T Nation

Strongman Training for Firefighting

I want to start doing some strongman training so I can ‘beef up’ for the fire department. I don’t have a whole lot of money, so I’m wanting to build as much as I can. Anybody out there have any tips? What have y’all built?

I don’t have any tips, but i would also be interested in this topic.

what do you want to build? i have bookmarked and or built many pieces myself.

you can make an axle from galvanized pipe and some rubber collars as the stoppers. the same pipe can be used to make farmers handles with some 8-12" nipples for handles.

call around to some john deere dealerships to get some tractor tires. sometimes they may ask to pay you to take it off their hands, lol. no joke. i got a 200, 300 and 400 tire, the guy drove 150 miles, and wanted to pay me.

get some pvc, 3-4" to start, fill it 1/3 to 1/2 with water and bam! slosh pipe.

I used to be a firefighter and have competed in powerlifting. Strengh is always important, but once you have enough - it has fast diminishing returns. Decent strength with a lot of strength endurance is more important.

As a firefighter I could raw bench press 440 lbs and squat high 600’s - and was first place (all time) for my department the record for our physical test- which was prolonged obstacle course - lifting, dragging running stairs, pushing, pulling stuff, etc in a timed event.

We had 5 minutes or 6 minutes to complete it to pass - and I did it in 2:15 seconds - with a 10 second penalty for missing a step.

We later did the test again but this time it was not based on time but the goal was to finish it as many times as possible on one tank of air, in full gear. I did it 1.5 times and ran out of air - and may have puked my guts out. I was strong and pretty fast but I had little endurance. I was trained for a sprint and for power.

A guy who finished with a time of 2:20 (just 5 seconds behind me) later completed the test 4 times in a a row - setting a different record. He did this on one tank of air in a very fast time. He was pretty strong (275lb bench), lean and quite honestly was way better prepared for firefighting than I was. I think he could have beaten my time in the single time through as well if we had more chances.

With gear on, a very large, strong guy will run out of air in their tank in maybe 8-12 minutes without focusing on cardio. (it should last 30-40 minutes under light activity) The bigger and more muscular you are the faster you will go through it.

I would suggest you train more like a MMA fighter than a pure strength athlete. Mix in some heavy training (core powerlifting movements Shoulder press, deadlifts, squats, bench, any strongman stuff you want to do) are fine - but you also need to do stair runs, do body weight chins, push-ups get ready for prolonged endurance efforts (20- 60 minutes in duration). Put on a 25- 100lbs back or weighted vest and train for 20 - 30 minutes - stair climbing and maybe some interval training.

Heavy lifting maybe 3x week (movements for shoulders, chest, back, squat, deadlift)
Endurance work 3x week (same or different days)

Sprint intervals
Stairs and hill sprints
Stairs with weighted vests
Dynamic things like sled hammers,pull sleds and car pushing, fun.
Maybe some upperbody endurance work very high rep stuff (push-ups, etc)

This is what I made. Tires sit on quite loose but it works great haha.

Thanks for the responses, I’m guessing the OP is long gone by now.

I was interested in the strongman aspect because i’ve always kind of wanted to get into highland games or something, and i went through about a 6 week phase this spring where i had grown basically bored of my basic barbell training and was hoping to spice things up with some heavy throws, and stuff like that. However i would say i’m not nearly handy enough to make most of these strong man implements. (or maybe i’m just too lazy? sigh)

Chronus - cheers! I work for a wildfire fighting crew in BC, and my fit test is coming up around may 7th or 8th (haven’t heard the exact day yet) and yeah its pretty much all cardio. I mean if you are so weak you can’t lift the implements then its not, but once you can lift pack/pump/hose etc… its pretty much all cardio, so that is what i have been training the last little while. we transitioned this year to the new fit test (for wildfire) that is basically running up and down a really steep ramp 50 times with a 65lbs rucksack. then a pump carry and a hose drag. Its harder than it sounds, last year i almost got bronchitis afterwards from breathing so hard for so long. that time i passed with about a minute to spare, this year my goal is just to pass and not get sick afterwards from pushing myself too hard. Some of the bigger guys on the crews beat my time by 4 minutes, so strength def does help, but for me and most cardio is the limiting factor.

anyways

[quote]zenontheterrible wrote:
Chronus - cheers! I work for a wildfire fighting crew in BC, and my fit test is coming up around may 7th or 8th (haven’t heard the exact day yet) and yeah its pretty much all cardio. I mean if you are so weak you can’t lift the implements then its not, but once you can lift pack/pump/hose etc… its pretty much all cardio, so that is what i have been training the last little while. we transitioned this year to the new fit test (for wildfire) that is basically running up and down a really steep ramp 50 times with a 65lbs rucksack. then a pump carry and a hose drag. Its harder than it sounds, last year i almost got bronchitis afterwards from breathing so hard for so long. that time i passed with about a minute to spare, this year my goal is just to pass and not get sick afterwards from pushing myself too hard. Some of the bigger guys on the crews beat my time by 4 minutes, so strength def does help, but for me and most cardio is the limiting factor.

anyways

[/quote]

I wonder how you have determined that cardio is the limiting factor. Is it just because you get really out of breath doing it? You should see my 2 year-old son deadlift my 10lb dumbbell handle (he uses a mixed grip) and carry it halfway across the apartment to the heap of things he is stockpiling for goodness knows what purpose. After he sets it down, he’s sucking wind pretty hard. But his limiting factor is obviously more strength than cardio.

I know nothing about your test beyond what you’ve said, but the fact that some of the bigger guys are doing better than you tells me that strength may be more important than you think. Obviously you don’t have much time before the test and probably the best way to prepare is to get your conditioning up. But long term, getting stronger might be a good plan to consider. When a load is 70% of your max, for example, you’re going to get pretty winded carrying it, especially since carrying a heavy load makes it harder to breath. If you get stronger and make it 50% or 60% of your max, it will start to be easier to breath.

[quote]Silyak wrote:

[quote]zenontheterrible wrote:
Chronus - cheers! I work for a wildfire fighting crew in BC, and my fit test is coming up around may 7th or 8th (haven’t heard the exact day yet) and yeah its pretty much all cardio. I mean if you are so weak you can’t lift the implements then its not, but once you can lift pack/pump/hose etc… its pretty much all cardio, so that is what i have been training the last little while. we transitioned this year to the new fit test (for wildfire) that is basically running up and down a really steep ramp 50 times with a 65lbs rucksack. then a pump carry and a hose drag. Its harder than it sounds, last year i almost got bronchitis afterwards from breathing so hard for so long. that time i passed with about a minute to spare, this year my goal is just to pass and not get sick afterwards from pushing myself too hard. Some of the bigger guys on the crews beat my time by 4 minutes, so strength def does help, but for me and most cardio is the limiting factor.

anyways

[/quote]

I wonder how you have determined that cardio is the limiting factor. Is it just because you get really out of breath doing it? You should see my 2 year-old son deadlift my 10lb dumbbell handle (he uses a mixed grip) and carry it halfway across the apartment to the heap of things he is stockpiling for goodness knows what purpose. After he sets it down, he’s sucking wind pretty hard. But his limiting factor is obviously more strength than cardio.

I know nothing about your test beyond what you’ve said, but the fact that some of the bigger guys are doing better than you tells me that strength may be more important than you think. Obviously you don’t have much time before the test and probably the best way to prepare is to get your conditioning up. But long term, getting stronger might be a good plan to consider. When a load is 70% of your max, for example, you’re going to get pretty winded carrying it, especially since carrying a heavy load makes it harder to breath. If you get stronger and make it 50% or 60% of your max, it will start to be easier to breath. [/quote]

Yeah i totally agree with and get what your saying… more strength is always better! I’ve been working on strength consistently for the last two years, while its not particularly impressive i’ve made some decently consistent gains. This winter i added about 20lbs to my bench, squat and DL PR’s, which like i said isn’t much but i’ll take it! as long as i’m making progress.

The main reason i’ve determined cardio as the limiting factor, is because the strong guys who do well on the test also have better cardio than me, but the guys on my crew who have great cardio but are weak as fuck also do better than me on the test, the only guys who do worse than me are the ones who have similar or worse cardio but are also not as strong.

But on a personal level, i know that cardio is a weakness of mine (one i’ve been working on so its not as bad as it used to be). Last year i would consistently finish in the bottom 3 of my 20 man crew for anything cardio, but was in the top 3-5 for strength. In the lager zone of about 80 firefighters, I STILL finished in the bottom 5 for cardio!! and finished in the top %10 for strength (although there are about 5 or 6 guys that literally double my strength, and half of them can run a 6mile faster than me!).

here is a crappy video of some frenchies doin the fit test. When you watch it it looks so easy! haha, but it is much harder than it looks.

the video is pretty boring, so i’ll summarize, i think its 4 laps with the 65lbs ‘pump’ on your back, then 2 laps around carrying the pump (but not having to go up the ramp), then 25 laps with the 55lbs backpack (which back and forth is 50 times up and down the ramp), then at the end (11:20) its 4 laps of dragging the sled, which i think is pre-measured to give 90lbs of drag when you are pulling it. A pass time here in BC is 14:20 (I think, i got about 13:25 last year and they said i had just under a minute left), and in ontario and quebec the pass time is 17:00. But yeah the only reason i posted the video is to show that its mostly cardio, with a small strength element - the weaker members will struggle with the sled drag at the end, but most of us will make up time on the sled drag.

oh and you have to wear a 10lbs weight belt the whole time.