I posted a while ago asking about FFs who are just...petite. Anyhow, after a lot of thought, I've decided that once I get settled in (I'm moving across the country to finish college) I want to pursue fire. My question is this: What exercises would be good for me to physically prepare myself for the classes and training? I am a 5'1 1/2" (yes, the half inch is important when you're my height...haha), 110lb female. I'm not all that concerned with the classroom learning stuff; it's more just the physical demands of training and such that I am nervous about. Any thoughts?
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Thread: Preparing myself...
10-01-2004, 07:06 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2004
10-02-2004, 07:49 AM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2004
Without going into the female bashing that is so prevalent out there, I will ask you to look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself a few questions:
Are you capable of carrying a 250lb or larger PARTNER out of a burning building?
Are you capable of carrying 85 lbs of hose while wearing turnouts and SCBA up several flights of stairs, and then being in a condition to go to work?
Can you chop through a log with an axe in a reasonable amount of time?
Can you knock down a door or break through a wall with your own body as the only tool?
Can you drag 300 feet of 5" supply line in a straight line?
These are only a few real-world tasks a firefighter may have to perform. While they may not happen every day, when they are required, lives will depend on them being completed quickly and efficiently.
You will find many supporters in the female ff community that will tell you they do the job every day, and they're not bigger than you.
You will see male ff's on the job that can't complete these tasks.
None of that matters.
The only thing that does matter is when you look in the mirror and honestly assess your ability to perform these tasks; keep in mind that the only person you are fooling is yourself if your not honest.
You may be able to pass a test somewhere and get hired.
You may pass probation.
But in the back of your mind will always be the fear that one day you will be faced with your inabilites, and one of my brother's lives will be on the line. By not being able to do the task, someone's life will be lost, or a serious injury will occur.
The desire to become a firefighter is admirable. But don't let gender eqaulity in the workforce fool you about the challenges firefighters may face.
You'll probably disregard this post, and coninue in your pursuit irregardless of your abilities or inabilities. I wish you well, really.
But I know that you'll remember this message in the future. Hopefully, a tragedy won't have to happen before you answer some tough questions honestly.
As my Battalion Chief when I was a proby used to say, "There are those that can, and those that can't."
Honestly, which one are you?
10-02-2004, 01:37 PM #3
- Join Date
- Mar 2004
I really wish someone would simply answer the question as to what weight training would be good. Of course I am aware of some of my physical limitations at this point. I've not lifted for some time--don't get me wrong, I'm still in shape, but it's been a while since I was in weight training. Right now it would be ridiculous for me to be expecting myself to perform all of the physical tasks...but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try. If I don't cut it, I don't cut it. But I'll never be able to find out what I can and can't do if I am repeatedly discouraged.
And, as some FFs have told me, "you've got to have someone small to stick in those tight spaces." :-p
So, I ask again...what weight training/exercises/muscle groups specifically should I work on?
10-02-2004, 06:53 PM #4
- Join Date
- Aug 2004
Ok, let's just assume that with a little extra training you will be able to perform the tasks I mentioned above. A mighty big assumption, I think, but ok.
As a test proctor I tend to see some common areas for improvement amongst the unsuccesful candidates. I'll list these areas, along with possible ways to improve.
1.Cardiovascular endurance: should be obvious; however the problem appears to be that many candidates are training by doing a moderate intensity for a set amount of time (ie running 8:00 pace for 30 minutes). Sprint training helps here- jog, then sprint, jog, then sprint. Get used to short periods of extremely high intensity followed by levels of moderate intensity.
2. Grip strength: I watch many female candidates fail at stations that require lifting, hoisting or chopping; the most common cause is a lack of grip strength. While they may posess the upper body strength to do the task, they cannot apply that power because they can't maintain a tight grip. Try "real world" excercises like simply picking up a heavy (ie >60 lbs) dumbell in each hand and holding it for as long as you can, or pinching two 15lb plates in your fingers and holding them.Use the "fattest" bars you can find for all excersises. The bigger the bar, the more it makes your grip work. Hammer curls build great forearm strength.
3. Upperbody: Alot of females have underdeveloped upper body strength.
A good test is how many chin-ups or pull-ups you can do.The ability to move your own body weight is a fair test of your strength. A "strong" person will be able to do at least 10 pull ups easily.
This will build grip, arm and torso strength. Any "pulling" type excercise is great for developing dynamic strength- try lat pulls,upright rows, standing bicep curls.
4. Lower body: Another good test of general strength is sqauts: in general a "strong" person should be able to sqaut at least 1.5 times their weight for 10 reps. Trendy workouts in magazines build definition- that's not your goal here.Any workout that will "give you a tighter butt and flat abs" is not your goal.
Strength training is good old fashioned barbell sqauts, lots of weight, full range of motion. Sqauts build leg and torso strength, which is invaluable in regards to dynamic strength.
Bent rows and "clean and jerk" are also excellent ways to build dynamic strength.
In general, any excercise that involves moving a heavy weight with your whole body is what you want. Don't focus on each little body part- that's for impressing your date. Power lifters, football players, anyone that needs STRENGTH will typically do excercises that stress the whole body, to develop the ability to move heavy items by using the whole body. Do an online search for "core training". Core training is exactly what is needed here, and an area many people lack in general. Lot's of weight lifters will focus on holding perfect form while working out one little muscle group. Don't do that! Use the whole body in every excercise you do.
As always, you should check with a physician before starting any workout program, and any information you get online is worth exactly what you paid for it...
10-11-2004, 12:52 PM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2002
Go on girl...
First off, I must say that I admire your courage to chose a career in this field and wish you the best. As a female, I've faced much of this 'good ol' boy' mentality that pushes you to ask yourself "can you do the job?". I would like EVERYONE in this field to ask themselves that question, not just the women! I'd like to see some of these men do the very tasks they question a female can complete. You would be suprised what you can do when a fellow FF's life is on the line.
The answer to the question, yes you can...just as effectively as anyone else as long as you work hard. There are disadvantages to being pettite but there are advantages as well. Some of the FF's I went through fire school with couldn't fit thier big butts through the corrogated tubing we had to navigate durring drills. Some of these men couldn't pass the FF challenge when several women did.
As a female FF/EMT I bring a whole different set af attributes to the fire department. Some such as communication and sensitivity are invaluable when working with the public and in emergency situations. It's about heart, yes you must be strong physically and mentally, but heart will go a long way. It shouldn't be men vs. women, we all have the same goal...to help our communities and save lives. Support one another instead of facilitating some archaic BS that women can't do the job. We are already doing the job, so why wouldn't you support us and offer your wisdom instead of ridicule?
Now-onto fitness-sorry for the speech. If you have trouble staying motivated I reccommend getting into a boot camp style training class. It teaches you discipline while they get you in tip top shape. You'll do lots and lots of push-ps, hill-climbers and run your butt off. If you're planning to go career, it will also help prepare you for recruit school PT. Either way, the basics...run, stairmaster and core excercises such as plank, situps, push ups and squats.
10-27-2004, 11:52 PM #6
- Join Date
- Sep 2004
I'm not a ff, but I am a woman in the military for the past 9 years and in medic school. My advise is to run your buns off for cardio and learn to love squats. Build your legs with weights as well. Women have the majority of their strength in their legs...the rest is all about leverage! I liked the previous entry about the core excersises. You will need to have a strong back because that is what is injured most.
11-18-2004, 07:30 PM #7
What about asking yourself if you can do a job is a "good ol' boy" mentality? I am offended when I insist that anyone wanting to do the job should be able to do the job, without preference, and I am told by women that I have a "good ol' boy" mentality! I can honestly say that I have never been accused by any men of having a "good ol' boy" mentality when I insist that ANYONE desiring to do the job be able to do the job! Its only women. I've never heard a man that failed our physical agility test say the standard needed to be lowered to make it easier for him to pass. What they say is that they had better be in better shape next time. Unfortunately I can't say that about alot of the women that have failed.
What a "good ol' boy" mentality is is when men think that even women that CAN do the job don't belong there, and I think that is WRONG!!!
I know this is going to start some MAJOR fireworks when I say this, but women as a whole (and by design!) are not as physically strong as men and therefore have a difficult time completing the required task to become a firefighter. Am I saying there are not women out there that are stronger than some men? Of course not! Am I saying there are no weak men? Of course not!! As a matter of fact, compared to most men, I am not very physically gifted. What I am is I am able to complete EVERY tasked that has been asked of me to become a firefighter. What I hate to see is when they come up with physical agility tests that are geared to allow more women to pass. I think that is done to the detriment of the fire service. I think a physical agility test should be what it is and it shouldn't be changed because not enough women are passing. Our physical agility test is an example. VERY FEW women pass our test. As a matter of fact, ALOT of men don't pass our test!!! Should women expect the test to be changed so it will be easier to pass? I hope they wouldn't because what that would cause is division in the department. The women that are on my department are there because they BELONG there and can hold their heads high because what they did to get where they are is pretty impressive. As a matter of fact, the men that are on my department can hold THEIR heads high because what THEY did to get where they are is pretty impressive.
If you are interested in knowing what our physical agility test entails, go to
To ThanksALatte, good luck. If you want it bad enough, you will do it.If a fire is an emergency to the fire department, who do they call?
11-19-2004, 05:10 PM #8
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
Have you checked out www.firejock.com?
FF Juliet Draper is very motivational and also helpful on the Q & A section.
Regards and good luck,
Mark in LA
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