Firefighter and Candidate Fitness

Building task-specific skill reduces the need for excessive strength and endurance by as much as 500 percent.

Whether you plan to take a fire department physical abilities test (C-PAT) or need to improve performance with a specific job related skill, there is a more effective way to boost real technique, and it's more effective than doggedly lifting weights or running alone. For a great weight training program, click here.

Building task-specific skill reduces the need for excessive strength and endurance by as much as 500 percent. Eliminating extra, unwarranted motion and needless effort (associated with inexperience) can dramatically reduce work expenditure.

Imagine a toddler taking his first steps. His shaky movements are far from energy efficient. His little legs waver, searching for the floor, sometimes misjudging, and always leading to the inevitible tumble. But the little boy doesn't lack adequate strength or endurance necessary for walking, but rather the motosensory skills.

Think of your nervous system as a complex grid of city streets that connect your entire musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones) to your brain. The connection between brain, spinal cord, and ultimately muscle fibers themselves, is a web of both motor nerves (signals movement) and sensory nerves (provides feedback). But in the case of our toddler, or an inexperienced adult, the roads are covered with snow and need to be "plowed" before traffic can move in either direction.

Decades of training with Olympic level athletes (both in Eastern Europe and the United States) has led to an established protocol for athletic, or task-specific, skill development. It seems that to best plow this pristine network of nerve fibers (or learn to swing a sledge hammer), first make small passes with a very light effort many times.

Later, when the roads are wide open, you can race and haul heavy loads. But if you attempt to much too soon, you'll either hit a complete roadblock, or at best treacherous, slippery asphalt, where good skills are never learned.

Learn CPAT skills, click here.

  1. The Walkthrough - learn the basic motions
    Low intensity effort ensure proper form and technique is engrained into your central nervous system.
  2. Practice Makes Perfect - perfect all aspects
    Moderate to sub-max effort comes closer to the actual event intensity, and allows you to practice at near-test level.
  3. The Need for Speed - reduce time
    Intense effort required to build the time you can move through the event. Speed and strength (next step) combine to build explosive power.
  4. Maximum Effort - build strength
    Maximum effort and power required to build on the difficulty level (intensity) of previously increased pace.
  5. The Endurance Factor - build endurance
    Intense effort with short duration cardio for short term
    Moderate effort with long duration cardio for long term

Regardless of the actual event or task you're trying to improve upon, the above 5-step process can be rigidly or losely applied. In the below example, we'll work through the preparation for a typical CPAT event, the Dummy Drag, to help demonstrate the 5-step process in action.

The Event

The candidate, wearing a 50-pound weighted vest must drag a 150-pound dummy a distance of 60 feet, while making two, 90-degree turns in under 24 seconds.


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