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September 09, 2021 8 min read

Law enforcement willingly put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. From acts of violence to trips and slips, it is just as important for an officer to be fit and athletic as it is for them to don their protective gear. Both athleticism and kevlar can help sustain a career and even a life.

In this article, we walk through 10 exercises you can do to prepare for police duty. We also provide tips on creating a schedule, properly stretching, and keeping things simple.

When and Where to Exercise

In a perfect world, you would have all the time you need to visit the gym and work out. But police officers know better than anyone that the world isn’t perfect. Between long shifts and overtime at work, and the many domestic duties at home, working out often needs to happen where you live.

There are a ton of simple exercises a police officer can do at home  without any equipment, or with simple household objects like large books or a gallon-sized jug of water. Still, there are a few workout-specific objects we recommend having on hand.

These include:

  • two 15 lb weights 
  • a jump rope 
  • a medium-sized inflatable fitness ball, also called a Swiss ball

Many of the exercises we detail below will incorporate these simple workout objects.

Creating a Workout Plan

Consistency equals progress. You will only get bigger and stronger if you commit to exercising consistently throughout the week. If you are wondering how you are going to fit a 30-minute workout program into your busy daily routine, then it may be beneficial to create an exercise schedule to help keep you on track.

In your weekly schedule, aim for two days of circuit training, two days of endurance running (limited to 30 or 45 minutes), a day of sprints (limited to 30 or 45 minutes), and one day of both sprints and circuit training. Don’t forget to schedule one day of rest to allow your body to recover. 

Do what you can to stay well so that your body and brain are always working at their best.

As you are creating your schedule, it may be helpful to remember:

  • Decide on your exercises, then put them together into a circuit.
  • When completing a circuit, don’t take breaks between individual exercises. Move from one exercise to the next without pause. This helps build stamina.
  • After each circuit, allow yourself to rest for one minute.
  • To increase the intensity, set a timer for 30 or 45 minutes and see how many times you can complete your circuit in that amount of time.

Core Strength Exercises

Back injuries and lower back pain are an unfortunate side effect of working for the police department. Wearing pounds of heavy leather gear around your waist and spending hours sitting in a patrol car mean you need to have a strong core and back to avoid injury.

1. Standard Plank

The standard plank is a great way to strengthen your core without putting pressure on your spine.

  • To start, situate your hands directly underneath your shoulders, just wider than shoulder length. Lift up your body as if you are about to do a push up.
  • Anchor your toes to the floor, then squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body. Pro Tip: Don’t lock your knees. You want your arms to be holding up your body. 
  • Keeping your head in line with your spine, choose a spot on the floor about one foot ahead of you.
  • Hold the position for at least 20 seconds, or as long as you can without breaking your form or your breath. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to hold your position longer. 

2. Single-Leg Plank

A variation of the standard plank, the single-leg plank is a more advanced exercise that strengthens your core even more. 

  • Follow the above directions to put yourself into the position of a standard plank.
  • Keeping your hips parallel to the floor, lift one leg toward the ceiling. The stronger you get, the higher you will be able to lift.
  • Switch from leg to the other as you can.  

3. Fitness Ball Russian Twists

This easy exercise using your fitness ball, or Swiss ball, builds up your core strength by working your abs, hamstrings, back, hips, and glutes.

  • Get into position on your fitness ball. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Your upper back and shoulders should be supported by the ball.
  • Rotate your raised arms and upper body to one side. You should feel the ball rolling across your back and shoulders as you move. When your arms are parallel to the floor, stop.
  • Return to your starting position and rotate towards the opposite direction.
4. Jump Rope

Ignore any thoughts of jump-roping schoolchildren, because jumping rope is an incredible full body workout that simultaneously builds stamina. There are many ways to jump rope to build strength:

  • Forward jump: Swing the rope forward, then jump with both feet at every revolution.
  • Backward jump: Swing the rope backward, then jump with both feet at every revolution.
  • Side-to-Side: Get into a good working rhythm of jumping a few inches to your left, then a few inches to your right on alternating revolutions.
  • Single-Leg Jump Left: Swing the rope either forward or backward, but jump with just your left foot on each revolution. Try to land as softly as possible.
  • Single-Leg Jump Right: Swing the rope either forward or backward, but jump with just your right foot on each revolution. Try to land as softly as possible.

To maximize the benefits of jumping rope, put together a circuit with 60-second intervals. For example, a minute of forward jumping, followed by a minute of alternating single-leg jumps, followed by a minute of jumping side to side. As you get better with the jump rope, you can try more advanced moves and longer circuits. 

Upper Body Strength Exercises

Police officers use upper body strength for things like controlling suspects and lifting heavy objects. There are a number of easy upper body-strength exercises you can do to build up your various muscle groups and prepare yourself for duty.

5. Push Up

Push-ups are crucial to a police officer’s strength training fitness program. Push-ups build both core strength and upper body strength, and different push-up variations allow you to continue to strengthen as you master each variation.

  • Get into position. Start on all fours, and plant your hands just a little bit wider than the width of your shoulders. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Extend your legs, and position your toes hip-width apart.
  • Tighten up by pulling your belly button towards your spine.
  • Slowly bend your elbows and lower yourself to the floor. Inhale as you do so, and stop when your elbows reach a 90-degree angle.
  • Exhaling, push back up with your hands until you have returned to your starting position.  

6. Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Known also as the two-arm bent over dumbbell row, this intermediate-level exercise targets the back and shoulders and is designed to increase your upper body strength.

  • Get into position. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees just slightly bent. Hold a weight in each hand, with your palms facing your body.
  • Bend at the waist until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle. Tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight.
  • Lift the weight straight up while you exhale. Only lift your arms to the height of your shoulders, or just below.
  • Lower the weights while inhaling.
  • Remain bent over until you have completed the repetitions.
  • Pro Tip: Your legs and feet should not move during this exercise.

As you advance, you can work through this exercise with a barbell instead of weights. Remember, in order for your muscles to grow, they need to be damaged first. The faster you can repair the damage, the faster your muscles will grow. 

Muscle recovery supplements help reduce soreness and improve recovery times. 

Lower Body Strength Exercises

Strong lower body strength is practically a requirement when working in law enforcement. Without it, you are more prone to back soreness and injury. Speed and endurance will also be harder to achieve.  

7. Bodyweight Squats

Bodyweight squats are considered a “fundamental” exercise for building strength in your glutes and legs. This is also a simple exercise that can be done anywhere.

  • Get into position. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and turned out slightly so your hip joint is opened. Place your hands on the back of your head.
  • Lower your body until you reach a sitting position. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor.
  • Hold your position for 1-3 seconds, then return to your starting position.
  • Repeat.

As you advance, turn your workout up a notch by jumping up from each squat so that your feet lift off the floor. 

8. Stationary Lunges 

Not only are stationary lunges a great lower body exercise, but they also tone and shape your legs. There are many variations of lunges, but a stationary lunge -- also called a static lunge -- requires you to stay in one spot as you switch legs.

  • Get into position. Ensure your shoulders are in line with your hips, tighten your core, and look straight ahead.
  • Step directly forward with your right foot. Lengthen your legs, and bend both knees to a 90-degree angle.
  • Pro Tip: Keep your right knee over your ankle and toes. This will keep you from adding unnecessary pressure to joints and muscles that aren’t designed for the weight.
  • Lower your back knee toward the floor and feel your back heel begin to lift. Keep your heel in line with the ball of your foot.
  • Lunge as low as you can without breaking form.
  • Push off your left leg (your back leg) to stand straight back up.
  • Repeat and switch legs. 

Speed and Endurance Exercises

If you have survived FBI or police training, or you’ve ever had to chase after a suspect, then you know how important speed and endurance exercises are. The key to these two cardio exercises is to combine them. By alternating between endurance runs and sprints, you’ll find it won’t be long before you are running upwards of six miles with ease.

9. Endurance Runs

This one is easy. Twice each week, head out on a moderate-paced run of 30 to 45 minutes. The goal is to be able to hold a conversation while you run. 

10. Sprints 

Sprints are an excellent way to build your stamina and teach your body to recover in less time. After a short warm-up and stretch, run three rounds of 40-yard sprints. A 15-second break between each sprint should be enough. After your three sprints, rest for a full minute before sprinting again. 

Driving your knees and arms up high as you sprint will extend the workout to other parts of your body. Pro Tip: If you live near a high school, utilize their track on weekends or after school hours.

Don’t Forget to Stretch

Think of how tight your hips and muscles feel after hours spent sitting in your patrol car. For police officers, stretching can be an important workout in itself, and it’s a vital part of any training program. To really loosen up, dedicate the 10 minutes before bed to stretching.

Routine stretches are especially helpful for  loosening up tight hip flexors and hamstrings -- both of which are vital for chasing suspects, doing heavy lifting, and even sitting in patrol cars without injury.

Pro Tip: Did you know police and other first responders can receive  a discount on Steel products


Whether you are a working cop, preparing for the police academy, or still just thinking about it, it is important to have a workout routine that prepares every part of your body for the activity required of a police officer.

Fortunately, there are dozens of easy exercises you can add to your routine to build up your stamina, core, upper body strength, and lower body strength. Stretching will help loosen your hips and other joints, build muscle, and make long patrol shifts a little easier on your body.