Tactical Fitness Testing: How to Prepare

Body drag exercise.

Many service members leave the military and later become police officers at various levels (Federal, State, Local, Police and Sheriff). Many Reservists are already active law enforcement officers as well. Although fitness testing and Police Academies are similar to the military, there are a few differences in the selection process that you need to consider if you are thinking about joining law enforcement. Tactical Fitness Testing like the POPAT:  Police Officer Physical Abilities Testing is one such test. Though it is not overly challenging, it does require some skills that a normal pushups, sit-ups, 1.5 mile run training will not provide.

There is little consistency from state to state and city to city with physical entry testing, so do your homework and start training specifically for these new events.

  • While sitting in a car, unbuckle seating and open door
  • Run 200yds to 100yds, then back to the car.
  • Remove person or dummy (150-200lbs) from car and drag 50ft
  • Stair case climb three times up and down five steps
  • Move through weighted door
  • Pushups 20, situps 20 (chin must hit a counter's fist on the floor)
  • Repeat stairs
  • Crawl 40' through pipe
  • Pushups 20 and situps 20
  • Run 200yds again (100yd away and back)
  • Finish with body drag for 50ft again (150-200lbs)

Some states may vary with added events like wall / fence climbs and dry firing drills with left and right hand.

In the military, the fitness test is simply that – a fitness test that determines that you are healthy and fit enough to do the basic skills required in the military. Though the Marines have developed more of a Tactical Fitness Test with the USMC Combat Fitness Test (CFT), the rest of the military does not focus on job related skills for entry level testing like police departments do.  Many Special Ops groups have been using combat conditioning courses with job related skills for decades, and added in events like shooting during runs, rucks, swim, obstacle courses, PT, injured man drills, etc.

If you are considering a profession that requires the above POPAT, you need to dissect the test and start training for it.  First, your typical weight room workout will help you build the foundation to do this test sufficiently if you are mixing in calisthenics and weight training. Now you just have to get creative and add some crawls, carries, and running.

For example, one of our favorite workouts mixes in pushups, pull ups, sit ups and abs, and running. Pull-ups are a great addition to any workout especially if you are required to jump and climb walls or fences during your lob related fitness test. Here is an example of mixing those skills together:

PT Pyramid – Foundation Building Workout for Calisthenics and Running

Working and PT – What this test really comes down to is your ability to work and be winded. Here is a great way to mix in calisthenics and running. Replace burpees with pushups and situps until you fail up the Pyramid.

This one is pretty advanced level and you should do what you can with this one, BUT it mixes in all the muscle groups needed for carries, drags, more challenging crawls, running and more. 

NOTE – Replace burpees with pushups and sit-ups to prep for this test.

Sample Workout for Advanced level simulation of the testing events.

The main goal of this test is to see if the cadet or applicant can do the basic skills that he or she will likely see in the job of being a police officer. You would be surprised at the people who fail this test because they say, "That does not look too bad" and never practice. Pushups and sit ups fail them if they are not used to running with calisthenics. Lack of cardio conditioning slows their runs to walking portions. Lifting and griping the dummy drag event get those who fail to train grip, legs and lower back muscles as well.

Here is a fun PT progression that incorporates many if not all skills needed as well as helps the cadets practice thinking while they are physically tired and stressed out. 

Related Article:  Operator Grip – A great grip circuit to assist with rope climbs, grappling, other grip necessities.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

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