Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for Duty: July 2012

Sherry Dean   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

Finally, we’re on to some resistance training – and I’m not talking about resisting doing it!

Finally, we’re on to some resistance training – and I’m not talking about resisting doing it! Let’s take a look at some specific fire-ground tasks and exercises that will help make you more fit to do them. Keep in mind that training does not have to take hours. On the contrary, when you compare the relatively short and intense spurts of exertion on the fire ground to the training you do to prepare, it makes sense to keep both efforts as close as possible. You can complete a great workout in 20 to 30 minutes.

These types of workouts are not iron-pumping, single-rep max workouts. There is very little down time. Having said that, rest when you need to rest, and never let your form suffer. Injuries occur when you become fatigued. This is not an excuse to give up just because it’s hard. Work hard – the payoff is worth it.

The following circuit-style workout is based on one-minute evolutions. If you can’t complete a full minute of any exercise, don’t worry – you are working toward it. Take a few seconds to recover from the burn, and jump back in. This approach to training will not only help improve strength, but also it will help with endurance. Endurance on the fire ground is good.

We all do different kinds of fire fighting. Be brave and adjust your workout to suit your specific needs. The weights you use will depend on your overall strength. Keep it challenging, but remember that one minute is your goal. You can purchase weight bands very economically. They are great to use for many of the following exercises.


Hauling hose – one minute
On the fire ground, wish I were 6’2” and a lean 225 pounds, but that’s not my reality. I find hauling a charged hose line can be a , so I work hard at good quad strength and cardio endurance. This is an easy (OK, easy as far as technique goes) exercise and requires either a partner or a weighted hose line. Old tires make great weights. If you need room, the truck bay is a great site. Both partners complete this evolution.

Using a rope, towel or hose line over your shoulder, pull your partner or counter weight from one end of the bay to the other and repeat.

Breach and pull – one minute
Connect about one metre (three feet) of rope to a hose roll or other weight. With both hands gripping the rope in front of you, raise the weight as high as you can and return it to the floor. Weight bands are great for this exercise. Attach the band to a low anchor (or step on it). Remember to control the weight while you are returning it back to the floor: don’t just let it drop back down.

Stair climbing – one minute
Pick up a hose roll (hug it tight to your chest) or slip some weights in a backpack and find a flight of stairs. Even if it’s three or four, up and down you go. One step will do with the right weight resistance. Step up, right and left, then down right and left. Switch your lead foot after 30 seconds.

Rope pull – one minute
Attach a long rope to a hose roll, tire or weight of some kind. Sit on the floor and pull the weight along the floor to you. Once you complete the pull, get up, walk to where the weight started and pull it back. Repeat.

Striking tool swings – one minute
Use your department’s sledgehammer against a tire or heavy timber (eye protection must be worn if you are using timber). Start with easy, light swings so you can gauge bounce-back. Work up to good swings as if you were forcing entry or doing manual roof ventilation. 

Rescue drag – one minute
As with the first exercise, use your partner or a weight to mimic a rescue drag. If using a partner, make sure you each complete this evolution. Ensure you are using good form when you lift; don’t straighten your legs and then lift with your back. 

Push-ups – one minute
I know, I know, it’s not a fire-ground task. Maybe someday you’ll make a bet with the rookie to see who can do more push-ups. Surprise the rookie and kick some butt. Now stop complaining, drop and give me a minute. There are a million kinds of push-ups on the Internet. When you get good at military push-ups change it up.

Cardio – one minute
One minute of cardio: jumping jacks, running on the spot or around,  Keep up your intensity – it’s only a minute. You get to rest for a minute when you are done. Get a quick drink, keep your feet moving and start again.

One last look
OK, we have eight exercises: hauling hose, breech and pull, stair climbing, rope pull, striking tool, rescue drag, push-ups and cardio. The aim is three times through at one-minute intervals with one-minute rest between, for 36 minutes in total. You do not have to start with that. Try 30-second or 45-second intervals if you like. Or do one or two rounds to start and work up to three. If you have another exercise you would rather do, great! Do what you love; it’s all beneficial. There is a plethora of information online and you need not get bored. Change is good. OK, enough talking. Get to it.

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service and a volunteer captain with the Blockhouse & District Fire Department. Contact her at

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