T Nation

Strength Training For Firefighters

Hey Guys,

I saw the thread on strength training for cops and thought about what I need to do to get in shape to be a firefighter.

A little background info: I’m a senior in highschool, I would like to pursue a career as a firefighter/medic. I played football and lifted according to the BFS program. My lifts at my peak strength were 235 bench, 365 squat, 325 dl. My #s aren’t that high now because I got sick then injured then a lazy pos. Lately, I completed Westside for Skinny Bastards and most recently TBT. Although alot of people hate on the BFS system, thats where I got my best results.

I was thinking I should be doing mostly compound lifts, core work, lower body and whatnot. But strength is only half the battle, what about cardio? Lately I have been running two miles twice a week in order to get a starting point for HIT or something.

I would deeply appreciate any suggestions or comments for strength/cardio you guys have. Thanks for your help.


To be honest, Crossfit. Or a coach Davies program. YOu need to be sucking wind when you workout if you are training for something like that in my opinion. A combination of lifting and cardio at the same time. Thats what the job is.

I’d have to say that BradS suggested two great sources that address basic foundation for physically being ready for the fire service. There’s no need to stop 2 mi runs, I am sure whatever academy you could get into will have long distance running in the vicinity of 2-3mi. One thing that is not a part of the CrossFit program (been doing it for over a yr now) is stair work. So walking flights of stairs and running flights of stairs are not in the CrossFit workouts. But they can be if you implement them into your workout, of course.

I don’t have too much experience with Coach Davies training for firefighters because I haven’t bought his products, but I have followed workouts from his articles on this site. They are awesome. I believe his work with the x-vest should be awesome for the conditioning of a firefighter or just about anyone.

Something like the x-vest is important for the conditioning and preparation of a firefighter. Having concentrated my monies on other priorities I cannot purchase an x-vest, so I’ve just packed weight into a back pack and done stair climbs and other bodyweight bearing exercises with it on. That is something that not all workouts can provide you with- being able to handle extra weight on your body while moving around “normally”.

My crew and I have been formulating CrossFit influenced workouts for our department’s pilot Wellness & Fitness program and have met 2 different oppositions: 1- the guys who still workout using musclemag workouts and learn from 24hr fatness personal trainers who are getting gassed by the CrossFit workouts in less than half the time and 2- the guys who don’t workout at all. The thing to remember about CrossFit is that it’s great for general conditioning. That’s it. If you have other interests then you have to put in the extra time during your day to do them. What I mean is specializing like your sport. You may have to put in extra runs if you are a long distance runner by sport, or extra powerlifting if you do that.

So CrossFit is just part of the activity, not all of it. Some people find this to be all to do and that’s fine, but it won’t improve skills needed to play football, soccer, or wrestling. It is just another way to improve strength-endurance and toughen you up. Oh and help lose weight along with great nutritional tips here on the T-Nation.

You can use the many types of workouts provided here on T-Nation and they will work. As far as the fire academy, get in first and get cranial because the fire service is more than physical demands- there’s lots to learn. Then when you get in the firehouse and gain some experience, you will know what kind of strengths you need to improve and what bad habits you will need to discard…then you have a list of goals that most workouts on here address really well. For example, every 4-6 weeks I’ve done a different T-Nation workout to address certain issues of strength and power. I could implement the extra strengths gained from T-Nation into CrossFit. I still do that today.

I think sandbag training and awkward object lifting would be a great addition as well. Sled dragging and pulling. Work on strength endurance and GPP. I dont think getting really big should be a priority, remember thats just more weight you have to carry, plus all your gear, plus a maybe a person. Just my two cents.

I should add this stuff in my above post, but this one is meant to be short and cut.

Very little isolation work should be done. No direct biceps or triceps work. No direct calves work. There’s no time for that and no one to look at your muscles while you’re in the academy and at a scene. Of course they’re all watching to see if you can do the job. Diet will make you or break you as far as size. In fact, some of the best crews have at least one bigger guy who can handle their own. But think of the rest of your crew. Can they handle you when you are down? Maybe that’s already been said?

No machine work unless it is the type where you are manually pulling a chain down to lift a block out of a car. In other words, you’re actually working and getting stronger/better.

Learn and Love rope climbing. It will save you lots of time. You are on track with the compound lifts especially for lower body work. You did cleans and snatches during football? There’s no need to discard them, no matter what anyone else tells you. Those kinds of lifts makes carrying patients/victims down many flights of stairs easier.

While crunches are nice in a ‘crunch’ gym, relearn the sit up. It’s more useful.

If you have ambitions to be a part of a rescue company, then really love your rope climbing with no feet. It’s usually the hardest thing to do for most guys just thinking about a rescue company. I’m still learning it.

You can always train by lifting people too. Make sure you don’t drop them. They don’t like that very much. Every possible way to secure a person, do it and walk with them. Then run.

Being bigger because of strength and diet does work in an advantage too. You can handle more gear. If you are in a state or county that has wild land fires then you will need to love hiking at different paces. Also learn to do it heavy.

That’s just based on experience.

Some of the toughest training you can possibly do and we’ve had great success with the Firefighter program that prepares you for work on the job.

Let me know how I can help.

In faith,

Coach Davies

“Rock Iron Steel” by Steve Justa.
Get it at the library or ask your buddy for his copy.

Being prior service and prior firefighter, I leaned towards stair cardio and offset weight lifting techniques.

Get a 55 gallon drum with sealable top. Bought one for 4 dollars at the salvage yard.

Fill it with a little sand or water, close the lid. Lift it on your shoulder, and walk fast, for X amount of paces, put it down, lift to other shoulder, repeat. Add more weight as needed.

Sled Drag…bigtime. Forward and reverse drag.

Homemade sand dummy atleast 200 pounds. Drag and firemans carry the shit out of it.

Split firewood with axe. If you dont have wood to split, I have plenty. And No, you cant take it home after you split it. :o)

Stairs, run upstairs. Get old ammo cans at the army navy store. Fill with sand, water, or cement. Carry up the stairs.
Sandbag dummy, up and down the stairs.

Jump rope interval training.

Jump rope for 2 minutes, drag dummy 100feet. Walk 100feet. 55gallon drum lift for 20feet switch shoulders, repeat for 100 feet. Pullups… Jump rope…

Get the idea? Good luck and be safe…

Thanks for all the info guys.
I’m going to do a run through of CT’s Running Man periodization, should I still have one or two days of longer less intense cardio for 20-30mins? I somehow want to incorporate fat loss, better endurance, and the conditioning all into one.