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Adjust Your Regimen: Increase Speed, Agility, and Combat Conditioning

Sprinting on the track.

Fitness tests throughout the military are evolving from the standard pushups, sit-ups, and 1.5-2 mile run into increased speed, agility, and combat conditioning. This training is also being used in law enforcement pre-employment hiring phases.

Many athletes think that after high school or college, there will be little need to keep running sprints. Over time, these people will either become lifters who never run, or long-distance runners who never lift. To be a tactical athlete today, you have to be well-rounded and train so that you still have endurance and muscle stamina, but also strength, speed, and agility. Very often, obtaining and sustaining employment in tactical occupations (i.e., military, police, Special Ops, and SWAT) means you will need to add some sprint and agility training into your plan. 

The transition from 1.5–3 mile timed runs in the military to completing sprint and agility tests in local or federal law enforcement may seem easy, but it can be very challenging to compete on a high level without injuring yourself. These tests are difficult for first-timers and those who are not used to sprinting.

Here are many of the events used to test both speed and agility, and the agencies that utilize these testing events to monitor candidates and members alike:

300m Sprint – Many law enforcement agencies around the United States, including the FBI.

400m Sprint – Used by military Special Ops, police SWAT teams, and my Tactical Fitness Test.

40yd Sprint – From prone position carrying weapon, used by FBI and SWAT.

Illinois Agility Test – Used by Federal Law Enforcement and my Tactical Fitness Test.

Shuttle Runs
– 300yd (6 x 50m), used by SEAL teams and my Tactical Fitness Test.

Shuttle Runs – 100m (4 x 25m), UBRR (Upper Body Round Robin) used by many tier-one units in the military.

120yd Shuttle Run – (4 x30yd), used by DEA.

120ft Shuttle Run – (4 x 30ft), used by Military Service Academies.

Beep Test – A version of the shuttle run timed by "beeps" at decreasing intervals each lap, used by various police departments around the world.

These tests are relatively easy to train for. Basically, after a thorough warmup, do a few of the tests at 50% of full speed to get acclimated to the motions of the event. Then build up to 100% full speed once or twice for the day. Continue with the remaining sections of your usual workout. If you do this two to three times per week, you will see big improvements in your times.

Depending on your chosen career route, I recommend you do your research and find out what the testing elements of your training will require. As you age, you should combine sprints with directional changes in your weekly routine. Otherwise, tight hamstrings not accustomed to sprinting, and ankles not ready for quick changes of direction, will fail you, and could hinder your success in advancing into certain programs or getting hired.

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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