The effects of ability-based versus traditional physical training on the health and fitness of custody assistants

Robert Lockie, Jay Dawes, Matthew R. Moreno, Ashley M. Bloodgood, Megan McGuire, Tomas J Ruvalcaba, Erika Hernandez, Joseph Dulla, Rob Marc Orr, Karly Rodas

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Custody assistants (CAs) maintain security in detention facilities, and may need to perform physical tasks such as inmate restraint. Due to this demand and need for general fitness, physical training programs are often used during academy. Traditional training (TT) typically follows a paramilitary, one-size-fits-all model. This approach may not be optimal for the individual recruit. Purpose: To determine the effects of ability-based training (ABT) vs. TT in CA recruits. Methods: Retrospective analysis was conducted on 2 CA recruit classes who completed an 8-week academy. Physical training was completed twice per week, and incorporated circuit training and running. The TT group (18 males, 13 females) followed a model where all recruits completed the same exercises with the same intensity; the ABT group (17 males, 12 females) had exercises tailored towards their ability. In the week before academy, recruits completed the following assessments: body mass (BM); body fat percentage (BF%); resting heart rate (RHR); blood pressure (BP); waist circumference (WC); waist-to-hip ratio (WHR); combined grip strength; push-ups and sit-ups in 60 seconds; and YMCA step test recovery HR. In the first week of academy, recruits completed 201-m (220-yard) and 2.4-km (1.5-mile) runs. Post-testing occurred in the final week of academy. Independent samples t-tests evaluated between-class pre-test differences. Paired samples t-tests detected if pre-to post-training changes occurred within groups. Change scores were calculated for each variable for each group; independent samples t-tests compared the change scores between the groups. Alpha levels were set at p ≤ 0.05. Results: The TT group had lower BF%, BP, and WC; completed more sit-ups; and were faster in the 2.4-km run before training (p ≤ 0.04). After academy, the TT recruits decreased WHR, and improved grip strength, YMCA recovery HR, and 201-m and 2.4-km run times (p ≤ 0.03). However, the TT also increased diastolic BP (p < 0.01). The ABT recruits decreased BM, BF%, RHR, and WC following academy (p ≤ 0.01). These recruits also improved push-ups, sit-ups, YMCA recovery HR, and 201-m and 2.4-km run times (p ≤ 0.03). Compared to the TT recruits, ABT recruits had greater positive changes in BF%, RHR, diastolic BP, and sit-ups (p ≤ 0.02). The TT recruits had more favorable changes in WHR and grip strength (p ≤ 0.02). Conclusions: Recruits who completed TT and ABT during academy generally experienced favorable changes to health and fitness. The degree of positive change in variables such as BF%, RHR, and sit-ups was greater for ABT recruits. Further, the TT recruits experienced an increase in diastolic BP. This could have been due to the overall stress of academy, which incorporated physical training that was not ability-based. It should be noted that TT recruits generally displayed better health and fitness prior to academy, so their ceiling for improvement may have been lower. However, when coupled with the diastolic BP increase, this may provide evidence for ABT. Fitter recruits may require a more individualized training stimulus. Practical Applications: TT and ABT training can improve the health and fitness of CA recruits. However, TT may have contributed to a diastolic BP increase in recruits, indicative of poorer recovery or systemic fatigue. ABT training also led to a greater range of favorable recruit health and fitness changes. Given the job demands experienced by CAs, training staff should explore the use of ABT.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberV113
Pages (from-to)e320-e321
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Event44th National Strength and Conditioning Association National Conference and Exhibition - Orlando, United States
Duration: 7 Jul 202110 Jul 2021
Conference number: 44th


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