Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Articles at Dark Ops Fitness

Check out my articles for Dark Ops Fitness, a supplement company out of Texas:

Developing Functional Strength for Law Enforcement

Building Muscle on Body Weight Exercises Only

The Toughest Competitor Alive

Friday, February 27, 2015

Physical Ability Testing for Law Enforcement

Hello, my name is Mariah, and I am currently getting ready to try for the police department here in my city of Tucson, Arizona. I have heard of the changes in physical requirements for police officer recruits across the board, and I would like to step up my game to be able to pass the physical successfully. 

I stumbled upon your blog online. I want to attempt your strength building routine. Would you be able to provide me some additional insight and tips I could use in my endeavor?

Any help is appreciated.

Thank you and thank you for your service keeping the peace,
- Mariah

My Answer: If you haven't done so already, then you should find out what is the physical ability test for Tucson PD.  The best way to train for the physical ability test is to know what physical tasks you'll be tested on and then to practice those tests.  Unless they have updated the requirements, the Tucson PD physical ability test involves:
  • 1.5 mile run
  • Sit-ups (during one minute)
  • Push-ups (in one minute)
  • 300 meter run
  • Vertical leap
So this means you should do a lot of running, 1 minute timed sets of sit-ups and push-ups and some box jumps.  Alternate running distance from workout to workout.  In other words, run for 1.5 miles one session and then run 300 meters for the next.  Don't run both on the same day.

What would help you increase your vertical leap are explosive kettlebell swings, provided the kettlebell is heavy enough.  If the kettlebell is too light, then do one arm kettlebell swings.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Avoiding Estrogen Dominance

I'm a 23 year old male. My problem is that I have really fat thighs and calves. It actually runs in the family. I tried all sorts of leg exercises, but they end up looking more thick. If I do too much cardio I end up losing weight from my upper body. Any help or advice will be appreciated. 


My Answer: Tough to say what your issue is, because I don't know if you're fat overall or just fat in the legs. But let's just assume you're fat in the legs and not the upper body. If this is the case, then you have a major problem. You as a young male should not be having a pear shaped body like a woman. If you're fat in the hips and thighs, then you've got too much estrogen circulating in your body. Again I don't know what exactly your issue is, because I don't know if you're fat overall or just fat in the thighs.  Drinking a lot of alcohol screws up your androgen levels, so avoid alcohol.

With that said, you should avoid squats, lunges and leg presses as these will build your thighs. Obviously don't do any calf work, since your calves are naturally big. Exercises to tone the thighs instead of building them up would be deadlifts, step-ups and bicycling. This is how I normally train women with pear shaped bodies and estrogen dominance.

To avoid muscle loss in the upper body, you should train the upper body with multiple sets of heavy weight. In other words, 8-12 sets of 3-8 reps per upper body muscle.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Strength and Mobility Training for Law Enforcement

Q: Really loved your article on training police officers on and thought I would reach out to you. I too am a full time police officer over in the UK. I've been on the job for five years, and I suspect we hold the same frustrations about fitness and health within the service.

I am hoping to set up my own strength and fitness consultancy business in the near future as a bit of a side venture. I was wondering if you had any advice on setting this kind of thing up whilst also tackling the shift work.

Have you any sporting aspirations yourself? How do you juggle working with training, eating and recovery?

My aim with my venture is to start out initially by just offering my services for free to colleagues and friends and take it from there really. My background is in Sports Conditioning having completed a university degree some years ago.

Do you guys have to do a fitness test every year? Are you given time to do any physical training? What facilities are on offer for you?

It would be cool to discuss some ideas with you if you have time?

Kind Regards,


My Answer: I don't know how it is in the UK, but there are thousands of law enforcement agencies in America.  The majority of these agencies are small departments (less than 50 sworn).  Once you're done with the academy, most departments really don't hold officers to any fitness standards other than you must be "fit for duty" which is not clearly defined and certainly not tested.

Not every department gives their officers paid training time.  So most cops exercise on their own.  I'm the Wellness Coordinator for our department, so I put some of my fellow officers through light calisthenics, stretching and mobility work.  What I don't do is put them through heavy strength training or highly intense conditioning exercises.  They can do that on their own time.

What I despise are CrossFit type WOD's for LEO's, simply because going balls to the wall ends up injuring an officer, and this is the one thing that departments frown upon.  Officers should not be injured from training.  Training is different from working out.  With training you are building up some physical characteristic.  You build strength, you build endurance, you build speed, coordination, skill, mobility, etc.

CrossFit WOD's or highly intense metabolic conditioning workouts tend to tear you down.  They do not build you up.  While it's important to increase your conditioning so that you have the strength endurance to chase and wrestle bad guys, you don't want the conditioning workouts to aggravate existing dysfunctions in your body.

If you've got a number of years as an LEO, firefighter or military, then you've developed a lot of dysfunction in your body.  Tactical athletes tend to have bad backs, bad shoulders, bad knees and overall poor mobility.  This is because the equipment we carry on our bodies and in our hands weigh us down and compress our spines.  The bullet resistant vest you wear locks your torso in place.  This results in shortened ranges of motion for the torso, hips and shoulders.

So an important part of LEO fitness is prehabilitation and restoration of mobility, and this is what I focus on when I train my officers.

Now with regards to setting up a strength and fitness business, I would suggest you apply first to be an academy PT instructor or apply to be your department's Wellness Coordinator.  You'd be paid to workout and train, and you'd gain experience training a large number of officers.

Training people as a side venture is tough, but rewarding.  Tough, because you have no weekends.  Rewarding because you're training people to be fit and strong and to look great naked.  It's very satisfying to see your clients transformed for the better, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

But I would suggest you train LEO's as part of your officer duties first.  That way you'll have weekends with the family.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Being Army Strong 

Q: My name is Jesse, and I need to lose about 40 pounds by June. I'm 16 years old and weigh 225. I've always been bigger than most, and I'm ready to put an end to that.  More importantly I need to lose the weight to go in the career I want, which is the Army. I want to be physically ready when I'm there. I have a gym membership, so can you just give me some lifts that will burn fat kind of quick but help me gain muscle at the same time and maybe a diet plan that won't leave me feeling like I'm not even eating. 


My Answer: If you're looking to go into the Army and you want to lose weight, then I suggest you train as they would in the Army: endless running and endless push-ups.  High volumes of cardio and low-tension calisthenics will make you lose weight.  So do calisthenic exercises like push-ups, burpees, jumping jacks, body weight squats, box jumps, lying leg lifts, flutter kicks and pull-ups.

If you can't do pull-ups, then do inverted rows.  For overhead work, do military presses and barbell thrusters:

With all of the above mentioned exercises, shoot for high repetitions (10+) and high speed.  In other words, do the repetitions fast, since high velocity exercises burn off fat better than low velocity exercises.

Now with regards to diet, you're 16 years old, so I have a feeling you don't cook and that your mom is making your meals and that you're eating out.  If that's the case, then work with your mom in planning your meals.  Start substituting salads with a side of meat for meals.  Eat apples for snacks.  Drink only water and unsweetened coffee for liquids.  No energy drinks like Monster, no soda.  No milk or fruit juices.  No white carbs like breads and pastas.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mobility Exercises for the Lower Body

Q: Hi James! Love your books! But I struggle doing overhead presses and all kinds of squats due to muscle stiffness, lack of mobility and so on. I've seen improvements since I started to use some drills you suggested your YouTube page: halos (SPV3) and shoulder circles against the wall. Thus, do you have any suggestions of mobility drills for the lower body? 


My Answer: For lower body mobility, I'm a firm believer in simple body weight squatting and lunging.  If you want to increase your range of motion on the squat, then you would simply do body weight squats.

Use body weight squats and lunges as mobility exercises.  Don't worry about repetitions.  Focus on the full range of motion by squatting all the way down.

Here's a humorous primer on how to do simple body weight squats:

Now you may have tightness in certain areas that prevent you from squatting ass to the grass.  Again simple body weight exercises can help you break up the tightness in certain links in both the anterior and posterior chain.  If you have tight calves, for example, then do one-legged calf stretches off an edge surface. Focus on the stretch and full range of motion, not the repetitions.

To stretch the inner thighs, do some warrior lunges:

To stretch the quads and the adductors, do some Bulgarian squats:

For the lower back, do a lying spinal twist:

A great overall mobility exercise that stretches the piriformis muscle underneath your glutes is the kettlebell windmill:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Essence of the Complete Strength Athlete

Q: I recently discovered your Complete Strength Athlete routine on and have started it. I noticed it was posted 4 years ago, and had a couple questions. 

1. Is there anything you would do different now? 
2. Would you add cardio to the program? If so, how? 

If you have the time to answer either question, I would greatly appreciate it. 

Thanks a lot, 

My Answer: The original Complete Strength Athlete program is from Tactics and Strategies. The original version has a different set of exercises.  The editors of changed the program to have easier exercises, so this article version is different from the original in the book.

The essence of the Complete Strength Athlete program is this: power lifts for limit strength, the Olympic lifts for explosive power, calisthenics for strength endurance, and interval training for conditioning.

In other words, do sprint intervals for cardio.

Do powerlifting to work on your maximal strength: bench press, deadlift, squats.

Do Olympic style lifting for explosive strength: clean and jerk, power cleans, etc.

Do calisthenics for strength endurance: pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, one-legged squats, hanging leg raises.