Training for the POPAT Part 3: Tips and Tricks

Today is the last part in the POPAT training series and I’ll go over some tips and tricks to help you be successful for the test. If you want to read the previous parts, check out Part 1: Cardio Training and Part 2: Strength Training.

The biggest tip I can give anyone is to pace yourself. Don’t start off like you’re Usain Bolt. You don’t want to kill it on the first few laps. You’ll end feeling you got killed by the test, well before you hit the push/pull machine. Trust me, by the 4th lap you’ll be feeling it.

Too often I’ve seen people blast out of the gates only to burn out by the end. And you don’t want to burn out when you get to the push/pull machine. Even when you’re fresh that machine is difficult.

Aim to average 18-22 seconds per lap. An 18 sec lap will get you a 1:48 for the course; 22 sec laps will get you 2:12. You may be able to get away with 25 sec laps, but you better be confident with your strength when you reach the push/pull machine.

To work on pacing, make sure to keep your interval times as consistent as possible during your cardio training, even when you’re pushing it. Learn to pace yourself in training and you’ll learn how to pace yourself during the test.

The next tip that gets overlooked is the warm-up. The POPAT is a physically intensive test, and to perform at your best you need a proper warm-up.

Typically you’re given 10-15 min to warm-up; take advantage of it. Take all the time they give you to warm-up your muscles, loosen up your joints, elevate your heart rate and breathing rate elevated, and mentally prepare yourself. I wrote about a warm-up routine you can follow, which you can check out here. This type of routine can be used before your cardio workouts as well.

Here are some other tips and tricks you can use while running the course. I suggest practicing them beforehand as well:

1) When jumping the mat, look beyond the edge, such as the cone that you’ll need to round immediately after landing. If you look at the edge, you’re very well likely going to touch the mat.

2) Make your jump a jump, not an awkward step/lunge over the mat.

3) Jump across the mat, not up and over. If you jump up and over, you waste time and energy. Focus your energy on going horizontal rather than vertical.

4) Tip #3 can also be applied to the hurdles; jump across the hurdles instead of up and over.

5) In between hurdles, try to take two steps before you jump the 2nd hurdle. Your landing foot is the first step, and your take off foot is your second step. The video below covers this point.

6) For the stairs, find a rhythm that works for you. Ideally, you want to skip as many steps as possible, but skipping steps does come at an energy cost, energy that could be used elsewhere (ie the machine and/or vault). If you have little experience with the test, err on the side of caution and use as many stairs as you need to. Watch the video below for the different methods of running the stairs:

7) Rounding the area I call the triangle is important to maintain as much speed as possible. If you’re maintaining your speed, it also means you’re conserving energy, a very important thing to do when you got the machine and vault to complete after your laps. I go a little more in depth with rounding the triangle in the video below:

8) During the pull, sit down and low, and keep sitting back. Use your weight to your advantage to lift and keep the weight up. You also want to stay aggressive, especially at the end of the pull, which I discuss here:

9) When shuffling during the pull, you want to push with your legs from one side to the other, don’t make it a step shuffle. When you push (and make it a powerful push) you create more speed and will generate centrifugal force to help you go from one side to the other. It’ll feel like you’re swinging from side to side.

10) During the push portion, lean into the machine with your legs, but don’t rest your chest on the handles. Rely on your legs to push, and keep tension in your upper body and arms for support. As you shuffle across, make sure whatever leg is on the ground is always pushing into the machine. The video below goes in depth with proper push technique:

11) When vaulting, create space away from the bar when you land. When you get up, you won’t be crowding the bar, which allows you to make a smoother jump.

12) How you set up for your falls after the vault jumps can affect your time. In most cases, people are spending too much time trying to set up parallel to the bar when they land. Instead of fighting it, land according to where your feet point. This video will explain it better:

13) A lot of time can be lost in transition. What do I mean by that? It’s the time you spend going from the course to the machine, the time you spend transitioning from the pull to the push, the transition to the vault, and even the transition from the front to back and back to front. Watch the video below for more details:

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