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Police Fitness: Is It Really Needed?

Stew Smith, CSCS

Here is an email from a distinguished military and law enforcement officer concerning physical fitness testing in military and police professions. He writes:

Stew – I like your programs and articles but what is the big deal with physical fitness testing? Do you really think that maxing a fitness test is going to make you a good soldier or police officer? I have been in the military on the Special Ops side (now reserves) and a SWAT Team police officer as well and have never maxed out a PT test. I feel I am a damn good soldier and police officer but if you look at my history of PT scores on paper you might say I am average in shape. Just curious.

These questions had me thinking for over a week about the reasons I think PT tests are important as well as understanding his point of view. I agree. There are many SEALs and other Special Operators I know in the past and present that have done mediocre on physical tests yet were invaluable to the team for their ability to think, shoot, lead, fix anything, or get anything done. There are definitely skills that the PFT does not test obviously. Additionally, there are many great athletes that can easily max any fitness test yet they cannot make it through SEAL training or other training programs.

However, understanding today’s future pool of military and law enforcement talent, having a solid foundation of fitness under them will undeniably help them graduate training whether it is basic or advanced special ops training. Too many young people who seek military and law enforcement professions lack basic fitness skills due to a variety of societal and environmental reasons. As a result, we have an overweight population who need a good year of fitness training under their belt before even attempting any boot camp or police academy. Otherwise, they will be injured – no doubt. More than 75% of my emails are from young men and women seeking to lose 20-40 lbs before the military or police departments will even look at them.

So, for the physically untrained individual without an athletic history throughout the adolescent years, a pre-training program is critical to their survival at any military and law enforcement training. I agree again, they do not have to max every score, but a higher score on a test indicates that person’s fitness foundation and is a good indicator that he/she is ready for training. A higher fitness level not only insures a candidates can survive training but can handle training and thoroughly learn the job without being inundated with nagging remedial PT programs or physical therapy after injury.

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Think of PT tests an important part of joining the ranks of the military, law enforcement, and fire fighters if used as a tool to gauge successful completion of training. The remaining training of the job will come with proper instruction and some natural ability of the candidate to aggressively handle the skills of being a warrior in the military, police force, or fire departments around our great country.

The fitness test can measure to a degree how successful a person will be throughout training, but there is no measure for someone’s heart or determination. Usually long days / nights in hot or cold environments practicing a mission will help determine one’s internal fortitude and teamwork ability. Together, the PT testing and practical application of the profession will prepare a soldier, police officer, or fire fighter properly.

Thanks for your email. Please feel free to send me emails as they are fuel for my articles. I will never use name, unit, or divulge any information you do not wish to see again in an article. Email me at and check out the Fitness Store if thinking about joining the military, police force or fire department. We have the answer to getting into shape for training or just getting back into shape after too long at a desk.

  • Uni_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Absolutely! I need to know that the officer who is coming to assist me when I get that "holy shit" call is going to be in good enough shape to help me out. I also know that my fellow officers expect the same from me. I wouldn't have it any other way!

    Brewster I agree with you 100%

  • 005_max50


    over 5 years ago


    PT testing can be a way to measure yourself, not only physically, but mentally as well. some people just quite and some push themselves beyond what they imagined they could. It helped me learn to deal with pain, discomfort and push past it, to get the job done. it more than just a pt test.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 6 years ago


    Hey how are you doing ? I am in NC and I let my certification expire. I was sworn since 1996 and it expired officially 2006. I was unable to find employment but some things were my fault and I should have pushed harder to retain it. I miss being sworn, I still work for a non-sworn Public Safety dept. and still perform many of the same functions I did when i was sworn and I make much more than I did when i was sworn. But I still miss my sworn status. I have not worked out since the academy. I applied for a few positions but could not pass the physical preliminary to go to the next step. I want my status back and have to go to the academy all over again, I am not in shape,any suggestions ?

  • Scannedimage_max50


    over 6 years ago


    the point of the testing process is to make sure that you are sat an acceptable minimum level of fitness. as long as you pass even if your at the lowest level you make the grade. You dont have to be at the top, however if you are thats a plus........

  • L_29b988e4840c1eae963c96852266a013_max50


    almost 7 years ago


    With being ex army ranger i have always hated the APFT because there was always this competition to score the highest. Now that i am out of the military i miss that competition because i am starting to understand that i am a person who needs that competition to maintain a sertain standard.
    I do not believe the score of a PFT should define someones ability but it does give you a great idea of a persons will power. I feel that physical stress / strength is just as important as mental stress / strength.
    Also it forces people to actually work out and go to the gym or do some type of training even when they are off duty.

  • Revan_max50


    almost 7 years ago


    PT tests allow whoever is hiring and training members to know that they can handle themselves at least to a certain extent physically. So of course PT tests are needed.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 7 years ago


    Dear Stew,
    I am 24 years old and am a mother of two, i am 5'6" and wiegh about 115lbs. I am currently going to school for Law enforcement, I need to get into shape, but all the fitness programs that i look at are all to help you loss weight, i dont need to loss weight i need to gain. What type of program should i look for?

    Thank you for your time,
    Tatum Lester

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 7 years ago

    What a joke. Of course we need PT testing. We get enough fat asses as it is trying to apply. I've never been so disgusted as when I was at a police recruit agility test years ago and I saw 5-6 men fail the agility. That's pathetic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pathetic!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pathetic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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