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6 Training Ideas for Firefighters

Training to become a firefighter is different from most jobs' training because it requires extreme discipline as well as extreme versatility. Firefighting is a physically and mentally demanding job. The role requires candidates to not only lift heavy things and exhibit superhuman endurance but also think on their feet and make split-second risk calculations. In order to prepare, you need to train both your body and your mind.

Having served in the military will certainly get your boot in the door. But, there are challenging tests of physical and mental capacity that are no laughing matter. Read on to learn more about ideas anyone interested in becoming a firefighter should include in their training.

Training for Firefighters

Most fire departments require applicants to complete the CPAT or the Candidate Physical Ability Test. During this test, candidates will wear a 50 pound vest, long pants, gloves, and a helmet. While climbing the stairs, an additional 25 pounds is added to their shoulders. This extra weight slows you down and tires you out, no matter how in shape you consider yourself.

In addition to this impediment, they ask candidates to perform very specific tasks, like carrying a heavy hose, raising a ladder, or knocking down a door with a sledgehammer. So you need to develop the muscles to complete these activities while under duress.

Stew Smith, a former NAVY seal and now a Strength and Conditioning specialist who shares his fitness expertise on Military.com, suggests a multi-dimensional approach if you're interested in becoming a firefighter. He recommends a periodization program he has perfected over 20 years of trial and error. It approaches your training with specific movements meant to work on different aspects of your physical fitness, from endurance to agility.

His words of advice to those interested in firefighting or military service are to "Train like your buddy’s life depends on it." For an aspiring firefighter, this advice couldn't be more apt.

1. Stair Climb

One of the CPAT events is the stair climb. Performance Health recommends building your endurance by training on stairs. Instead of climbing up and down multiple flights of stairs, start small.

Focus first on one step. Step up on one step with both feet and then down. Repeat this action 24 times in one minute, and keep this up for five minutes. You can add to the difficulty of this exercise by putting on a 25 lb vest. The next level of difficulty is doing this exercise while holding a 10-15 lb dumbbell in each hand.

2. Hose Drag

Preparing for the hose drag event in the CPAT is extremely important. Since most people don't have a fire hose lying around their house to practice with, it’s common to use a 50-foot rope attached to a tire or cement block as a stand-in.

Once you have your homemade hose ready, build your endurance by holding the hose over your shoulder and running 70 feet. Next, kneel (with only one knee on the ground) and pull the attached tire or cement block towards you. Use the hand-over-hand technique as you drag the weight closer.

You'll need to repeat this exercise, increasing the weight each time, until you can manage this with 80 lbs at the end of the rope.

3. Ladder Raise

In the CPAT, you'll need to lift and extend a ladder. If you don't have a ladder to practice with at home, you can build the upper body strength needed to do this with the following lifting approach.

A multi-joint routine that mixes several exercises into one movement. Hold dumbbells by your waist. Then, do a bicep curl. Push the dumbbells over your head. Then, bend your elbows to lower the weight behind your head. Repeat this exercise in reverse order.

Repeating this exercise should build the strength necessary for this part of the CPAT.

4. Forcible Entry

Since you don't want to break down doors in your home, but do need to prepare for the forcible entry event in the CPAT, you need a substitute for this event as well.

Wrap padding around a tree or a pole. Find a spot on this padding that measures 39 inches off the ground and mark it. Stand so the tree is at your side, and strike this marked spot with a ten-pound sledgehammer. You should continue for 15 swings before taking a break. Do this two times.

Don't have many trees or poles in your neighborhood? You can also hold a medicine ball and move it laterally across your body, imitating how you would swing a sledgehammer. This will build the same muscles needed to maneuver a sledgehammer.

Mental Fitness Training for Firefighters

Once you know you can rely your body to accomplish the physical feats required of a firefighter, you need to trust your mind in high-pressure situations. Public Safety Testing explains that the written firefighter exam tests the following skills: deductive reasoning, mathematical reasoning, inductive reasoning, information ordering, spatial orientation, visualization, and written comprehension. The last two ideas will help train your mind for what you might encounter when firefighting.

5. Online Courses

FEMA's U.S. Fire Administrations offers several online courses in National Fire Academy training. These courses cover relevant topics, such as "Firefighter Safety: Calling the Mayday" and "Introduction to Application of Data for Fire and Emergency Services." We can take them as self-led or instructor-led and asynchronous or live based on your preference. Taking online courses can help you learn more of the basics of fire safety and prepare you for a firefighting career.

6. Practice the Written Exam

The best test prep is taking a practice test. Fortunately, there are multiple practice versions of the firefighters' written exam that you can take online. The written exam should take 2 hours, so prepare for completing a full exam when you're practicing.

Firefighting requires a person to act quickly and effectively under physical and mental duress. A person's endurance under stressful circumstances must be developed over a long period of intentional training. The training exercises detailed above can help prepare you for a life of firefighting.

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