Physical Preparations for the Firefighter Combat Challenge

Many of America's firefighters are not up to the standard of passing CPAT, never mind the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

Many of America's firefighters are not up to the standard of passing CPAT, never mind the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is held around the country in many regional events. Thousand of spectators witness the best of the bravest, in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus performing the physical demands of real-life firefighting in a linked series of five tasks: climbing the five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175-pound "victim" as they race against time and their opponents.

The event inspires many smoke eaters to a higher level of physical conditioning. Unfortunately, those who need to be inspired most, rarely hear the call.

Many of America's firefighters are not up to the standard of passing CPAT, never mind the Firefighter Combat Challenge. There is resistance within the ranks to embrace physical conditioning programs because of general laziness and fear of reprisal. Both union and management see only the risk and expense, but not the long term benefit, reduction of risk, and saving of millions in health care and workmen's comp costs.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge helps bring the concept of the fit firefighter to the forefront, for all to see. Getting the boys out of the back room and into the weight room is the clear message. With that in mind, I'd like to offer a training program, designed to improve abilities and work capacity, within the five events featured in the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

Firefighter-Specific STS and Kettlebell Lifting
The Challenge, much like actual fire operations, are sequentially linked events. We don't get to take that break no matter how bad we need it. Our approach to training is exactly the same, but with much tighter control. Get more information on Mike's programs, click here..

Sequenced Timed Sets (STS), and my brand of kettlebell training are spot-on matches to what firefighters do every day, without the luxury of dropping the weight, or hoseline, when fatigue hits. In this article, I'll provide you with a relatively simple STS style program, primarily focused on the skills displayed during the Firefighter Combat Challenge. Okay, without any further ado, here's the routine.

Combat Challenge Drill

*Do supplementary cardio and/or stair climbing after the STS workout to round out the program.

Perform all exercises in the order listed. You should attempt to hit the goal rep on each move before adding reps. Rest as long as you need between sets, but attempt to reduce that rest time on future attempts. Keep resistance low and wear a weighted vest with caution. Now for some elaboration on each movement:

Squat Thrust Push Up Combo
The Squat Thrust is a traditional academy movement that gets your whole body into it. When done with a push up between every Squat Thrust rep, it can get truly challenging. Proceed slowly, and you'll note that all reps are listed as goal reps. Only do as many reps as you can, rest, finish off your reps, and move on. Eventually perform all reps called for without rest.

Push Press
The Push Press is simple to describe, sometimes hard to execute, but with practice you'll get it. Bring one dumbbell to your shoulder level. It should be relatively light, something you can press for about 20 times. Later, when you figure out how to move, you can work heavier. Remember, this is more about reps, not heavy weight.

While holding the dumbbell at shoulder level, allow your arm to relax against your body letting the elbow sink into your hip as much as possible. Your knees should be straight and your hips slightly forward. With a quick short and sharp dip of the knees (not a deep squat), followed immediately by a quick pop up, press the bell. Allow the arm to travel upward in a straight line with as little upper body effort as possible. Get your legs and hips into the drive up. The bell should be held at the top position with elbow locked out. There should be a brief pause at lockout, a moment where you just hold it, however briefly, before allowing it to drop back down to it's starting position (arm and elbow against body, bell at shoulder level, hips slightly forward, knees straight, body relaxed).

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