T Nation

5/3/1 and Conditioning for First Responders

I am a rookie volunteer firefighter and know that Jim recommends Krypteia for firefighters, police officers, and military personnel. I recently started this program; however, as heart attacks are the leading cause of line of duty deaths for firefighters, I am somewhat concerned with the lack of cardio. I understand that the fast-paced nature of the program is cardio itself and that it could be risky to implement hard conditioning into Krypteia, but does anyone have any experience with adding effective conditioning/cardio to the program without compromising the lifts and running the risk of overworking oneself?

Thank you!

If only I wrote an entire section on running/conditioning in the same book as the Krypteia program was explained - all about what to do and how to program it.


My bad on this one, Jim. I’ve read Forever multiple times and I remember the conditioning section. A better question would have been since - if I recall correctly - you warn against running while doing Krypteia unless the lifter is an experienced runner, how would you go about implementing sprints for a less experienced or just bad runner? I assume starting with a reduced volume (i.e. 800m/workout to start) and cautiously working your way up?

Thanks, Jim.

I can tell you this from someone whos been in the FD for a while as long as your running programs like krypteia you are doing more than most. Youll know when you are doing too much.

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I did and do krypteia exactly as written, or use the same philosophy of supersetting with hard assistance. The conditioning I do on a normal week is two days of soccer (which is probably hard/medium conditioning, and has plenty of sprinting) and doing a 5 mile run at maybe an 8:30 pace. I also tried to get a yoga session in. This worked well. I always took at least one day from any planned workouts.

Choose conditioning that matches your goals and your ability to recover. Add a couple sprints, and see how it goes. Just don’t run yourself into the ground with overly hard conditioning.

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Just try it as written first, it’s very much conditioning on it’s own. Otherwise, as Jim said, there’s a whole section in the book. I’m not a FF (but I oink oink), however I took some self sponsored classes back in the day and have something of an idea of the work expected. Personally, I’d do prowler work or heavy weighted vest walks (mine is 100lbs and does the trick). I’d also recommend working sandbag circuits in maybe just don’t overdo it, a 120lb+ sandbag can eat into your training if you’re not using it sparingly.

I’l probably catch hell recommending this in here, but have you looked at brian alsruhe’s stuff? I know he’s kind an extremely bastardized version of 5/3/1 (wouldn’t even call it that personally, but his training is extremely conditioning heavy and I think would translate well to what you’re looking for.


First and foremost, thank you for your service! My dad’s also a cop and I’m planning to attend my local Sheriff’s Academy after I graduate from college, so you won’t see me getting into the whole police vs. fire debate with anyone.

I’m now in the second phase of Krypteia and wow - pushing the assistance hard and a 5x10 at FSL is brutal. If I add hard conditioning, it’ll be after I get through the full program at least once. I’d love to do prowler work, but I unfortunately do not have access to one. Weighted vest walks sound like a good addition, though.

I hadn’t seen Brian Alsruhe’s stuff until you brought it up, but it looks interesting! If I ever tire of Jim’s programs (hopefully never), I might try one of Alsruhe’s.

Thanks, and stay safe.

Honestly man, as a volunteer, as long as you can survive a run to your mailbox without a heart attack, or pick up a roll of blitz line without blowing up your back, you’ll be fine. My advice: lift twice a week, run hills once or twice a week, and spend your time working on the craft to be an asset on your truck. Know how to deploy a hose load, learn where the medical supplies are to help the EMT doing patient care. Learn a knot or two. Mostly, keep your eyes open, head down, and listen.


x2 check out Brian stuff. One of the first guys to recommend 5/3/1 on these boards like 9 years ago. His ‘Powerbuilder’ video uses 5/3/1 for the main lift and is a similar ball-buster to krypteia

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Thanks for the advice! I’ve been taking in as much as I can - most weeks, I end up staying at our station after meetings for an hour or two just talking to my chief and some of our other experienced guys. I’m pretty familiar with both of our rescues and fairly familiar with our neighboring department’s ambulance. Sadly, I haven’t been able to go on any fire calls yet - every time we get one, I’m either at college, working, or we get ordered to stand down, haha - so I haven’t gotten quite as well-acquainted with our two engines. I’m taking a basic exterior course now and hoping to get into the next Firefighter 1 course, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping to get my EMT cert after that, so I’ve been talking to and training with my chief a lot and reading tons.

I won’t be having any heart attacks on the way out to the mailbox or blowing my back out picking up hose rolls, don’t worry! I’m loving Krypteia so far, except for during the actual lift. It’s hell, but it’s effective. If I get tired of it or decide I can’t add hard conditioning to it, I might look into switching to lifting two days a week and running two days a week.

Stay safe, and thanks again for the advice!

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My mantra for the next several years.