better prepare for the police academy testing. 

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”