Training for the PARE Test: Part 2 (Strength Training)

In today’s edition of the PARE Training Series, we’re gonna talk all about strength. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 of the Training for the PARE Test, which was all about cardio training, click here.

The PARE places a heavy emphasis on your cardio fitness, but having strength is still plays an important role, particularly for females. The most common area where strength is important is the push/pull machine (although learning proper technique can overcome strength deficits, but that’s a topic for another day). Other areas where strength is important: the bag carry, the mat jump, and even the controlled falls.

How can greater strength help with the falls? If you think about the front fall, it almost looks like you’re getting up from a push-up. Increase your push-up strength and popping off the floor will become easier and faster.

Generally speaking, females will need strength training more than males, but everyone can always be a little stronger. And not just from a performance perspective, but also from a health perspective. A body that is stronger, and more resilient, can withstand the strain and stress of Academy life better than a body that focuses solely on cardio training.

So what should you be focusing on for strength training? Do you work the arms and legs? Are body splits the way to go? What about high reps and low weights? Do you strength train for muscular endurance?

When you undergo a strength training program for the PARE, the singular goal is to become strong. And to do that, you have to lift heavy. No ifs, ands, or buts, you’re lifting heavy.

For most guys, that’s not a problem. You’re probably already doing that. And if you are already lifting heavy, then I suggest trying different lifting programs to become a more well rounded tactical athlete. Train for power, train muscular endurance, train unconventionally if need be. Do something a little different from the norm to continue to elicit adaptations from the body.

For most females, there’s a certain stigma around lifting weights. There’s the myth that if you lift heavy, you’ll be become bulky like Arnold. Without turning this into another “lifting heavy won’t make you bulky” article, trust that heavy lifting won’t make you big. Yes, you’ll develop muscle, but you’ll also develop greater confidence that you can take on anything when you have the ability to lift heavy.

What heavy lifting does is increase the neuromuscular connection. That’s a fancy way of saying stronger signals from your brain is sent to your muscles to lift. Ditch the dumbbells and quit following those Insta models that solely do high rep, low weight training. There’s a time and place for that, but if you’re lacking strength, now is not the time for that (by the way, by lifting heavy and not going for high volume, you reduce the chance of “bulking” up).

Before moving on, I should define what lifting heavy means. For the most part, heavy means lifting at least 85% of your 1 rep max (1RM). And if you don’t know what 1RM, that’s the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a particular exercise.

For example, if you can bench press (with good form, I should emphasize that) 100 lbs for 1 rep, that is your max. That means 85% of that will be 85 lbs, which could be done for 3-6 reps (again, with good form).

I should note, you don’t need to find out your 1RM for every single exercise. In fact, you shouldn’t. This is especially true if you’re a beginner or getting back into a strength training program.

If you’re not going to use a percentage of 1RM to gauge what is heavy, then how do you gauge what is heavy?

Trial and error will be your friend, and using rep ranges. Generally speaking, weights that can be moved between 1-8 reps would be considered heavy. My suggestion would be work between 5-8 reps per set, for 3-5 sets. You also want to give yourself at least 2 min of rest between sets, especially as the weight gets heavier. This particular rep range is normally done for the big lifts, like squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows/pulls, and overhead press.

Is anything wrong with doing higher rep sets for the above exercises? No, there isn’t, but if your goal is to get strong, than higher rep sets won’t be conducive to your goal.

Can you do heavy lifts for exercises like arm curls, shoulder raises, calf raises, etc? For these, you can do higher reps, and even play around with tempo (ie the speed of the lift), but I wouldn’t worry about lifting very heavy for these single joint movements.

Another thing to note is bodyweight exercises, particularly push-ups and pull-ups. With push-ups, you can work on increasing the number of reps you can perform for it, and doing variations of the push-up when you become proficient. Pull-ups, for most people, is a very demanding body weight exercise and would be considered a heavy lifting exercise for many, even if it is a bodyweight exercise. It takes time and concerted effort to perform your first pull-up, and that’s a discussion for another day.

Going back to the trial and error concept, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and go lighter than you think you should. Let’s use the squat as an example.

If you’re squatting 100 lbs and can easily do 8 reps, then increase the weight by 5-10 lbs the next set. Let’s say you increase it to 110 lbs, and it still feels easy, then you can increase it again, using another small increment. You want to increase to the point where you feel you’re working for it, but are still able to maintain proper form throughout the set. You may also feel like you could’ve squeezed out another rep or two with good form. Don’t go to complete failure.

So, what should you focus on?

Your strength training program should consist of compound lifts. I mentioned these earlier. They would be your deadlifts, squats, presses, and rows/pulls.

If you don’t have much experience with these lifts, then you hire a quality trainer who has a lot of experience coaching strength. Learn to do them well before you start loading up the bar with weights.

Here’s a sample strength training day that I may use with a Redliner:

If you don’t have access to weights, then using bodyweights for resistance will have to do. Gaining strength in this manner will be approached a different way though. For the purposes of this post, we’re focusing primarily on using external resistance like barbells and dumbbells. Using bodyweight for strength training will be for future discussion.

The frequency of strength training can be 2-4x/wk, depending on your abilities, goals, and weaknesses. If the goal is to increase strength, then I suggest aiming for 3-4x/wk of lifting. If you have sufficient strength, and need to prioritize your training elsewhere, then 2x/wk will do to maintain your strength levels.

Which segues into combining both strength training and cardio training. How do you schedule the two to coincide? This will depend on your goals and priorities, as well as the amount of time you have to dedicate to training.

Below is an example of someone who is training strength 3x/wk and cardio 4x/wk:

Improving strength is the goal of this individual, which is why it’s the first workout being done in the day. Enough cardio is being done throughout the week to maintain their cardio fitness. We could even get away with 3 cardio sessions instead of 4, and possibly 2. If I were to drop it down to 2 cardio sessions, I would have one day be an easy cardio day, and one day be an interval day.

Remember, the above is just one example of many that can be set up. If you’re limited in your training availability, then you’ll need to get creative in setting up your training workouts and training schedule. There are many ways we can go about setting up a training schedule which warrants a separate post. For now, I just want you to get some ideas.

In Part 3 of the training series, I’ll go over the specifics of the test. As much as having a solid fitness base is important for the PARE, to achieve your absolute best will also require that you train your skills for the test. That’s right, I said skills. Part 3 will delve into the tips and tricks to run the test efficiently and quickly.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM PART 2:

  • lift 2-4x/wk (depending on goals)
  • focus on compound exercises for the heavy lifting (squats, deadlift, presses, rows/pulls)
  • lift challenging weights for 5-8 reps, 3-5 sets, and rest minimum 2 min between sets
  • always use good form and don’t go to complete failure (leave 1-2 reps in the tank)

Wanna learn more about our program? Check out the Police Fitness Training program. It’s our ongoing training program to help you prepare for your physical test and for the Academy.

If you’re a complete beginner to the tests, the IT3 Program program is for you. It’s our intro program to help you build your skills and technique for the test, giving you the confidence you need to succeed.

Looking to run a practice? Check out the PARE and POPAT Practice Test page for the next available session.

Don’t live in the Lower Mainland? I offer online coaching for those who live very far from our physical location.

And if you have any questions about training, you can reach out to me at marc@rlconditioning.ca.