With one firefighter injury per every 8 minutes (Phelps et al., 2018), it is hard for us to not evaluate the nature of the injury and how we can prevent such things from happening. Falls, slips, and trips, along with overexertion and strain claim a majority of fireground injuries (Phelps et al., 2018), influencing the demand for proper physical fitness programs for firefighters.
Before we can discuss the type of training that firefighters need to program into their daily, weekly, and monthly regiment, we must agree that firefighters are indeed athletes.
With this being said, we know that there are a variety of performance tasks for various types of athletes. Sprinters in track focus on power and speed acceleration. Powerlifters focus on strength. Olympic athletes focus on power. Football players focus on agility, power, speed, and muscular endurance. On top of sport type, we have to evaluate sport specific roles and position to determine exact energy needs. There is a difference between energy and fitness demands between a linebacker , lineman, quarterback, and wide receiver. Each of these different energy and task demands require a difference in training protocol. Just like these examples, a tactical athlete, such as a firefighter, requires customized and detailed programming for physical fitness.
Firefighters need to focus primarily on cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance because most calls will include some form of repetitive work or requires the firefighter to sustain a high level of work capacity for a long duration of time. With the prevalence of sudden cardiac death, we can all agree on the primary focus involving cardiovascular health. Endurance could present itself in the form of multiple contractions or full repetitions such as picking up light objects over and over, or endurance can be presented in the form of stabilizing oneself or specific joint of the body for a long duration of time. Secondarily, the tactical athlete needs to focus on strength for sudden demands of moving or carrying a heavy load. This could involve picking up fallen debris, picking up or carrying fallen comrades, lifting self over obstacles, or even pushing disabled vehicles. The possibilities are endless, but they are in fact possibilities. Along with these focuses, we should also include plyometrics, bounding, and agility. Incorporating these would assist with tasks such as jumping from escape routes, landing off of the engine during call entrance, leaping or climbing over fallen debris, etc.
Obesity is a huge concern when it comes to the profession of firefighting and physical fitness. With obesity prevalent in this profession, we can evaluate the decrease in physical fitness and job-task performance. These have been linked to poor cardio-metabolic profiles, injuries in the field, and possibly cardiovascular issues (Brown et al., 2016). Firefighters should strive toward decreasing bodyfat percentages that indicate overweight or obese status.
As tactical athletes, it is your responsibility to train like an athlete. Your performance can and will determine the success of your survival, as well as your comrades.
Written by Hussien Jabai | NSCA CSCS