In response to the two inquiries I got in response to my “What would you like me to write about” question I’ve decided to combine both topics because they are very interrelated.
“Functional training” has been redefined from standing on one leg on top of bosu balls while doing curls in a physical therapist’s office to doing a combination of muscle ups and snatches at a breakneck pace on ESPN as a test to find the fittest on earth. However, functional training has very different meanings in different contexts. A physical therapist may have someone standing on that bosu ball in an effort to get the stabilizing muscles in the lower leg to start firing correctly. The guy doing muscle ups and snatches is trying to compete in the world famous CrossFit games. Both are training to be more functional. One more functional at the sport of CrossFit. The other more functional at walking properly after a major surgery. Every individual needs to define their goals and what those goals entail. In this case the term “Functional Training” begs the question: functional at what?
Every sport, hobbie and profession has it’s own unique set of physical parameters that can be trained for specifically. Obviously a guy with a 90 hour a week desk job that goes home and builds model airplanes doesn’t need to train to get better at sitting. However, it would be a good idea to train his leg muscles to flush the fluids out of his legs so he doesn’t end up with clots and train his back so the muscles around his spine don’t atrophy down to nothing as he sits hunched over his computer all day.
What Do You Need To Function?
Let’s take a law enforcement officer as an example because they have a job where they could possible face a variety of different life threatening scenario’s and would do well to have a wheelhouse full of skills at their disposal. Let’s assume they are already learning defensive tactics and training with their various weapons since that is beyond the scope of this article. What do they need? In no particular order:
- Strength. A good base of all around strength will allow them better use their defensive techniques when wrestling bad guys to put on the cuffs of carry a wounded victim out of the line of fire.
- Long Term Endurance. The ability to catch a perpetrator they’re chasing or worse yet outrun an angry mob of douchebags that have no respect for anyone could get them home to their families one more time.
- Short Term Endurance. The ability to keep fighting while waiting for backup or feverishly work to help a homeowner lay sandbags to stop a flood from getting in the house would also come in handy.
- Grip. The ability to hold on to a criminals wrist, a billy club, a tree branch, a rope attached to a drowning person or the rungs of a ladder.
- Health. Overall health to be able to get to work on a regular basis, strong immunity to colds and viruses encountered on a regular basis in close proximity situations.
How do we set up a program that will allow us to train for all these attributes concurrently?
- Strength: We make the basic compound movements the cornerstone of our training. Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Pullups, Rows.
- Long Term Endurance: We run! Most of the chases are going to occur between 400m and 1 mile so most of the running should be sorter sprint repeats with some slightly longer runs thrown in for good measure. Hitting a 5k once a month makes the shorter distances seem much more manageable and being proficient at running longer distances will help decrease breathing recovery time after shorter sprints. This is valuable in the case of chasing a perp a mile then having to recover fast enough to wrestle them down and get the cuffs on.
- Short Term Endurance: Supersetting and Trisetting multiple exercises combined with jump roping, rowing and running will get the body proficient at performing multiple tasks while at a high heartrate.
- Grip: This can be developed by holding on to heavy weights during the normal workout and further developed though various grip exercises.
- Health: Training hard and eating healthy foods so the body has all the nutrients it needs will go a long way towards overall health.
There is a long ongoing debate as to which exercises are the most functional. In the fitness world these days the Snatch and Clean and Jerk have rose to the top of the list. They develop speed, coordination, balance, flexibility, and strength all at the same time. All true. However, are they the best exercises for you? Let’s look at the attributes they develop and how we could develop those same attributes in a more efficient way that would have a much faster learning curve and possibly be less risky. Now I will preface the following with this: If you are competing in a sport that uses these lifts as a measuring stick there is no way to become proficient at them without practice. However, if your only goal is to use them to develop speed, coordination, balance, flexibility, and strength there is another way.
Speed: The speed the snatch and clean exercises develop are in what’s called the triple extension where the body quickly goes into a violent hip extension to drive the upward movement of the bar then the pull under where you are pulling your body under the bar as fast as possible so you can use the stronger muscles of your legs squat it back up. The jerk is also a movement that requires leg speed to get the bar moving up then a quick drop to get under it and support it overhead. Power cleans will train the hip extension just as well as snatches and full cleans without the risk of missing the lift when dropping under it. When a power clean is missed 9 out of 10 times it just gets dropped. Missed snatches and missed cleans can be disastrous especially at the beginning stages. Push Presses are great because they still use the explosion of the legs along with the arm drive to lockout at the end. This follow through would transfer far better into real world applications. What about the drop under to support? All the same muscles would get worked through the power clean and push press.
Coordination: The coordination to get under a heavy weight quickly needs to be developed for sure. However, that coordination is largely useless for any other task. Doing any exercise in general will improve coordination as there is multiple muscles that need to be locked into place and balanced while others do work. The coordination a police officer needs most would developed through tactical training maneuvers and weapons practice they do as part of their job.
Balance: Again any exercise that is done standing will improve balance and there is nothing magical about the overhead squat done out of a snatch unless you’re going to Instagram pictures of you overhead squatting civilians for public relations. The balance required to wrestle with perps and walk on logs are far better developed doing those things.
Flexibility: It takes a good amount of flexibility to become proficient at the snatch and clean and jerk. However, the lifts themselves don’t create flexibility. Sucking at them creates the NEED for flexibility and the athlete will usually begin a program to get more flexible in order to get better at them. If that particular flexibility is important to you a flexibility program could still be followed. Time should be devoted to maintaining or improving flexibility anyway and can be accomplished as part of a warm up or cool down.
Strength: The leg strength developed during the squat portion of the snatch and clean can be better developed through squatting and front squatting out of a rack. As a matter of fact that is how the world’s best weightlifters develop the leg strength needed for those exercises as well. The lower back strength developed by heavy cleans and snatches can be developed much faster through deadlifts, which the weightlifters also use to develop back strength. The upper back strength developed by the two lifts can be developed through heavy rows which also have the added bonus of building strong arms as well. As mentioned before the violent hip extension can be developed through power cleans and box jumps. The shoulder strength developed through the two lifts is basically static strength as the rest of the body gets the bar high enough, then the lifter drops down and supports it over head. Shoulder presses, handstand pushups and push presses develop far more upper body pressing power. Now don’t get me wrong, if you could ONLY do 2 lifts the snatch and clean and jerk would be way up high on the list. However, there are no such rules and we can uses as many or as few exercises as we deem necessary to accomplish our goal.
I’m Not Knocking CrossFit
I love CrossFit, but I believe the magic lies in the effort it inspires and the community support it cultivates much more so than it’s inclusion of the snatch and clean and jerk as training modalities. The snatch and clean and jerk are great tests of fitness and to be great at CrossFit you need to be great at them. However, to be strong, fast, and have great endurance for just about anything else they are not a necessity. Don’t believe me? Watch the show Strong on NBC. I watched fully expecting the CrossFit guy (who came in 14th at the 2015 CrossFit games) to crush everyone since the events were varied and unknown. Don’t get me wrong, he is a phenomenal athlete and one of the other top finishers was also CrossFit trained so CrossFit is obviously a great training style. However the other non-CrossFit professionals were right there with them and it was very obvious they don’t train snatch or clean and jerk when they did it for the camera. Again, I love CrossFit and I think it’s a great test of fitness. The other competitors on the show would get crushed at the games so I’m not saying they’re more fit. What I am saying is they were AS FIT for the things they had to accomplish on the show. The reason I talk about all this is to explain the routine I am about to present when people wonder why I haven’t included snatches or clean and jerks in the program when I used to program them in all the time when I owned CrossFit Surprise. The reason I programmed them in is because they are part of the culture and part of the open. Everyone loved to do the open and it brought our club together as a community and made us part of something bigger. This bonded us and gave us mutual things to train for. It kept things interesting and fostered the support of one another as we learned new skills and hit PR’s. This is what inspired the effort to cause great changes in people’s lives and kept them soldiering on in pursuit of their goals.
Setting Up the Police Officers Functional Training Split
Days Per Week: Lets shoot for 4 days per week so there’s enough wiggle room that training around family emergencies, late nights and overtime won’t stop us in our tracks. More days can certainly be done but aren’t needed. Less days means more recovery, stronger workouts, more focus and a healthier body. I will write it out on specific days of the week just to demonstrate the layout more clearly but it can be moved around to suit your needs.
Day 1 Will be pressing strength day. This should fall on your first day back from the weekend when you are fresh and ready to go. If Thursday, Friday are your weekend then day one is Saturday. However, if you really don’t get to relax on the weekend or don’t have time to train on your first day back you would put day 1 where you could devote the most time and energy to it. When lifting heavy weights we want to take our time to warm up and get in our groove properly.
Day 2 Will be some type of fast paced work such as sprint repeats mixed in with some lighter weight work.
Day 3 Will be Lower body Strength work.
Day 4 Will be a longer cardio day that could be a single modality like running or rowing a 5K or any combination of running, jump rope, rowing, swimming, and light callisthenic type exercise that you keep moving non-stop for 20-30 minutes. If you wanted to train for some type of endurance event like a half marathon or sprint tri this would be your “long” day. This can be done the day after day 3 so you’ll get 2 days off and be fresher for your next day 1 or with a day in between so you can focus harder on the long cardio. There are advantages to either but I set it up the way I personally would like it if it were me doing the workout.
We will alternate 2 weeks back and forth so we can have a good amount of variety and still hit everything often enough to get stronger.
Bench Press OR Incline Press Pick one and stick with it as your main upper body exercise. For this we will follow the strength exercise progression I have listed at the bottom.
Shoulders (Choose whatever exercise you want to work on, just keep it the same for the 12 week cycle). Warm up as needed and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the same weight for all 3 sets. When you can hit 3 sets of 12 reps it’s time to move up in weight.
Triceps (Choose whatever exercise you want to work on, just keep it the same for the 12 week cycle). Warm up as needed and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the same weight for all 3 sets. When you can hit 3 sets of 12 reps It’s time to move up in weight.
Warm up good with some running, rowing, jump rope and/or calisthenics to get your heart rate up then stretch out good.
Choose an upper body pulling exercise (such as pullups, power cleans, bent over rows, Ring Rows, arm over arm rope pull with the sled etc), a bodyweight ab exercise (v-ups, toes to bar, sit-ups etc), and a cardio exercise (running, rowing, swimming, jump rope, assault bike) and combine them in any way you want. The goal is to use manageable weights and get your heart rate up and get breathing hard and put in some hard work in the 5 to 15 minute range. Of course power snatches can be done here also if you’re comfortable with them. Just don’t pick anything that will leave you too sore to perform well on your squat day.
5 Non-stop Rounds of:
10 Bent Over Rows
1 minute max calories assault bike
If you’re training for a run you would do short repeats like 4x400m with 1 minutes rest between. Slowly building up total distance over the weeks.
If you’re training for a tri you would do your swim training followed by bike pace work like 20 minutes of 1 minute hard/1 minute easy.
Squat For this we will follow the strength exercise progression I have listed at the bottom.
Romanian Deadlift Warm up as needed and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the same weight for all 3 sets. When you can hit 3 sets of 12 reps it’s time to move up in weight.
Long Cardio Any exercise or combo of exercises that allows you to get your heart rate up and keep moving smoothly for 20-30 minutes.
10 rounds of:
10 deadlifts at 30%
1 minute of jump rope
If you are training for a tri or a run here is where you will do your long run.
Push Press OR Military Press Pick one and stick with it as your main upper body exercise. For this we will follow the strength exercise progression I have listed at the bottom.
Upper Back (Choose whatever exercise you want to work on, just keep it the same for the 12 week cycle). Warm up as needed and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the same weight for all 3 sets. When you can hit 3 sets of 12 reps it’s time to move up in weight.
Biceps (Choose whatever exercise you want to work on, just keep it the same for the 12 week cycle). Warm up as needed and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the same weight for all 3 sets. When you can hit 3 sets of 12 reps It’s time to move up in weight.
Choose a pushing exercise (like burpees, dips, pushups, sled push etc), a bodyweight ab exercise (v-ups, toes to bar, sit-ups etc), and a cardio exercise (running, rowing, swimming, jump rope, assault bike) and combine them in any way you want. The goal is to use manageable weights and get your heart rate up and get breathing hard and put in some hard work in the 5 to 15 minute range. Try and change it up each time so you don’t figure out ways to pace better. The goal here is to work hard at things you’re not accustomed to. This builds a better preparedness and ability to adapt to unknown situations. Of course jerks can be done here as well if you are comfortable with them. Just don’t choose anything that will interfere with your performance on deadlift day.
As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes of:
10 Toes to bar
If you’re training for a run you would do short repeats like 3x800m with 3 minutes rest between. Slowly building up total distance over the weeks.
If you’re training for a tri you would do your swim training followed by running repeats.
Deadlift For this we will follow the strength exercise progression I have listed at the bottom.
Step ups OR Lunges OR Leg Press (Choose whatever exercise you want to work on, just keep it the same for the 12 week cycle). Warm up as needed and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the same weight for all 3 sets. When you can hit 3 sets of 12 reps It’s time to move up in weight.
Saturday Long Cardio
Long Cardio Any exercise or combo of exercises that allows you to get your heart rate up and keep moving smoothly for 20-30 minutes.
For example: Get a partner and have one of you run 400m while the other rows as far as they can during that time. Repeat until 5,000m is reached on the rower.
If you are training for a run here is where you will do your long run.
If you are training for a tri you will do your long ride.
(over the course of 12 weeks each of your main exercises will be hit 6 times)
1st Time do 7 sets of 3 at roughly 75-80% of your current max on that exercise. If you don’t know start with a weight you could do about 8 reps with. The goal is to use a weight you can hit for all 7 sets with perfect form where the last set looks as good as the first. We really want to perfect our technique here.
2nd Time do 8 sets of 2 at 80-85%. If you didn’t know your max add a little to last time. We want to go a little heavier than last time but still finish as strong as we start and continue perfecting technique.
3rd Time do 10 sets of 1 at 85-90% of your current max. Again we’re looking to increase weight a bit while still keeping technique tight and finish solid.
4th Time Warm up as needed then work up to a 3 rep max. If you are unsure how to do that do 3 reps each at 50% 60% 70% 80% and judging how that last sent went add a bit more weight for a good hard set of 3 at 85-90%. Always be conservative at this point. Better to feel as if you could’ve done 4 reps than only get 2.
5th Time Warm up as needed then work up to a 2 rep max. If you’re unsure a good plan in 2 reps each at 55% 65% 75% 85% then a good hard set of 2 at 90-95%.
6th Time Warm up as needed then work up to a 1 rep max. If you are still unsure how to work up do singles at 45% 55% 65% 75% 85% 95% then a final single at 100-105%.
What To Eat
Nutrition is based on need. The body needs certain things and the best way to get them is through a combination of fresh natural whole foods. Everyone has different tastes so let just go over some basics.
Vitamins and Minerals
As we get older we are more likely to become deficient in something. The best way to find out if you are deficient is to get a blood test and you will find out exactly what you may be low on. I was surprised to find out I was low in Vitamin D seeing how I live in AZ and spend a lot of time in the sun and take a multi vitamin with D in it. and after looking into it I guess it’s pretty common in the over 40 crew. If you’re eating a good variety of meats, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits and nuts you’ve likely got most of your bases covered. It’s still a good idea to find out for sure though. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a whole host of problems and is cheap as hell to buy so if you’re not willing to get tested it’s a good idea to add it to your grocery list. If you’re the kind of person that just won’t eat fruits and veggies it’s probably a good idea to get a multi vitamin/mineral supplement. I like the liquids better than the pills as I feel they absorb better. If your diet is deficient in omega 3’s it’s a good idea to add in some fish oil as well. Again I prefer the liquid over gels. The gels can be rancid and you’ll never know till you’re burping them up. However, remember the first thing I said: Nutrition is based on NEED. If you have everything you NEED taking in a bunch extra isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference. Now if you’re a hard training individual living a physical job with a life of stress you may need a bit more than a sedentary person sitting at home working on the computer but there’s no reason to overdose on every supplement under the sun thinking something magic will happen. Even if you are deficient in something and you start taking it the results most likely won’t be immediate or dramatic. Over time it will make a huge difference but you’re not going to lose 20lbs over night because you’ve started working on fixing your vitamin D deficiency.
Regardless of what the supplement companies may want us to believe no one training to be fit and healthy needs 400g of protein a day. Likewise, you’re probably not going to fuel your bodies muscle growth with pop tarts. Most protein studies call for something like 0.9g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. So to simplify things and convert to pounds let’s say most people will be good with a half a gram per pound of bodyweight provided all other energy needs are met. So a 200lbs man would need about 100g of protein. Now if you are hard training and trying to build muscle and lose fat a case can be made for slightly higher protein. Especially if carbs are being lowered in an effort to lose body fat. In that case we could even double our recommended protein as it will keep our calories up and allow us to drop some carbs without dropping our calories too low. If you want to get crazy go for 1g per pound of bodyweight. There are a whole bunch of athletes who swear by this and it’s not going to hurt so if you like protein bump it up there. Just realize the more protein you have the less calories you have left over for carbs and fat. Most of your protein should come from lean beef, turkey, chicken, fish and eggs.
A good rule of thumb is to have the calories you take in from protein and fat the same. So if you’re taking in 200g of protein that would be 800 calories. Since fat is 9 calories per gram you would want to take in about 89g of fat. A case could be made for more or less but most of the sports nutritionists I’ve talked to seem to recommend this amount. Again, the more you take in the less carbs you can have. Fats should come from nuts, fish, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.
There’s that evil word! Carbs are great for energy and can keep us from losing our minds when we get cut off in traffic or find out we have to work late. Low carb diets are very hard to stick to and harder to perform on. If you want to train hard and stay out of jail you most likely will need some carbs. I like to have people start their first week with their carbs equal to their protein. Then depending on performance, energy levels and bodyweight changes adjust up or down weekly. DON’T BE SURPRISED if you find energy levels lacking and want to give up. Just adjust your carbs up a bit until you feel good again. Then monitor changes and adjust down or up as needed. Carbs should come from fruits, veggies, and sweet potatoes. Rice and even pasta are ok sources but very easy to go overboard with.
No matter how you set up your diet it will all come down to calories. Too little and you won’t recover from training. Too many and you get fat. It’s all part of the equation. At least a week on a certain amount of calories needs to happen before any assumptions can be made. So choose your diet and stick to it for a week. I usually have people start low so they will lose a little so they don’t feel like they did all this dieting for nothing. Starting too high is ok too. Then the next week you adjust down based on what you gain during that week. If all this is too much to get a handle on and you really want to fine tune your diet I highly recommend Trevor Kashey who you can find on my friends list.
When To Eat
The preferred method is to divide your daily totals over 5-6 evenly spaced meals. On training days you can move a higher percentage of your carbs to before and after training. If you’re looking to lose fat drop carbs from your last meal on non-training days. If all this diet stuff is too much to get a handle on and you really want to fine tune your diet I highly recommend hiring Trevor Kashey to do your meal plan who you can find on my friends list.
If you want to add another day of training in, I highly recommend getting out and playing basketball with some friends or tennis with the significant other or going for a nice hike through the mountains rather than making it a “training day”.
Wrapping It Up
The goal of this program is to get stronger and build endurance to prepare the police officer for physical situations encountered on the job. The diet recommendations are to keep body fat levels in check while allowing energy for training and work. With some minor tweaks it can be geared more towards gaining strength and muscle while keeping endurance up or focusing more on endurance while keeping strength up. Let me know if you have any questions….
Train Harder AND Smarter
-Coach Mike Westerling