Help Needed Developing a SWAT Selection Training Plan

Adam Scott, MS, CSCS

Here at Strong Swift Durable we are constantly receiving inquires from our Law Enforcement athletes asking for a SWAT Selection Training Plan.  With the requests piling-up, we started digging into different programs from around the country to identify selection fitness tests and criteria from which we would design the training plan.

What quickly became apparent was that most SWAT selection and training programs were specific to a city or department and that most publicly available information is not detailed.

Below is what we were able to discover about SWAT selections:

Physical Fitness Test:

A study in from the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas found that of the 26 SWAT programs surveyed almost every one had different physical fitness criteria.  Most of the agencies used some form of the Cooper Test (1.5 mile run, 300m sprint, sit-ups, push-ups and vertical jump) as part of their assessment, but the minimum scores varied greatly.  Some of this is easily explained by the nature of the different programs (full-time vs. part-time) and their specific geographical and operational demands.  Still others are difficult to defend.

For example, minimum standards varied from 12:15-18:00 on the 1.5 mile run, 20-50 repetitions on push-ups and 20-50 repetitions on sit-ups.  Only one of the SWAT programs used all five Cooper Test events and nearly all added other items to their assessment.  Here are a few examples (and the percentage of units who used them) :
–   Dummy Drag – 1%
–   50m Spring – 1%
–   200m run – 1%
–   Vertical Leap – 1%  (Cooper Test Event)
–   330m run – 1%
–   6ft Wall Climb – 1%
–   300m run – 3 %  (Cooper Test Event)
–   1 mile run – 3%
–   Pull-Ups – 3%
–   Obstacle Course – 6%
–   Bench Press – 8%
–   Push-Ups – 23%  (Cooper Test Event)
–   Sit-Ups – 23%  (Cooper Test Event)
–   1.5 mile run – 25%  (Cooper Test Event)

As an example, one of our SWAT athletes passed along his unit’s selection criteria earlier this week:
–   2 dead hang pull-ups with full kit and duty rig (+40#).
–   40m sprint from prone with full kit, duty rig, and shotgun in <8 sec.
–   60m sprint from standing with full kit, duty rig, ram, gas mask in <15 sec.
–   880yd course in PT gear:
–   200# dummy drag for 10 yd
–   220 yd run
–   weave through 10 cones on 220 yd return leg
–   220 yd run, one push-up at each of ten cones on 220 yd return leg

SWAT Training:

SWAT training varied as much, if not more, than SWAT fitness tests and assessments.  Most of this is justifiable based on the program’s demands – part-time vs. full-time, geographical factors, special skill requirements, etc. – which, again, is what makes creating a general plan so difficult.

The National Tactical Officers Association recommended a minimum of 40 hours of pre-SWAT training for both collateral duty and full-time duty SWAT officers.  We found that most SWAT programs exceeded this recommendation.  Our research showed that SWAT training programs varied in length from 1 week to 12 weeks, with most around 2-3 weeks in length.

Nashville SWAT utilizes a six phase training program which covers their testing (16 hours), Basic SWAT Training (50 hours), Advanced SWAT Training (50 hours), Tactical Rifle Training, and Specialty Training.  It is during their basic and advanced training that most of the physically demanding events seem to take place.  These include stress shooting, obstacle courses, PT sessions, CQB and others.

Miami SWAT training lasts 3 weeks.  Unfortunately there was very little specific information concerning the program other than: “Initial “tryouts” are physically and mentally demanding.  Applicants must be agile, physically fit, and capable of accomplishing multiple tasks under extremely stressful conditions.”

Salt Lake City SWAT, a part-time unit, conducts a 1-2 week training course which includes numerous physical events like obstacles, running, log PT, weighted and unweighted sprinting, plus others.

Lastly, all four branches of the US Military (USA, USAF, USMC and USN) train their Special Response Teams (SRT) (MP SWAT-type units) at Ft. Leonard Wood for 2 weeks.  Their training is very similar to what we have seen from the other SWAT units.

One constant we found throughout SWAT selection and training was the high priority each unit placed on shooting skills.  Most had to score above the 90th percentile on all marksmanship events.

Fitness Characteristics of SWAT Officers:

We were only able to find one small study which examined the fitness attributes of current suburban SWAT teams.  The sample size was small, but the results were fairly telling.

The study reported that SWAT officers ranked highest in measures of muscular strength:  Leg Press, 90th percentile and Bench Press, 85th percentile.

Body compositions ranked in the 55th percentile at an average of 18% body fat.  While core strength and flexibility ranked even lower.

Lastly, the study reported that SWAT officer’s aerobic capacity and muscular power had a wide range of scores and, according to the researcher, “were also not ideal to support maximal performance during routine operations.”

Help Needed:

We would appreciate any SWAT Selection details athletes can share as we continue to collect information to design our SWAT Selection Training Plan. If you can share any details about your departments selection, please e-mail me at: