An evidence-based approach to physical conditioning in American cadet law enforcement academies


  • Bridget F. Melton Health Sciences and Kinesiology, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA
  • Thomas Nagel Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, Cumming, GA, USA
  • Sarah Lanham University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
  • Derick Anglin School of Kinesiology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA
  • Gregory Ryan Health Sciences, Piedmont University, Demorest, Georgia, USA



Exercise, Law enforcement, Police, Physical fitness, Health


Background: Law enforcement physical fitness training is not standardized in the United States; instead, there is heavy reliance on training officers or other LEOs with an interest in exercise.  This study aimed to evaluate performance outcomes between a traditionally designed physical conditioning program and an evidence-based conditioning program for law enforcement cadets.

Methods: Two metropolitan state law enforcement training centers in the southeast United States volunteered to participate in this investigation. Each program lasted 12 weeks and consisted of 5 days/week of physical training. The experimental group (n=46) was provided with an evidence-based physical conditioning program consisting of anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, agility, power, movement quality, defensive tactics, and muscular endurance.  

Results: The control group participants (n=18) were assigned to a traditional instructor-led physical training program consisting of calisthenics and running. Of the 14 fitness variables measured, the intervention group displayed improvements in 10 variables, whereas the control group improved 6 variables.

Conclusions: The results of this study encourage law enforcement departments to make provisions for modifications to enhance traditional cadet physical training programs, with consultation from strength and conditioning subject matter experts.  


U.S. Bureau of Labor. Injuries, illness, and fatalities, 2014 Available at: iif/oshwc/cfoi/policeofficers2014.htm. Accessed on 07 July 2019.

Teyhen DS, Shaffer SW, Umlauf JA, Akerman RJ, Canada JB, Butler RJ, et al. Automation to improve efficiency of field expedient injury prediction screening. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(2):S61-72.

Orr RM, Ferguson D, Schram B, Dawes JJ, Lockie R, Pope R. The Relationship between Aerobic Test Performance and Injuries in Police Recruits. Int J Exerc Sci. 2020;13(4):1052-62.

Shusko M, Benedetti L, Korre M, Eshleman EJ, Farioli A, Christophi CA, et al. Recruit Fitness as a Predictor of Police Academy Graduation. Occup Med (Lond). 2017;67(7):555-61.

Alvar BA, Sell K, Deuster PA. NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning. Champaign, IL Human Kinetics; 2016.

Canetti ED, Dawes JJ, Drysdale PH. Relationship between metabolic fitness and performance in police occupational tasks. J Scie Sport Exerc. 2021;3:179-85.

Dawes JJ, Orr RM, Siekaniec CL, Vanderwoude AA, Pope R. Associations between anthropometric characteristics and physical performance in male law enforcement officers: a retrospective cohort study. Ann Occup Environ Med. 2016;28:26.

Spitler DL, Jones G, Hawkins J, Dudka L. Body composition and physiological characteristics of law enforcement officers. Br J Sports Med. 1987;21(4):154-7.

Crawley AA, Sherman RA, Crawley WR, Cosio-Lima LM. Physical Fitness of Police Academy Cadets: Baseline Characteristics and Changes During a 16-Week Academy. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(5):1416-24.

Cocke C, Dawes J, Orr RM. The Use of 2 Conditioning Programs and the Fitness Characteristics of Police Academy Cadets. J Athl Train. 2016;51(11):887-96.

Lyons K, Radburn C, Orr R, Pope R. A Profile of Injuries Sustained by Law Enforcement Officers: A Critical Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(2):142.

Lockie RG, Dawes JJ, Balfany K, Gonzales CE, Beitzel MM, Dulla JM, et al. Physical Fitness Characteristics That Relate to Work Sample Test Battery Performance in Law Enforcement Recruits. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(11):2477.

Moreno MR, Lockie RG, Kornhauser CL, Holmes RJ, Dawes JJ. A preliminary analysis of the relationship between the multistage fitness test and 300-m run in law enforcement officers: Implications for fitness assessment.’ Intern J Exerc Sci. 2018;11(4):730-8.

Lockie RG, Orr RM, Moreno MR, Dawes JJ, Dulla JM. Time Spent Working in Custody Influences Work Sample Test Battery Performance of Deputy Sheriffs Compared to Recruits. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(7):1108.

Dawes JJ, Orr RM, Flores RR, Lockie RG, Kornhauser C, Holmes R. A physical fitness profile of state highway patrol officers by gender and age. Ann Occup Environ Med. 2017;29:16.

Teixeira J, Monteiro LF, Silvestre R, Beckert J, Massuça LM. Age-related influence on physical fitness and individual on-duty task performance of Portuguese male non-elite police officers. Biol Sport. 2019;36(2):163-70.

Bornemann B, Herbert BM, Mehling WE, Singer T. Differential changes in self-reported aspects of interoceptive awareness through 3 months of contemplative training. Front Psychol. 2015;5:1504.

Aronow WS. Measurement of blood pressure. Ann Transl Med. 2017;5(3):49.

O'Connor FG, Deuster PA, Davis J, Pappas CG, Knapik JJ. Functional movement screening: predicting injuries in officer candidates. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(12):2224-30.

Hopkins WG. A new view of statistics in sport Science, 2022. Available at: Accessed on 01 December 2022.

Martinez GJ, Abel MG. Effect of a Law Enforcement Academy Training Program on Validated Fitness Outcomes of Cadets. J Strength Cond Res. 2021;35(4):955-62.

Schulte PA, Wagner GR, Ostry A, Blanciforti LA, Cutlip RG, Krajnak KM, et al. Work, obesity, and occupational safety and health. Am J Public Health. 2007;97(3):428-36.

Stojkovic MF, Kukic A, Nedelkovic R, Orr R, Dawes JJ, Čvorovic A, Jeknic V. Effects of a physical training programme on anthropometric and fitness measures in obese and overweight police trainees and officers. South African J Res Sport Phys Educ Recr. 2021;43(3):63-75.

Coyle PC, Schrack JA, Hicks GE. Pain Energy Model of Mobility Limitation in the Older Adult. Pain Med. 2018;19(8):1559-69.

Cook G, Burton L. The Functional Movement Screen, 2022. Available at: Accessed on 02 November 2022.

Tomes C, Schram B, Pope R, Orr R. What is the impact of fitness on injury risk during police academy training? A retrospective cohort study. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2020;12:39.

Lee SY. Handgrip Strength: An Irreplaceable Indicator of Muscle Function. Ann Rehabil Med. 2021;45(3):167-9.

Orr R, Pope R, Stierli M, Hinton B. Grip Strength and Its Relationship to Police Recruit Task Performance and Injury Risk: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(8):941.

Reeves NP, Cholewicki J, Dieën JH, Kawchuk G, Hodges PW. Are Stability and Instability Relevant Concepts for Back Pain? J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2019;49(6):415-24.

Miller MG, Herniman JJ, Ricard MD, Cheatham CC, Michael TJ. The effects of a 6-week plyometric training program on agility. J Sports Sci Med. 2006;5(3):459-65.

Molloy JM. Factors Influencing Running-Related Musculoskeletal Injury Risk Among U.S. Military Recruits. Mil Med. 2016;181(6):512-23.

Mathiowetz, V, Weber, K, Volland G, Kashman N. Reliability and validity of grip and pinch strength evaluations. J Hand Surg Am. 1984;9(2):222-6.

Mann JB, Bird M, Signorile JF, Brechue WF, Mayhew JL. Prediction of anaerobic power from standing long jump in NCAA Division IA football players. J Strength Cond Res. 2021;35(6):1542-6.

Demoulin, C, Vanderthommen, M, Duysens, C, and Crielaard, J. Spinal muscle evaluation using the Sorensen test: A critical appraisal of the literature. Joint Bone Spine. 2006;73(1):43-50.

U.S. Census Bureau. Americans in the labor force. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau 2003;123(S5).




How to Cite

Melton, B. F., Nagel, T., Lanham, S., Anglin, D., & Ryan, G. (2024). An evidence-based approach to physical conditioning in American cadet law enforcement academies. International Journal Of Community Medicine And Public Health, 11(2), 614–624.



Original Research Articles