Who is Responsible for the Unfit Firefighter?

Most firefighters don't seem to understand what they're training for, and continue to train like power lifters or bodybuilders in the gym, and distance runners in the field.


By taking a quick look at the typical tasks, it's easy to see how the strength-endurance training should be an important aspect of firefighting.

Pushing Limits with Training Specificity

Through hands-on training with men and women at all levels, I've discovered some of the most efficient ways to mimic workloads and timing sequences of typical fire department operations. Exercises, such as the dumbbell squat press or the low cable deadlift/row, as well as kettlebell jerks and snatches, place huge demands on the human body's explosive strength and work capacity.

Forget about isolation training or fretting about the effect on a particular muscle or muscle group. The dynamic qualities of speed, power, endurance, strength, balance, timing, conditioning, coordination, and general overall performance are prioritized.

Real progress is accomplished by pushing your limits of strength and endurance with sustained, explosive sets that, in some sense, mimic the duration of many firefighting operations. As a bonus, a greater level of safety is built directly into a program that doesn't call for dangerously heavy resistance as the only method to create intensity.

Ask Yourself These Questions

What builds strength? Moving a heavy-level resistance a few times. What builds endurance? Moving a low level resistance many times. So, what's the best way to build the strength/endurance that I need for every fire I fight? Moving a challenging, but moderate, level of resistance in a safe and functional capacity many times within one extended set, or in sequential loops of various non-stop sets.

Following is a list of 18 possible strength endurance exercises:

  • Push-up
  • Hindu push-up
  • Pull-up
  • Jump squat
  • Squat, machine, barbell or dumbbell
  • Squat thrust or mountain climber
  • Squat press
  • Overhead press
  • Push press
  • Kettlebell or dumbbell swing
  • Kettlebell jerk
  • Kettlebell snatch
  • Cable dead lift and row
  • Dumbbell dead lift
  • Yoga plank
  • Step up
  • Lunge, forward, rear and side
  • Wind sprints

My custom firefighter programs feature many of the listed exercises, and will form part of a strength-endurance system, designed around your exact needs.


Mike Stefano, retired FDNY captain, is the author and creator of The Firefighter's Workout. For more information and firefighter task-specific training, visit Captain Mike's website at: www.firefightersworkout.com