I coached professional athletes, and every aspect of their fitness was measured and compared to how they performed on the field. At Fireworks, we do not have access to replays, players, timers and/or monitoring of usage per phone.
When you entered the fire service, you were probably given a physical exam that provided the basic qualifications needed to do the job. How do we measure fitness and performance after joining the fire service?
NFPA 1500: Fire Department Standard for Occupational Safety, Health, and Welfare
He says that firefighters must undergo an annual medical examination and physical fitness test. The assessment must be supervised by a trained health professional and consist of five factors: body, flexibility (movement), muscle strength, muscle endurance and aerobic capacity.
Even if your department does not pay or participate, you can monitor your health and see your doctor for treatment. When it comes to physical exams, there are tests you can do.
Body mass index accurately describes your healthy weight and provides a better picture of your overall health than traditional measures, such as body mass index (BMI) and weight.
Why is the body so important? Obesity is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and several types of cancer. Abdominal fat accumulation is also closely related to cardiovascular events. Also, excess fat in the body can cause a decrease in performance.
How to try it: A common method of determining body composition uses curved calipers on the skin to pinch specific areas. The measurement is combined with age and gender and is entered into a specific formula to give an average body fat percentage.
There are inexpensive bioelectrical impedance devices to determine your body’s condition, or you can go to a gym to see if it has accurate measurements, such as the InBody test.
The most accurate way to measure body weight is in water testing, which is done in many universities and labs.
It is important to test once or twice a year to find out what is going on.
Unfortunately, many firefighters offer movement and flexibility training to work on their “calendar” or bench press numbers. However, when you are very fast, it is better to be able to move your parts through all their movements and not to be injured by fire / save.
Wall running shows functional weaknesses in the feet, hips, and lower back and upper back, which are areas where firefighters are strong and consistent.
How to try it: Face the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes three inches off the floor and slightly out. Squat as low as possible, keeping your feet on the ground, chest up and back naturally. Do not let any part of your body touch the wall.
● Being able to squat fully (thighs parallel or less on the floor) = athlete
● Squat half down = average
● Less than half or fall = needs work
Firefighting operations, such as forced entry, require a quick transfer of energy from the body to the weapon, such as swinging a hammer. Power also helps firefighters quickly pull heavy objects, such as hoselines and victims.
The broad jump is one of the greatest measures of raw power. It requires several muscle groups to fire at the same time. The stronger and more explosive you are, the more power you will generate and the more you will jump.
How to try it: Stand behind the marked line and jump forward as far as you can by waving your arms and bending your knees to guide you. Three attempts are allowed, and you must land on both feet without falling backwards.
● Jump more than 7½ feet = fast
● 5 ½–7½ feet = average
● Less than 5½ feet = needs work
Aggressive attacks inside a fire and lifting a ladder with heavy equipment to access a roof, among other tasks, require both strength and the ability to work at close range in minute bursts (anaerobic endurance). The more quality air you use, the longer you can stay on fire.
The best way to test this is to engage in vigorous, highly taxing exercise. I personally like the deadlift-curl-to-press test, because it works on motor movements.
How to try it: Use dumbbells that are about 30 percent of your body weight. Hold them at your sides with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand up straight, keeping your back natural and your head up, then pull your hips and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor (deadlift). While standing, curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height and push them straight up. Return to the starting position and repeat several times in one minute.
● 18 or more repetitions in one minute = fast
● 11–17 reps = average
● 10 reps or less = needs work
Many people think of a strong core as the equivalent of a nice six pack, but the truth is that the abdominal muscles are the smallest part of the core. The core consists of many muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis and run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles are properly aligned, they form a strong foundation to support movement.
The plank test is a great way to measure core muscle control and endurance.
How to try it: Lie face down with your elbows under your shoulders. Lift your hips and place your weights in your fingers and hands to create a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold this position for as long as possible. When your hips drop or your knees touch the floor, pause.
● More than 2 minutes = fast
● 1–2 minutes = average
● Less than 1 minute = needs work
Aerobic capacity is the amount of oxygen your body can consume during intense physical activity and is often considered the best indicator of athletes’ (especially firefighters’) stamina and endurance.
One of the easiest ways to test aerobic capacity is to run a mile and a half.
How to try it: Run/walk as fast as you can. You can try it on a track, try out a course in your area or run/walk on a treadmill. (When running on the treadmill, keep the incline of the treadmill at zero.) The time it takes to complete.
● Under 11 minutes = runner
● 11–14 minutes = average
● More than 14 minutes = needs work
Not everyone is “fast”. The burpee gets the heart working and mimics the growth of the fire/rescue. Over the years, I modified the test to make it safer and easier on the shoulders.
How to try it: Start standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Turn and drop down. Place your hands on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. While holding the upper body, pull the legs back. Hold your body in a resting position—even if you’re not doing a pushup. Keeping your upper body upright, pull your legs forward on the outside of your hands (protecting your knees). Stand in the same position as before, raise your arms up and add a jump. Do as many repetitions as you can in three minutes.
· 40 reps or more = fast
· 20-39 reps = average
· 19 reps or less = needs work
“What does running a mile and a half have to do with being able to do the job,” you may ask? I also hear, “The BMI test is not accurate, because muscle weighs more than fat.”
In some cases, I agree that these tests may not be relevant to the work we do in the fire department, and there is a push to define lower standards that link hard data to performance. Until then, you should try the test glass, which is very important.
How to try it: Take a good look at your fitness level and see where you are. Do you have extra pounds that you would do well to lose? Do you exercise regularly? When was the last time you did strenuous exercise while wearing SCBA? Are you doing everything you can to reduce your health risks and stay fit for work?
If you have any doubts, start making positive changes.
I recommend doing this, or a fitness assessment, every few months, to keep yourself accountable, motivate yourself to get fitter, and make sure you’re minimizing your team’s risks while improving your fitness.