Introduction: Police cadets must adjust to new occupational physical demands during their initial academy training to transition from civilian life to the tactical athlete lifestyle. These new demands, such as wearing heavy body armour and performing defensive tactics, place new strains on the body and put the cadets at an increased risk of injury. Tactical athletes (like police officers) who are not at an adequate level of physical fitness are more susceptible to injury and are less likely to be able to fulfil the physical requirements of the profession. Therefore, the physical training cadets complete must adequately prepare them for the rigours they will face during their career if they are to limit their risk of injury. The aim of this study was to compare two different styles of physical training programs, one randomised workout style and the other a structured periodised program, on multiple measures of anthropometrics and fitness in police cadets.
Methods: Data provided from the Corpus Christi Police Department (USA) on pre- and post-training measures for 4 randomised training classes (n = 65, age = 28.96 ± 6.34 yrs, weight = 79.44 ± 18.06 kg, lean body mass = 63.41 ± 15.45 kg) and 1 periodised class (n = 25, age = 21.76 ± 5.37 yrs, weight = 83.15.66 kg, lean body mass = 67.55 ± 11.62 kg) of cadets undergoing police training were analysed. The training programs were performed over 6 months. The randomised training group (RTG) incorporated various strengths and endurance exercises chosen on the day of training. The periodised training group (PTG) alternated specific phases of training focusing on muscular endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power. Outcome measures included 3 body anthropometric measures (weight, lean body mass, fat mass), four muscular fitness measures (1RM bench press, push-ups, sit-ups, vertical jump) and 2 metabolic fitness (300 m sprint, 2.4 km run) measures.
Results: Both groups made significant reductions in fat mass, however only the RTG decreased in body weight (change = −1.60 ± 3.38 kg; p < .001) and increased in LBM (change = 1.59 ± 2.75 kg, p < .001). For performance measures, both groups improved in 1RM bench press, push-up repetitions and sit-up repetitions, however only the RTG improved in vertical jump height (change = 8.04 ± 5.79 cm, p < .001), 300 m sprint times (change = −5.25 ± 3.66 s, p < .001), and 2.4 km run times (change = −86 ± 59 s, p < .001).
Discussion: Physical training programs can improve the physical fitness of police cadets thereby preparing them for their career duties. A program consisting of randomly selected workout exercises may better improve fitness measures than a specifically structured training program which isolates focus on individual areas of performance. A notable limitation of this study was the lack of injury rates as an outcome measure.