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Fitness For the Female Law Enforcer

Stew Smith, CSCS

I typically group men and women into the same workouts, especially if they are applying for positions in the military, law enforcement, and fire fighting careers. My personal opinion is that women can perform on a men’s standard (they do not have to, but can) with a little extra work and proper training. I have experienced this personally throughout my years of training with 40-year-old moms to 20-year-old women in the Navy.

Here is an email from a woman concerning basic fitness / weight loss that will provide some insight to the minor differences / focus points in training programs needed for the two genders.

Is there a difference or different advice you would give to a woman like me who is in her late 30’s, who is in moderate shape (I need to lose 20 lbs.) and who is starting all over with her training routine. I have not been able to find a good beginning running program for myself that I can stick to.

As stated above, there is not a major difference between men and women fitness needs. We all need cardio-vascular exercise for the circulatory system, resistance training for stronger bones and muscles, flexibility to assist with injury prevention and other sports specific reasons like speed. Core strength training should also be mentioned in order for men and women to have a solid foundation to build upper / lower body strength, running endurance, and better job performance in rigorous positions as offered by the military, law enforcement, and fire fighting professions.

About the only difference in workouts I provide women other than the components listed above is a focus on the basic trouble areas such as inner / outer thighs, legs, and stomach. I have found that a steady mix of leg exercises with bike or running can make a huge difference in toning the hip, butt, inner / outer thigh areas for women. See ideas in the circuit plan below.

For a running plan, the first six weeks below are designed for a beginning runner or one who is recovering from an injury:

Running Plan I – Beginning Runners

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
1 1-2 miles Bike or Swim 1-2 miles Bike or Swim 1-2 miles
2 2-3 miles Bike or Swim 2-3 miles Bike or Swim 2-3 miles
*3 Bike or Swim Bike or Swim Bike or Swim Bike or Swim Bike or Swim
4 3 miles Bike or Swim 3 miles Bike or Swim 3 miles
5 2 miles 3 miles off 4 miles 2 miles
6 2-3 miles 3-4 miles off 4-5 miles 2-3 miles

Do not run during Week 3—bike or swim everyday. Statistically speaking, there is a high risk of injury during the third week of a running program – usually overuse injuries like tendinitis, shin splints, or joint aches. For more info on running injuries and prevention, go to Dr Pribut’s site at

Can you give any advice on resistance training with weights and the importance of this to women?

I like to mix in resistance training 4-5 times a week with a focus on upper body one day and lower body the next. Some days you can mix upper and lower body workouts together if your training week gets tight. One of the easiest ways to get it done is to use a circuit routine and you can even mix your cardio / speed work in with it. See chart below:

Upper Body Workout:

Circuit workout (no rest) x 2

- Pull-ups – max reps

- Dips – max

- Abs – max in 2:00

- Bench press – 50%bodyweight max reps

- Pushups – max in 1:00

- Pull-downs – 50% bodyweight (max + 3 negatives)

- Abs – max in 2:00

- Military press – max reps (dumbbells 10-20lbs)

- Bicep curls – max reps (10-20lbs)

- Tri ext – max reps (10-20lbs)

- Abs – max in 2:00

- Bike or run 5-10 minutes easy

Lower Body Workout

Bike or Run / Leg PT repeat 3 times – total 30 minutes

- 5:00 bike at increasing resistance levels for 1:00 at 5 levels or run 5:00 fast

- 1:00 squats

- 1:00 lunges (30 seconds each leg)

- 1:00 heel raises

- 1:00 jumping jacks

- 1:00 stretch legs

Full Body Workout

Repeat 2-3 times

- Pull-ups – max reps plus

- Pull-downs – 10-15 reps

- Pushups – 10-20

- Squats w/heel raise- 20-30

- Dips – 10-20

- Lunges – 10-15/leg

- Crunches – 50 of your choice

- Side crunches – 25/side

- Lowerback swimmer-30 seconds

- Military press – 10-15

- Bicep curls – 10-20

- Triceps ext. – 10-20

- Hammer curls – 10-20

- 1/2 situps – max in 2:00

- Light weight Shoulder Routine


Lower back Plan

Light weight Shoulder Routine

Pull-up alternatives

Resistance training with weights or calisthenics and adding in abs and lower back exercises is vital for both men and women. By adding resistance training, you will strengthen bones, tone and strengthen muscles, and increase metabolism. Both men and women need this type of training. As far as pull-ups, the common denominator between men and women who can perform pull-ups and other harder upper body exercises, is that they PRACTICE pull-ups and other exercises like dips, pushups, bench press. I have trained 40 yr old mothers of four to do 8-10 pull-ups simply by adding pull-ups to their world. PS – it helps not to be 20-40 lbs overweight when doing any bodyweight exercise and both men and women can use that advice.

And last, how do you feel about supplements that suppress the appetite and speed up the metabolism?

I am not a big fan of supplements, especially diet pills or suppressants. Eating well is all you need to meet the needs of your body during exercise routines. Read the Food Plan for more information. However, I am aware that life can get in the way of eating well, so if you cannot follow the plan above, (on SOME days) I add another liter of water to my afternoon and a meal replacement bar like Power Bar or Slim Fast Meal Replacement Bars (cookie dough flavor even passes my 4-year-old son’s taste buds). These both offer vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, and limit fat, so they are good for you if you have to replace a vegetable wrap or whole wheat pasta salad with something easy.

If you have any questions about fitness, public service physical testing, or article ideas, please e-mail me at

Want to improve your workouts? Visit Stew Smith’s PoliceLink Fitness Store for customized, downloadable ebooks written specifically for law enforcers.

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