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Weapons in the Arsenal:

October 16, 2006 11:02 AM

For those of us who work in law enforcement, reality is pretty simple. As emergency responders we run towards danger instead of away from it. Be that danger a natural disaster, or one of the man-made variety, our primary goal is a simple one - to protect those that we are sworn to serve and to go home to our loved ones at the end of the day. Our capacity to survive when life gets ugly depends on our ability to be the best person that we can be in that moment. Being physically fit is a large factor in that equation. The long arm of the law needs to be a strong one.

About five years ago I heard the phrase "Functional fitness". It was simple logic that being strong in the gym and being functional in real life can be two different things. In the past, functional strength was not built in the gym. It was built on farms and in factories. Hard work built real muscles that were ready to handle real life situations. Having a double body weight bench press and squat is impressive in the gym. But if you cannot mow your lawn with out blowing a pectoral or tearing a hamstring then that strength does you little good when it really counts.

My quest to develop functional fitness led me to a conversation with a co-worker, Steven Pondelis. Steve, or Pondo as he is known on the floor, is well known for his feats of strength. Steve has spent 18 years in the trenches as a county jailor. Through trial and error Steve has discovered a few "weapons of mass destruction" as he calls them that have allowed him to forge a body that can bend steel and be functional when duty calls. The two most basic weapons in the arsenal are a Kettlebell from Dragon Door and a Captains of Crush gripper from Iron Mind. A diet of high rep Kettle Bell ballistics and GTG (Grease the Groove) with grippers has been the formula to build a foundation of functional strength for many Jailors and Licensed Officers in our department.

As stated in Power to the People! by Pavel Tsatsouline, "Strong hands and strong abs equals a strong man". Kettlebells are an excellent tool for developing the core and grip. For those in law enforcement these two attributes are a necessity for applying defensive tactics, escort holds and using pain compliance techniques.
Kettlebells develop the body from the floor up. Ballistic lifts like the swing, snatch and jerk teach you to explode with the legs and snap the hips. This is the foundation of power taught in all martial arts. These lifts also have a decelerating component that teaches the body how to absorb shock. This can assist in your weapons recoil management and help protect your body in auto accidents and use of force situations. I directly credit Kettlebell training and John DuCcane's Qi Gong instruction with my walking away injury free from a recent auto collision where I was struck from behind at 40 + mph. My vehicle was totaled but my body was not. Kettlebell ballistics also seems to have a major effect on your body composition. If you are underweight you will put on muscle where your body needs it. If you are over weight the high reps will melt away the fat. I personally have put on over 25lbs of athletic muscle in two years without trying. No weight gainers, no protein shakes, no supplements and no special diets were used! I just did high rep snatches in my backyard and ate a regular diet. Other gireveks at my work have had a similar experience.

Rule number one. "You are only as strong as your weakest link". If you can't grip it, grab it and hold onto it, then it's not yours. There are no straps and chalk available in the real world. Emergency response often requires you to lift, drag and carry odd objects and manipulate tools and equipment. A strong grip is an asset in such less than ideal situations. The Captain of Crush Grippers by Iron Mind is an ideal tool for developing a powerful grip. An Iron Mind gripper is a serous tool and not one to be taken lightly. You will feel it in your whole body when you try to close one. There are many large, strong men who have been unable to close a trainer or number one gripper. And these guys were ex college and pro athletes that were well known for their strength (see rule number one.) The grip tends to be a weakness for most people. Being strong where others are weak is always a use full advantage. Using the GTG (Grease the groove) format advocated by Pavel Tsatsouline in Naked Warrior is ideal for this type of training. Stick a Captains of Crush in your BDU pocket and perform a set number of reps throughout the day. The three to five rule has been found to do the trick. Do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps 3-5 times a week. For most people training with the Kettlebells and Captains of Crush at the same time is too grip intensive in the beginning. I recommend cycling your training. Do high rep Kettlebell ballistics for two or three weeks and then take a break and do the gripper for a couple of weeks. You can also alternate kettlebell and gripper days into your training cycle. Don't let the simplicity of the training fool you. Results will follow.

This is a basic, as-simple-as-it-gets approach to building functional strength for law enforcement. Kettlebells and Captains of Crush grippers are portable, inexpensive, and can be used almost anywhere. This makes them ideal tools for busy Leo's who have shift schedules and family responsibilities that often prevent them from getting into the gym. Kettlebell ballistics and Gripper work are the ground floor foundation that other training can later be added onto. The combination will give you usable strength and athletisim where and when you really need it.

Chris Mays, RKC is a Sheriff's office employee in Minnesota. He is available for instruction in Kettlebells and Martial Arts. You can reach Chris by email at