Monday, April 16, 2012

Firefighters: How Important Is Physical Fitness?

Firefighting is dangerous work.  Each year, approximately 80,000 firefighters are injured and about 100 firefighters lose their lives in the line of duty.  Firefighters face multiple dangers in the course of their work; they encounter toxic fumes, dangerous products of combustion, high radiant heat loads, and a chaotic work environment. 

Despite the abundance of dangers, the leading cause of line-of-duty death among firefighters is sudden cardiac event.  Sudden cardiac events account for approximately 45% of line-of-duty deaths Firefighting requires high levels of aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and being in optimal physical condition also significantly decreases the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.  The safety of the public and the health and safety of firefighters would be enhanced if firefighters followed well-designed fitness programs to improve overall health and fitness.

An excellent basic routine for firefighters to begin implementing is as follows:
  • Getups – This functional “get up and down” exercise works your body as one unit, utilizing core muscles and balance throughout the major muscle groups.
  • Crawling – Also called bear crawls, this crawling quad-ped movement improves hip, trunk, and overall body control and is an important element for enhancing physical performance.
  • Cross Chop – This cross lunge motion is a challenging exercise targeting core muscles, thigh muscles, and arm muscles.
  • Pushups – Most people are familiar with the pushup but this simple exercise can be modified with one foot, one hand, cross feet, and serpentine modifications.
  • Deadlift – As part of maintaining back health, the deadlift works lower back, glutials, and hamstrings with use of weights.
  • Power Sled Pulls/Drags – The sled pull or drag perfectly mimics some of the common movements of carrying hose or heavy equipment.
  • Cable/Band Pulls – The use of resistance bands to flex the muscles of the back and arms is an extremely effective upper body movement exercise.
  • Lunges – Another commonly known movement that can be further enhanced with the use of dumbbells.
  • Step ups – An strong lower body routine that mimics aerobic exercise and can be used in conjunction with weights or dumbbells.
  • A Core Series – The core muscles are the nexus of strength and a highly vigorous routine will help improve balance, overall strength, performance, and help prevent injury.
These exercises have a high transfer of effect, are also movement based, and will mimic movements you naturally utilize while in action.  Along with keeping you in good physical condition, these exercises will strengthen the muscles that are heavily taxed when on a fire call, such as your legs and back.

You can also get creative and work out with simple equipment laying around your department.  Check out the following video to see an entire workout series utilizing nothing but department tools and space!

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