The Effect of Tactical Tasks and Gear on Muscle Activation of SWAT Officers

Jason M. Keeler, Michael B. Pohl, Haley C. Bergstrom, Justin M. Thomas, Mark G. Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officers perform a variety of tactical operations while wearing tactical gear. Load carriage has been shown to alter muscle activation in the torso and is also associated with lower back pain, which is a prevalent musculoskeletal injury suffered by SWAT Officers. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effect of tactical gear on muscle activation of torso musculature while performing occupational tasks. Twenty male SWAT Officers (age: 34.7 6 4.5 years; height: 1.79 6 0.1 m; body mass: 91.5 6 17.3 kg) performed 4 tasks (standing, rifle walk, sitting, and shield walk) with and without gear (mass of gear: 13.8 6 1.9 kg). Mean electromyographic amplitude was evaluated bilaterally for the erector spinae, rectus abdominis, and external oblique muscles during the trials and expressed relative to maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC). Addition of gear significantly increased erector spinae mean muscle activation during the rifle walk task (mean delta: +0.16%). However, no differences in muscle activation were identified for any other muscles between gear conditions (effect size#0.15). The shield walk produced the highest mean activation for each muscle during different tasks. The dynamic tasks yielded (0.24-4.18% MVIC) greater muscle activation levels than sitting and standing tasks. Despite minimal increases in muscle activation levels with the addition of gear, load carriage is known to increase the risk of acute and chronic injury. Collectively, these findings indicate that SWAT Officers should perform most skills without gear during tactical training to simulate task-specific movement patterns but reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 NSCA National Strength and Conditioning Association. All rights reserved.


  • Electromyography
  • Load carriage
  • Police

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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