Job Specific Training

Sept. 5, 2006
Firefighters are elite athletes. They dig deep into their hearts to make the difference.

Performance enhancement and injury prevention are the goals of all elite athletes. Enhancement allows us to just plain be better, bigger, stronger, and faster. In the case of firefighters, it allows them to be more effective in saving more lives. Injury prevention allows a person to do the job (or sport) without injuring themselves or others.

Firefighters are elite athletes. They show up, at the toughest of times, when the chips are down, to save lives. They dig deep into their hearts to make the difference that may save the life of our loved ones. They need to be strong, and perform at peak levels to help people to the best of their ability. Further, they need to do this while preserving their health and physical integrity. This allows them to do the same the next week and save our precious parents and children! The CPAT exam process is used to weed out the people who are not yet ready or able to train to do the job. It is a proven set of tasks that emulate the bare minimum required on the job. For details on more events and exercises, Click Here

The job of the firefighter is often performed by very big and very strong people. Many do a great job as it is. Big people, imagine this: instead of carrying one adult out of that burning building, what if the big and strong person was even stronger, and could carry two (small) people out at the same time? Or had the stamina and VO2 max to go back in and get another rather than pant on the sidewalk when they are done with the first one? Big strong people are important, and can be made even bigger and even stronger with job specific training. After all, why settle for mediocrity when greatness awaits?

This job of firefighter carries a huge responsibility. The heart, passion, and mental toughness it takes does not always come in the biggest packages. Sometimes we are blessed with the burning desire, the brains, but not the brawn. The smaller firefighter can fit into the small places, and use sports specific training to get the job done safely. Again: "Why settle for mediocrity when greatness awaits?"

Unfortunately, many firefighters who are in service have allowed their fitness to wane. They have become what is termed deconditioned athletes. This can lead to many types of work and recreational related injuries. It's not a matter of how they look: looks can be deceiving. It's a matter of how the musculature (and other soft tissue) supports the bones. Their interrelated function determines how well and how safely a person can perform a given set of tasks.

I have worked with injuries (treatment, rehab and prevention) since I was 18 - that's 20 years. If you read this and you do not yet have an injury, and you ignore this and do nothing, that will be very sad. You could get injured! You might cheat the children out of your potential. Get on with it...step on to the next place. It's yours. Take it. Share yourself. Do what you know is right.

I have read and referenced one book dozens of times over the years. The book was called Jumping into Plyometrics, written by a man named Donald A. Chu, PhD. He wrote: "Plyometrics is exercise designed to enhance the athlete's ability to blend speed and strength training...can start quicker, change direction, more rapidly, accelerate faster, and improve overall speed...Plyometrics is defined as exercises that enable the muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible... known as power". His book is amazing, and his knowledge and writings are something you should reference, if not now, than during your life. I have used as a basis for building weight training tailored to do the very same: maximize power and explosive strength in the least amount of time possible... safely.

In creating a training plan, I look at the job that needs to be done and tasks within it that need to be done repeatedly and frequently. The movements that are done on the job can be imitated, and then resistance added. This can be done via weight or gravity. Every activity that needs to be performed by a firefighter can be evaluated this way. Let's talk, for instance, about the ceiling breach and pull. It is the last exercise done in the CPAT. This task is not very difficult in and of itself. But, it must be performed when the candidate is already winded and tired. So, I leave this exercise group to the very end of the workout on that day. The 2 exercises used are the bicep upper-cut and the one handed rope pull.

Bicep Upper-Cut
Start with a dumbbell that is the same weight with which you would do hammer curls. Hold it in your non-dominant hand, palm facing you at shoulder height - the same position as the top of your bicep curl. Thrust up quickly until your elbow is almost straight. Be careful, jamming your elbow into full extension here can cause injury. This motion would be very similar to an upper-cut a boxer would use if their opponent was very close. The first set, do 12 reps on the non-dominant arm, and the same on the dominant arm. The second, third, and fourth sets, you'll go to failure (or max 25 reps) on your non-dominant, and follow immediately with the same number on the dominant arm. If you reach 25 reps, and you are still not struggling, go up in weight the next workout. If you don't make it to four sets of 25 reps, keep working at it until you can do all four sets. Then you can increase your weight.

Rest Period
There is no rest period in this sequence. Move quickly to the other exercise, back, and so on. As soon as you are done with a set of bicep uppercuts, and put the weight on the floor, begin the next exercise within five seconds. This pace will be continued for four super-sets.

One-Handed Rope Pulls
Use the rope handle set up on the tricep pushdown machine. (See under Event #6: Ceiling Breach and Pull here.) Sit on the floor in front of the machine, facing it. Set the pin for half your body weight. Grasp the rope in your non-dominant hand. Work that side, then your strong side. Pull the rope down quickly, and release slowly up so the weight almost touches the stack. The first set should be 25 reps and be pretty easy. Each successive set, add 10 pounds. The number you do should not exceed 20, the last rep very difficult. Since each set is with a heavier weight, the number done will decrease. If you are able to do 20 on all sets, increase your start weight next workout. Move swiftly after each set, back up to a standing position for the bicep upper cut.

Number of Super Sets
Do these two exercises for four super-sets for a month. Then add a fifth super set and month later a sixth super set. These exercises will significantly increase your ability to perform the ceiling breach and pull, both on the test and on the job. 

DR. JEN MILUS is the author Fire it Up Agility Training

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