3 Exercises to Prolong Your Career as a Firefighter

The goal of every first responder’s workout program should be to improve performance, reduce injuries and prolong your career. Sometimes we lose track of this goal and get sidetracked by illusions of big biceps, flat tummies or beach bodies. These programs and goals are great if you are posing in a calendar but do not always transfer to better fireground performance. The exercises you perform should be functional and help you do your job as a first responder.

Check out this video to learn three exercises that will help you move better on the fireground (and off). When performed regularly, they can help reduce injuries and prolong your career as a firefighter.


Need a quick recap?

#1: Spiderman with Rotation

Mobility is crucial to the fire rescue athlete. The better and more efficiently you move, the better you perform. The Spiderman with Rotation exercise improves total body mobility, loosening hamstrings, hips and back muscles. Perform 5 reps each side before you workout or before your next shift.

How to perform: Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Step to the outside of your right foot with your right leg. Try to get your foot as close to your hand as possible. From this position lift your right hand and rotate it toward the ceiling (as high as you can). Hold this position for 3 seconds and then return to the starting push-up position. Alternate sides.

#2: Plank with Rotation

Every movement performed on the fire and rescue scene involves the core. We routinely lift, twist, push and pull, all of which requires our core to be strong and flexible. The Plank with Rotation exercise will help to improve your core strength through different planes of motion. This is the regular plank on steroids and can help you avoid back injuries caused by twisting motions.

How to perform: Assume a plank position with elbows bent and your forearms and toes on the floor. Draw your abdomen inward toward your spine. From this position, slowly lift one arm off the floor and rotate it toward the ceiling. Rotate your feet and body to the side plank position. You may want to keep both feet on the floor for more balance or stack them for more of a challenge. Hold this rotated position for 3 seconds and return to the starting plank position. Repeat the rotation on the other side. Remember: Form is more important than speed. Perform each rep slowly with good control. Go too fast and you could over-rotate. Try to perform 5 reps on each side.

#3: Deadlift and Carry

Deadlifts and Carries are independently two of the best exercises you can do as a fire rescue athlete. We routinely pick up heavy objects and carry them and need to mimic this movement in our workouts. Deadlifts improve your ability to lift heavy objects and the Carry improves shoulder stability, core strength, grip strength and overall work capacity. Combine them and the results are even better!

How to perform: Start with some dumbbells or a trap bar with a weight you can easily control. As you get stronger you can increase your weights. Start light and work your way up as your form improves. Squat to the floor with good form, keep your feet flat, legs hip-width apart and your head and chest up, and grab the weights. Stand up with a weight in each hand, keeping your chest and head up to avoid placing too much stress on your lower back. From the standing position, maintain good posture and begin to walk. You can walk for a set amount of time or for a distance. At the completion of the distance and/or time, slowly squat down (with good form) and place the weights on the floor—that is 1 rep. Try to do 5 reps walking 5 to 20 feet each rep.

I know these exercises will help you improve your functional strength and mobility. All you have to do is consistently perform them!

Stay safe, stay positive and “GET FRF” (Fire Rescue Fit).

Questions or comments? Contact me at zamzowfitness@gmail.com or visit Fire Rescue Fitness.

Aaron Zamzow

AARON ZAMZOW is a firefighter/training officer for Madison (Wisconsin) Fire Department with 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer and host of the Better Every Shift podcast. He holds a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness as well as a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. He is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, an NASM certified personal trainer and an ACE-certified peer fitness trainer. Zamzow is the founder and owner of FireRescueFitness.com and develops programs aimed at getting fire rescue athletes fit for duty. He authored the book "Ladder 2 Workout: A Comprehensive Firefighter Workout Program that will get you 'Fit for Duty' in 28 days." Connect with Zamzow on Twitter at @GetFRFit, on Facebook at Fire Rescue Fitness or at zamzowfitness@gmail.com.

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