T Nation

Group PT


I am getting ready to lead morning PT for 11 new Firefighter Recruits on our department. Does anyone have any good suggestions for training? Here is what I currently have planned:

(Unfortunately I have to exclude team sports like basketball and football, and no weights.)

Long Distance Running

Interval Training

Calisthenics...abs, jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.

Partner assisted resistance exercises

Work related relays...stair climbing with hotel packs, ladder carries, fireman's carry and drags

Stairs...we are in an old gym with concrete steps.

Anyone have tips. Preferably fun AND painful!



If you search for these guys: crossfit
you will find a lot of info on that stuff.


I don't know if your budget allows, or if you even get a budget. But, kettle bells make a great tool for group PT. The variations are endless. Combos of sprints, BW exercises, and KB moves work really well. Do it all with an X-Vest on to simulate gear.

Now all the anti-KB people can flame a way.


Our budget sucks ass right now. We will not have any $ for equipment. We have mats from last year. I was thinking about getting some sandbags for them to train with. They would be good to use for relays too.


I'm working on a similar program for my group PT (Army), so I am going through the same thought process.

I feel that you perform as you train. A guy could fly through a 2 mile run, but give him an air tank and ax to carry and he about collapses. As much as you can, keep training work specific. Equipment carries, stairs and ladders, buddy carries and drags, training in turnout gear, training while breathing a tank (I have never done this, but I ran with a gas mask, you wanted pain!). Swinging an axe for a minute will get you going. Carrying jaws of life could be equivelant to a farmers walk.

You don't have weights but I am sure at a station there is heavy enough things around. What I am considering is a circuit, 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest, three sets of each excercise, compound movements only. Deadlifts, squat variations, rows, overhead presses, lunges, curls are just a few things you can do with about any object. Mix in some bodyweight excercises for balance.

I have a hard on for sandbag training. It is cheap equipment, easy to learn, and really works your grip and core. If everybody kicks in $5-10, you can get all the sandbags you would ever need.

If you have the ability, I would include pullups, of all hand positions. Firefighters find themselves climbing often. Have you thought about getting some kegs or barrels, and some tires for flipping? If so, post again and we will get you in the right direction for that.

Army PT focuses on a 2 mile run, max pushups and situps in 2 minute time. I strongly feel this poorly prepares soldiers for the physical demands of combat. I bet your job is just as demanding. For both of us, a situation could be life or death (ours or others) and losing someone due to lack of conditioning is just a damn shame.

Sorry about a little rant, but I am passionate about this topic. Feel free to post again here or PM me if you want to discuss anything further/kick around ideas.


I think it really depends on how the rest of the recruit academy is set up on how you structure your PT.

I'm just finishing the fire academy so I'm glad to be of any help. I have lots of ideas and things I think you should and should not do.


I would really appreciate the input based on your academy experience. This is the third class I have organized and lead and I add new things every year as I learn.

combatmedic...I am just as passionate as you seem about PT in my career. It's frustrating for me since not everyone is on the same bandwagon, holding fitness and health as a priority. I am definitely going to use sandbags this year. Cheap and effective. Emphasis on cheap! I plan on using our ladders, hotel packs, extinguishers, and hard suction hose for training. Since they have EMT class the first half, we will also drill in turnout gear, packs, and helmets. I have the class broken down into the following days:

  1. Long Distance Running
  2. Cardio Calisthenics
  3. Partner resistance / bodyweight stuff
  4. Intervals
  5. Work Related relays and Group drills including "Log Drills" but we will use a section of hard suction hose or a ladder instead of a log.

I hope it will work and the guys will have a good time and see results. Unfortunately we have 11, not and even number! Not sure what to do with the extra guy when it comes to team stuff. I may pick a recruit to lead and relay instructions / motivate all the groups. One recruit could rotate into that spot each day.

Bring on the input!!!


I would contact Dan John he has some awesome work outs for groups.


One bit of nastyness they used when I was in the Marines was the deck of cards workout. Shuffle the deck, pick an exercise, pull a card, that's how many sets, pull a card, that's how many reps, begin the pain. Continue till you're out of cards or no one can move.


Yes! I saw that in the Army PT guide. That will happen on occasion. I think I'll just come in one morning and get their hopes up by saying..."I think we're all just going to play cards today!" :slightly_smiling:

The version I saw was to do pushups for the face value of Red cards and situps for the face value of Black cards. I like the idea of reps and sets and varying the type of exercise. That would be good with pull-ups.



yea, i think an army PT routine or something similar would be great.

Im not a fan of long distance running. I don't feel that it translates into real world athletic ability or explosiveness. I think bleacher runs would be much better.

Tons upon tons of bodyweight squats would be great. You could even give them heavy objects, like their equipment and such, to use for resistance.

You can't go wrong with pullups and pushups. Jumping rope would be great as well, so would burpees.

Its good to see someone is training these men(and women!) the right way.


We spoke a little before and I know you do Strongman. How do you find the two act on eachother; does doing one make you better than the other, did having a Strongman background make PT easier?

For myself, I found that the two were very contradicting. Sure, PT helps with general conditioning, but it is hard to train and lift heavy knowing that I have to do a long run the next morning. The slow steady conditioning of running didn't seem to help me much on the short bursts of energy required by Strongman.

On the otherhand, Strongman seemed to hinder my PT. It doesn't matter that the weight I used for pressing is going up, I am not able to do more pushups without training specifically pushups. Heavy leg work made my legs feel like lead after the second mile mark (I don't know if this was weight gain, fiber conversion or what).

On the bright side, I am stronger and when it comes to carrying things or people, it pays off. I might not run as far, but when it comes to buddy carries, I leave my partners in the dust.

Just curious how you (or others) respond to both types of training at once.


I have heard from others the recruit fire academy PT conditioning out in Phoenix has changed over the years. We do not do long distance running anymore as they have found in the past it is not really job specific and tends to wear on the joints after 3 months of being out on the grinder in turn outs drilling.

With that being said, the academy has not really affected my strongman strength too much. Granted, I have dropped 20 lbs. of bodyweight (10 of that is over my setpoint) and have not lifted heavy in the last 3 months so you would think there would be a major drop off. However, I have set PR's in the tire flip, going from 15 to 20 flips with my 750 tire and just yesterday did farmers walk with 305 for 60 ft. and personal best is 315. My max squat and deadlift strength do seem to be down a lot but I think I can get it back in a month or two. We lift 1 or 2 times per week, but I always go light and occasionally I'll train events on Sundays, never testing my limits.

But to address your question more specifically, long distance running and strongman definitely do not coincide. Both would contradict each other. Nothing zaps your strength faster than distance running.

Firefighter147, I plan to address your question soon...


My suggestion is to eliminate long distance running. It really only serves as a time filler. In this case, it is not job specific and I'd argue is actually counterproductive to the training objective of a firefighter.

Cardio calisthenics are easy, require no equipment, and if used correctly would likely help condition the recruits for the tasks of a firefighter. Gradually build up their capacity of work:rest cycles through this means of training.

Partner resistance / Bodyweight stuff...not sure what you mean here.

Intervals...are effective but are very demanding on the body. My suggestions for these is to use them for climbing stairs. I'm not sure what you have access to, but its fairly easy to organize an interval workout on the stair climb.

Group Drills...in my opinion should be the base of the training. Sled dragging/pulling either with a tire or dummy, sand bag carries, sledgehammer or axe strikes are excellent tools.

How is the PT organized? Do you have PT every morning? Do they have the classroom portion spread out or is it mostly in the beginning of the academy?



This is the problem with mass PT programs. As a fellow soldier and a former Marine Ive been the victim of these injustices.

Ive been voicing my opinion on this subject for some time now. I ask "What is the purpose of PT?" Im told it is to prepare a soldier for war. So why the hell do we do long distance running(at a miserable "airborne suffle"), pushup, and sit up? Why? Because this is the PT test and is the way it has always been done.

I bitched and moaned so much I was given a week of leading PT except for the Friday CO run. Monday was guerilla drills, Tues was calisthenics, Wed was sprinting NCO hill(those that have been to FT Sam know that nasty short steep hill well), Thur was a sports day at the Gym. My point was that the PT studs(ie the runners) had the most problem with this. I loved it....

I really dont know why we are still training like the 70's, when in todays ever evolving battlefield, we are moving from point A to point B quickly and explosively under load, scaling objects, stairs, across uneven surfaces, and at times crawling for distances?!?!?!

To end my rant, dont fall into the common run, run, run philosophy just because that was/is the way it has always been done.


Our PT is 1 hour and 15 min. each morning except weekends for 20 weeks. The Partner resistance ex. I refered to are movements that can be performed with the partner providing resistance. There are a bunch listed in the Army PT manual. I appreciate the input on running. I am leaning more in the direction of not going on long runs. We have the perfect old style Basketball fieldhouse with steps all the way up and down on multiple sides.
I may just limit the running to a few short "Last Man Up" style runs.

I'd like to get enough sledgehammers for all of them. I may be able to do this through the training dept. budget...Hmmm.

I'll be back later to post more info after I speak with the training division captain.


wholy christ, that brings a tear to my eye. People are actually waking up and learning to do things the right way!


Believe me...I was extremely excited when I found out that I wouldn't be running. I had recently finished a 7 week internship with another fire department out here that is very military like and they had us running 7 miles every Saturday on street surface. My joints were killing after a few weeks and I was asked why I was in back of the pack on the long runs yet had one of the top times in the grinder skills course as well as 1.5 mile run. I told them straight up that if I have to be able to run 7 miles to fight fire then this job isn't for me. They had no response to my logic.


WooHoo!!! I just got approved for purchase of sandbags and 4 drag sleds. I'm so happy I could cry!! I'll take photos of the class and post them. We are all looking forward to training these guys. It will be a very regimented military style academy.


Not sure who you are getting sandbags from but I know of a guy out here in AZ that makes and sells a very good and versatile one.

Check out www.sandbagexercises.com