4 Basic Principles of Training to Build Muscle for LEOs

Nov 05, 2023
police officer night shift


All adaptations, all improvements, obtained from training are the result of a stimulus. 


Effective Fitness Training (EFT) exists to provide guidance to a very specific stimulus so law enforcement officers around the world can obtain very specific adaptations.  At the end of the day, these adaptations will make you better, more qualified, more capable, and a safer law enforcement officers. 


Building muscle is one such adaptation.  Flex Friday’s in the main training program are intended to build muscle and we have an entire track of training (Tactical Bodybuilding) dedicated to building muscle (without ignoring other essential attributes).  While we can provide the exercises, the sets, and the reps with exercise videos and general rest interval guidance, we cannot do the work for you.  



What’s important to know is that how you do the work matters and that is what this article is for.  This is your EFT hypertrophy bumper rails.  If you stay within these guidelines, you will be on the path to peak muscle gain.  So without further ado, read and apply these principles to maximize your gains.


  1. Full Range of Motion (ROM)


To maximize the hypertrophic effect of any given exercise, you absolutely must train through a full range of motion.  For some of you this means squatting ass-to-grass, lateral raises go overhead, and bicep curls go all the way to full elbow extension.  This may differ from person-to-person as we all have different levels of mobility but, as a general rule, push to your range of motion limitations on every repetition of every set.


How this works is by creating muscular tension at all lengths of muscular stretch with the greatest opportunities for hypertrophy created when the muscle is maximally stretched.  This tension initiates muscle building cascades across multiple muscle building pathways in the body (some known, some still theorized and under investigation).      


  1. Slow Tempo


Slowly lift the weight, pause, slowly lower the weight, pause.  Every rep. Moving slowly through each repetition does a couple different things: ensures adequate time under tension and prevents the use of momentum.  



Many lift slowly, but few lower the weight slowly.  Here is why this matters:  when you quickly lower the weight you may not be creating adequate muscular tension in the eccentric portion of the lift.  If you’re not creating adequate tension in the eccentric then you’re leaving gains on the table.  Secondly, when busting through repetitions quickly, athletes tend to use momentum or something known as the stretch-shortening cycle to lift more.  Consider this: if you are using momentum or the stretch-shortening cycle to lift a weight then that means your muscle isn’t.  You want the target muscle to do all of the work with no assistance from other influences.  


Like previously stated, you want maximum muscular tension from start to finish through a full range of motion.   


  1. Proximity to Failure


I once saw in the EFT chat, an athlete wrote that they were able to do 3 sets of 10 and it was “easy”.  That’s cool, sounds like a good warm-up.  In order to maximize muscular gains, it is 100% a requirement to train close to failure.  Failure meaning the point you are unable to perform any more repetitions with good technique.  Proximity to failure meaning how close you are to this point.


If you want to get the most out of your muscle building training session, you need to be within five repetitions of failure.  Three repetitions is better yet.  Training to complete failure will also get the job done but may come at a high fatigue cost.  When in doubt, push closer to complete failure because oftentimes athletes are capable of more than they think. 



Training this close to failure, checks a couple boxes on the muscle building checklist:  you will reach adequate muscular tension and you will build up metabolic waste products in the muscle.  Both of these, by different means, contribute to the muscle building process.  


Adding this into the equation, here is what we have at this point:


Max Gains = full range of motion + slow tempo with pauses at the top and bottom of the lift + close to failure   



  1. Proper Rest


Rest between sets is needed for optimal muscle building because you want the target muscle to be the limiting factor, not any other variable.  If you’re performing split squats, for example, and you’re out of breath from your first set, it will be ill-advised to begin the second set just yet.  You want the limiting factor of each set to be the muscle you are trying to build, not your cardiovascular system, not your grip, not stabilizing muscles, etc.  If you have to cut a set short for any reason other than target muscle fatigue, then you are missing the point of the exercise if your goal is truly to build the most muscle possible.  


A proper rest interval isn’t a set time.  Sometimes a time is provided as a guide, not as a rule.  A proper rest interval is long enough that central fatigue, cardiovascular strain, nor secondary muscles will hinder the next set.  When you are ready to push the target muscle to or near failure again is when your rest is over.  When the target muscle is the limiting factor, you will be able to push to the point where the that muscle receives the muscle building stimulus you want.




Max Gains = full range of motion + slow tempo with pauses + close to failure + target muscle is the limiting factor


Apply these principles during the next Flex Friday or your next session of Tactical Bodybuilding.  Some of you may notice a dramatic difference in your training; All of you will get better results.