Apr 1, 2013

Importance of a Training Regimen for Firefighters

Daniel Guzman, BS, CSCS

Firefighters have a very physically demanding job. Not to take away from all the logistical and emotional strength that goes along with it as well; however, simply being able to perform a variety of movements in a specific time is important.

Let's take a step back. When I was in college at Westmont in Santa Barbara, there was a huge fire that ran through the school (The Tea Fire). I remember firefighters were being called from all around California to help put out the fire. These men and women must have worked continuous hours, possibly days, without a break. I am so thankful for everything they do and did that weekend to help our school and community in our time of trouble.

The Physical

Imagine the strength and endurance an individual would need to do this. The jacket, trousers, air equipment, supplemental equipment can weigh up to 70+ pounds. On top of wearing all that extra weight, these people have to physically work as long as it takes to get the job done. Whether this is putting out a fire, showing up to medical calls or being on a hotshot crew. It only makes sense that firefighters would need a well thought out training regimen in order to keep their movement and performance at a high level to be able to do their job.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study in their March 2013 issue regarding physical fitness in Firefighters. This article said "The lack of an appropriate regular exercise program for these professionals may contribute to high on-duty injury rates and deaths caused by heart disease," (1).

Fundamentals of Active Duty

The article goes on to talk about the physical, mental, and emotional demands an individual will encounter while on duty. So what type of exercise program does a firefighter need? Look at the basic demands of active duty:

Low intensity physical activity for long periods of time accompanied by random bursts of high intensity activity.

What Should They Do?

I propose the following. Train for strength, train for endurance, condition healthy movement, prevent injury. First, firefighters need to have a foundation of strength just to wear the uniform (literally)! We are asking them to save our possessions, workplace, animals and personal lives. Second, they need to perform various movements for an undetermined amount of time. They don't know if they will be working for 5 minutes or 5 hours, so I high level of endurance is required. Thirdly, teach healthy movement. This is a career that people will plan to stay in their entire lives. Even if that leads to a desk job later down the road, you still want to allow that person to be able to enjoy their movement. The program should never be designed to sacrifice good movement for better conditioning only to let their bodies fall a part later on. As coaches we always want to teach proper positioning and correct movement, end of story. Finally, if a firefighter is injured, then they cannot do their job. So take the correct approach to injury prevention in your program. A big part of this can be the recovery outside the training program.

Be thankful for these men and women who work in our communities. If you're a firefighter seeking a good program, look for these things.

Need guidance on your own journey to better health, fitness, or performance? Contact Daniel directly or head to prevailconditioning.com to set up a free session today!

Originally published on Daniel's blog Daniel Guzman Strength and Conditioning

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