The physical demands on law enforcement officers can be diverse, making it a very challenging profession. You can go from long hours of sitting to an instant foot chase at any moment. Sitting or standing for long hours while on patrol makes the body stiff. Injuries can easily occur if an officer is involved in an unpredictable apprehension without ample mobility. In the following newsletter, we will discuss different mobility options for law enforcement officers. We have also attached a dynamic mobility series here that can be done before or during a shift to aid in injury prevention and help give you the competitive edge: https://youtu.be/3aRX_mbVfO0.
Mobility is the ability to move freely and easily. Flexibility refers to the range of motion in a joint or group of joints. According to the NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning, flexibility and joint mobility provide the foundation for movement and are key to developing strength, speed, agility, power and endurance. There are four main types of stretching the muscles, tendons and connective tissue in an athlete’s body. These types of stretches are static, dynamic, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
Static stretching has historically been used as one of the most common flexibility exercises performed during warm-ups. The static stretch is a relatively slow type of stretch that can be held up to 90 seconds to the end of range of motion (ROM). Static stretching has been found to increase flexibility and mobility but there is some controversy over if it actually reduces injury before performing a more physical task. Also, there are some studies that suggest that static stretching before exercise may reduce maximal force production. With the current research we have, we can conclude that static stretching before a shift might not be the best choice for people whose jobs depend on strength and power. Static stretching may be better utilized after workouts or shifts as a means of recovery.
The second type of stretching is called dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches are controlled movements used to activate tendons and muscles. This type of stretching typically uses activity- specific movements that extends the muscles to exceed ROM. Research suggest that dynamic stretching does not cause the stretch-induced strength loss that can be caused by static stretching. In fact, dynamic stretching has been shown to improve performance in power activities like sprinting and jumping. We typically start most of our training sessions with our police recruits using dynamic warm-ups. We have had a very low occurrence of injury using this method.
The third type of stretching is called ballistic stretching. Ballistic stretching uses movements like swinging, bouncing, and jerking one’s own body weight to produce force that stretches muscles and tendons. This type of stretching is commonly used in sports like track, gymnastics and dance. Ballistic stretching may result in tissue trauma and heightened injury risk and therefore is not recommended for tactical athletes like police officers.
The fourth type of stretching is called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching. During (PNF) stretching ROM is increased by muscle contraction and relaxation usually done with the help of a partner. One example of (PNF) stretch is called a hold and relax. During this type of stretch, a muscle is passively stretched by a partner and held for 10 second at the point of mild discomfort. The exerciser then performs an isometric contraction while the partner holds for 6 seconds. The exerciser then relaxes the muscle. After a short break, the muscle can be stretched again and passively be stretched further to a new point of discomfort. This type of stretch can be performed three or four times during a stretching session. There is some evidence of (PNF) being effective in increasing flexibility and mobility, but may not be a practical method for tactical operators like police officers due to the need of a knowledgeable partner to properly perform.
3. NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning