| | Guardians of the Streets – LEOs and Athleticism

Author / Donald Ricci

5-7 Minute Read

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”

Roosevelt’s famous “The Man in the Arena” speech couldn’t be more relevant to the law enforcement community today. Our law enforcement officers must push past the critics who point out the stumbles, while continuing to valiantly step into the arena, and face unknown challenges and situations on a daily basis to the best of their ability.  Because of this, it’s more important now than ever that we help empower our law enforcement communities with the tools they need to be triumphant in a challenging environment. For us at Power Athlete, that empowerment comes through physical training. Simply put, better physical training = better law enforcement officers.

Unfortunately, there’s a general lack of direction and education in what quality training looks like for law enforcement. This is where Power Athlete and the Power Athlete Methodology can help fill the gap.  The mindset of training within law enforcement needs to be viewed through the prism of performance and fostering athleticism.  A connection between what a law enforcement officer does in the weight room and how it translates to job specific demands needs to be made and communicated on a much greater scale.

For anyone in the tactical community, there is no perfect program. Instead we have to deconstruct the common challenges that law enforcement might face and find ways to address those needs in a controlled environment. With that in mind, I’ve broken the demands of police work into two categories: 1) High frequency, low intensity, low risk and 2) Low frequency, high intensity, high risk.  Once these are defined, we can work backwards to designing a pretty badass template to use.

High Frequency, Low Intensity, Low Risk Demands

Think of these demands as the “daily grinds” that are experienced from shift to shift, and the huge toll those grinds can take on you if they go unnoticed or mitigated in some way. Some examples include: 

  • Hyper-vigilance: No matter what, you should always be on high alert.  When in a hyper-vigilant state, your senses are heightened and you’re always “on.”  This is why even on a “slow” shift of calls you’re still beat. You need to have stamina in order to counter the negative effects of hyper-vigilance.
  • High stress: With hyper-vigilance comes high stress.  The stress of calls for service, supervision, etc. can take its toll.  If gone unchecked, high stress can lead to major health consequences.  Your ability to expose yourself to more stress, even good stress (like training) can help with this.
  • Command presence: Do you look the part?  Do you look in shape? Do you look like you’d be a handful if a suspect decided to resist or fight? How you look matters and adds to your command presence.
  • Critically think under fatigue and duress:  Do you have the ability to critically think, analyze, and act effectively when it’s towards the end of your work rotation at 4am? Can you calm down to focus on what’s going on when people around you are yelling and freaking out?  Those that are able to handle more stress are  generally able to think more clearly.  Again, this is a matter of stress inoculation and something that can be improved on through exposing yourself to the beneficial stress of physical training.
  • Stand or sit for hours at a time: Can your back and hips take you sitting in the car all day? Can your feet, legs, and/or back handle you being on your feet for hours at a time during a crowd control event, traffic control, or motor vehicle crash?
  • Wearing body armor, duty belt, etc.: It doesn’t seem like much gear, but that 25 lb load out and constant sweating can wear on you after a while.  Not only that, but do you have the ability to move around with it all on in all planes of movement and at all intensities?

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Low Frequency, High Intensity, High Risk Demands

Think of these demands as the instances that may occur once or twice a work rotation if that, require a high physical or mental output, and put you in a crisis situation, such as:

  • Foot pursuit: Assuming your jurisdiction still allows foot pursuits, are you able to sprint and close the gap quickly enough to gain control and detain a suspect? Are you able to jump over obstacles or climb over a fence? If it’s a longer pursuit, are you able to run for a longer distance while effectively communicating on your radio?
  • Going hands on/use of force: If things get hairy and your suspect wants to resist or fight, do you have the strength or power to gain control of the situation, especially if you’re in a remote jurisdiction and your backup is 10 + minutes away?
  • Driving at high speeds with lights and sirens: Are you able to calm your nerves and relax your mind and muscles to drive within your abilities and with due regard
  • Life saving measures: If you’re the first on scene to cardiac arrest call, do you have the strength and stamina to provide life saving CPR until rescue arrives on scene to relieve you?
  • Plate carriers/rifles/specialized gear for certain situations for long durations: Sometimes you’ll need more than your duty belt and body armor. Plus, everyone wants to look tacticool, but that extra 30-50 lbs on top of what you’re already wearing  gets real old real quick when you have to wear that entire battle rattle for an extended period of time, especially during the hot and humid summer months. 

It’s the low frequency, high intensity, high risk demands you should prepare for the most.  First, if you improve the qualities that allow you to maximize your ability to meet those high speed demands, there will certainly be a trickle down effect in performance of those lower speed, low intensity requirements. Second, those higher intensity high speed demands, while not the everyday occurrence, may happen at a moment’s notice and the body must be prepared to act and at a high level – your life and the lives of others depend on it. 

The profession of law enforcement is both physically and mentally demanding. Both are intertwined and affect the other. Your ability to handle stress comes down to stress inoculation, and training the body is the foundation for training the mind. If dedicated focused effort isn’t put into maintaining your physical well being, your mental well being and thus your ability to perform on the job, let alone be a good significant other, parent, and/or friend, diminishes exponentially.

So What Does it Come Down to?

Training needs to be balanced in order to foster athleticism, and balance is based on all the components that enable you to do your job better, not just a couple components.

Based on the demands I’ve laid out, a balanced training program is going to work towards these bullet points:

  • You need to have a solid aerobic base to keep your health in check, and to maintain long bouts of low intensity effort while staying mentally present.
  • You need to have the muscular endurance to maintain posture for extended periods of low intensity bouts of effort.
  • You need speed and power to be able to sprint and jump.
  • You need strength and bouts of high intensity efforts to be able to climb and physically gain control over a resisting subject.
  • You need to be able to perform and critically think under repeated bouts of stress and fatigue.
  • You need to be able to effectively move with a good range of motion forwards and backwards, up and down, laterally side to side, and rotationally.
  • You need to be exposed to physical stress, so you can better handle psychological and emotional stress.

Simplistically, this doesn’t seem too much different than the demands of other athletes.  That’s why training for law enforcement should be looked at no differently than other sport athletes – through the prism of performance and fostering athleticism!

To meet the professional demands of law enforcement, we squat, step, lunge, and vertically and horizontally push and pull in all planes and axes of movement.  To accomplish this we use barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, or simply whatever we have access to.  Sounds easy enough.  This is the basic framework by which we start to formulate a more specific training program for law enforcement. Creating a balanced program becomes simpler when you understand what you’re training for – the demands.  It shouldn’t be complex.

There are certainly scenarios and variables like what equipment you have access to, what shift you work, what your family life looks like, and how old you are, for instance, that would lead us to manipulate the frequency, duration, and structure of various law enforcement programs into a good, better, best matrix.  But it all starts with the big picture of what we’re trying to accomplish in the first place – putting those in law enforcement in the best position to maximize their individual athleticism to meet the demands of their job.

If you want to be the Man in the Arena that is best prepared to succeed, Power Athlete offers different training programs, each one designed to meet specific needs and goals.  Each will inoculate you to physical stress and foster athleticism.  Check out our programs below under the heading “Training” to find the best training program for you. And if you don’t know which is best for you? Click here and we can help push you in the right direction.

Step into that arena, strive valiantly, and prove the critic wrong!

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TRAINING: https://powerathletehq.com/training

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Donald Ricci

Don was a two time National Champion and All-American water polo goalie at the University of Southern California prior to getting involved in coaching strength & conditioning and weightlifting. He is the founder and head coach of DELTA Weightlifting, a high performing USA Weightlifting Club and is a Police Officer in Central Virginia.

The Power Athlete Methodology has been a crucial component in developing better overall athleticism not only for his on the job performance in law enforcement, but also for his competitive weightlifters with international level athletes and national medalists to show for it. In addition to proudly being a Power Athlete Block One Coach, Don is also a USA Weightlifting Level 4 International Coach, a USA Weightlifting Lead Instructor USA Weightlifting Coaching Courses, and a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Don has coached and trained athletes from virtually every sport at levels ranging from youth beginner to National Team level.


  1. CJ on August 13, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    As an active LEO I was curious about the article and thought it was going to be a fluff piece like a training division or LEO website would put out. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The break down of the high frequency/low intensity/low risk vs low frequency/high intensity/high risk was an absolutely spot on way to describe a shift. It gives a great “commanders intent” of fostering athleticism which I can’t agree with more. Great article.

    • Don Ricci, CSCS on August 13, 2021 at 9:19 pm

      Appreciate the feedback here, CJ! Feel free to pass on to your fellow officers that you think may enjoy the read. Hoping to put out more LEO specific content as time goes on too.

  2. Mike on August 14, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    great article, and as a firefighter there are def some similarties with our jobs, yes we have more down time, but stress or going from o to 100 in 90lbs of gear takes a toll on the body. I do feel power athlete templates apply to the “tatical athlete”

    • Don Ricci, CSCS on August 15, 2021 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Mike. Definitely some similarities between the demands of various First Responders. Be well!

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