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Off-Topic Experience Training First Responders

Sam Goldner

Level 5 Valued Member
Here’s the next question (but again, feel free to talk about whatever):
What are you personally focusing on fitness-wise for work? How are you accomplishing that (equipment, program, whatever)?
Same questions but now directed at the macro-level: what does your department value and focus on for fitness and what do they do to accomplish it?

Meaning, moving away from standards/retesting/incentives and towards the practical level.

My department has a Peer Fitness Trainer program that I oversee; they make workouts and we post them for the day, but anyone can do anything or nothing. It’s a menu with a daily special but they can pick what they want, bring their own food, or just skip the meal. The workouts they’ve made recently are sandbag based. They’re workouts, not components of a program. I also make actual programs for individuals and for our academies. Program details change based on the situation.

For the academy we’re doing now I made a sandbag version of Total Tension Complex with a slight modification to the exercises and progression, then they finish the time with fireground circuits. For the academy before this we did a barbell program with a descending step-wave for volume and an ascending step for intensity; they added an average of 10-30% in strength over that 6-week academy.

For individuals, some I have running that same barbell program, some are doing strength aerobic type stuff with kb/db/sandbag, one is doing S&S; it really just depends on the person. My goal with individuals is they do something they enjoy and will therefore do with more consistency.
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
What are you personally focusing on fitness-wise for work? How are you accomplishing that (equipment, program, whatever)?
Same questions but now directed at the macro-level: what does your department value and focus on for fitness and what do they do to accomplish it?
As a team, straight endurance is the big focus. Being able to do a 24 hour ruck in the mountains is what many people are training for.
But as an individual, I've noticed that many of those high-endurance folks tend to get worn out real quick when we have to do a litter evac.
So my strategy is attaining a baseline of endurance and building up a strength reserve with a lot of heavy carries so that when I have to help haul a 250lb person off of a mountain it is easy. My thinking is if I'm able to drag 500lbs in training on a regular basis, doing a 12-man litter carry will be easy. Obviously, there is some give and take between the two, but it seems like if I spend a block building endurance a couple of times a year and maintain it while I progress strength it works pretty well. End result is strongman style training 3-4x a week along with high intensity cardio 2x a week and a LISS ruck once a week for the majority of my training. (pretty much tactical barbell's system). I end up not being the fastest person on the team, but am far away from being the slowest, and tend to be the best hauler.

But then again, SAR has kind of specialized requirements compared to other first responders. We have to do mainly one thing for the vast majority of our workload with the occasional blip of something else. So other first responders might not have the luxury of getting the main thing good enough and then focusing on the blip.
 

Sam Goldner

Level 5 Valued Member
As a team, straight endurance is the big focus. Being able to do a 24 hour ruck in the mountains is what many people are training for.
But as an individual, I've noticed that many of those high-endurance folks tend to get worn out real quick when we have to do a litter evac.
The test as the training is not uncommon…but it fails to fill gaps, which at a minimum leaves room for improvement. It’s true the best way to get better at doing something is to do it, but that still leaves the gaps. You’re approach, outlined in the rest of your post, makes sense; get strong enough, have enough endurance, and practice what you actually do.

How do you program your loaded carries/drags/that type of stuff?
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
The test as the training is not uncommon…but it fails to fill gaps, which at a minimum leaves room for improvement. It’s true the best way to get better at doing something is to do it, but that still leaves the gaps. You’re approach, outlined in the rest of your post, makes sense; get strong enough, have enough endurance, and practice what you actually do.

How do you program your loaded carries/drags/that type of stuff?
Oh the PT test is a lot simpler than a 24 hour ruck. It is just a short 4 mile hike with 3k' elevation gain in under 120 minutes. (or something like that, I don't have the exact numbers handy, most people do it with 30-60 minutes to spare.)
The long ruck is just what most people train for since there was a mission that ended up with a team going for 20 hours straight. (big loop where someone got lost on the furthest part of the trail and they had to essentially do a 2-3 day hike in a day.)

For programming them I kind of take a Dan John approach and just do them. My base strength work is structured by my coach (basically what you would expect for squat, bench, dead, press) and then I focus on carries on the "skill" day when I work on strongman implements and also during conditioning sessions. No real formal progression other than doing them often.

So for example, last week the sandbag carries basically were working up to the heaviest you can throw over your shoulder and then do "you go, I go" for 10 minutes. So I worked up to 150lbs and went with that.
Warmup was escalating sled push followed by pulling it back. Start out with just the sled, add a pair of 25s, go, add a pair of 45s, go, 25s, etc until it gets heavy. I think we topped out at around 380. Its you go, I go, until the last one is feeling heavy.
Every once in a while we'll do a heavy carry themed month. Last month was a medley where you would track how many times you could carry the 75lb sandbag, 250lb farmer implement, and 300lb yoke back and forth in 10 minutes. So I hammered at that for conditioning work and saw improvements over the month.

I also use lighter carries for conditioning days. @grouchyjarhead 's Ghurka Carries is one that I'm a big fan of and throw it in the mix when I can. That one is easier to track progress on since you can count how many rounds you do and is very repeatable.

I used to do the kettlebell mile on a regular basis but it aggravated my forearm a bunch and it took forever to heal. So I tend to go heavier and faster rather than lighter and longer when it comes to suitcase carries now.
 

WxHerk

Level 7 Valued Member
Oh the PT test is a lot simpler than a 24 hour ruck. It is just a short 4 mile hike with 3k' elevation gain in under 120 minutes. (or something like that, I don't have the exact numbers handy, most people do it with 30-60 minutes to spare.)
The long ruck is just what most people train for since there was a mission that ended up with a team going for 20 hours straight. (big loop where someone got lost on the furthest part of the trail and they had to essentially do a 2-3 day hike in a day.)

For programming them I kind of take a Dan John approach and just do them. My base strength work is structured by my coach (basically what you would expect for squat, bench, dead, press) and then I focus on carries on the "skill" day when I work on strongman implements and also during conditioning sessions. No real formal progression other than doing them often.

So for example, last week the sandbag carries basically were working up to the heaviest you can throw over your shoulder and then do "you go, I go" for 10 minutes. So I worked up to 150lbs and went with that.
Warmup was escalating sled push followed by pulling it back. Start out with just the sled, add a pair of 25s, go, add a pair of 45s, go, 25s, etc until it gets heavy. I think we topped out at around 380. Its you go, I go, until the last one is feeling heavy.
Every once in a while we'll do a heavy carry themed month. Last month was a medley where you would track how many times you could carry the 75lb sandbag, 250lb farmer implement, and 300lb yoke back and forth in 10 minutes. So I hammered at that for conditioning work and saw improvements over the month.

I also use lighter carries for conditioning days. @grouchyjarhead 's Ghurka Carries is one that I'm a big fan of and throw it in the mix when I can. That one is easier to track progress on since you can count how many rounds you do and is very repeatable.

I used to do the kettlebell mile on a regular basis but it aggravated my forearm a bunch and it took forever to heal. So I tend to go heavier and faster rather than lighter and longer when it comes to suitcase carries now.
Dadgum, dude. Now I’m tired!!

Saw your Packers love earlier. My younger stepson played on the High School team that Brett Favre helped coach. He was great with the kids!! Very hands on and fired up. He just loves football and it was easy to see his love for the game and for the kids!!
 

Sam Goldner

Level 5 Valued Member
Oh the PT test is a lot simpler than a 24 hour ruck. It is just a short 4 mile hike with 3k' elevation gain in under 120 minutes. (or something like that, I don't have the exact numbers handy, most people do it with 30-60 minutes to spare.)
The long ruck is just what most people train for since there was a mission that ended up with a team going for 20 hours straight. (big loop where someone got lost on the furthest part of the trail and they had to essentially do a 2-3 day hike in a day.)
Understood; it’s still the same concept, where they’re using a standard/test/goal as the actual workout. That leaves gaps in development. @Anna C had a really good quote about this in a different thread where she wrote a good coach is able to pull out the foundational qualities needed for whatever and develop those instead of just bashing your head against the goal itself.

Your distinction is important, though, because that relates to the initial component of our discussion regarding standards. In this case, the standard doesn’t even match with something that can be expected once you’re working. That seems to be pretty common from what I’ve seen and what other people are posting here.
 

Poolcue

First Post
Catching up with the above....The agency I work for has no physical standards, no yearly test, no yearly physical or anything even close to it.

Every person is left to train on their own, in their own time.
 

grouchyjarhead

Level 5 Valued Member
Here’s the next question (but again, feel free to talk about whatever):
What are you personally focusing on fitness-wise for work? How are you accomplishing that (equipment, program, whatever)?
Same questions but now directed at the macro-level: what does your department value and focus on for fitness and what do they do to accomplish it?

Meaning, moving away from standards/retesting/incentives and towards the practical level.

My department has a Peer Fitness Trainer program that I oversee; they make workouts and we post them for the day, but anyone can do anything or nothing. It’s a menu with a daily special but they can pick what they want, bring their own food, or just skip the meal. The workouts they’ve made recently are sandbag based. They’re workouts, not components of a program. I also make actual programs for individuals and for our academies. Program details change based on the situation.

For the academy we’re doing now I made a sandbag version of Total Tension Complex with a slight modification to the exercises and progression, then they finish the time with fireground circuits. For the academy before this we did a barbell program with a descending step-wave for volume and an ascending step for intensity; they added an average of 10-30% in strength over that 6-week academy.

For individuals, some I have running that same barbell program, some are doing strength aerobic type stuff with kb/db/sandbag, one is doing S&S; it really just depends on the person. My goal with individuals is they do something they enjoy and will therefore do with more consistency.
Fitness-wise, much of my conditioning is heavily inspired by the Tactical Barbell philosophy. Build an aerobic baseline and improve on it occasionally, then either maintain the aerobic baseline while improving anaerobic performance, or keep improving aerobic performance with the occasional anaerobic workout. Most of my training tends to be the latter nowadays more for my hobbies than anything (e.g. GORUCK events and a desire to run my first 50k).

Strength work will sound familiar. Minimum effective dose on a few focused exercises to get as strong as I can in them. My primary tool is the sandbag nowadays, with the TRX, kettlebells, and weight vests/weighted backpacks making a regular appearance, or just plain bodyweight (heavily influenced by Iron Wolf in this area). Add in the occasional boxing or rare BJJ session and there's the bulk of my fitness training. I try to make technical training regular as well (huge proponent of dry firing).

My work requires none of that. In our general orders, our department recognizes the need for us to have a high level of physical fitness and expects us to maintain it on our own. I don't think anyone has ever been disciplined for having poor physical fitness however.
 

Uphill Endeavors

Level 1 Valued Member
On my wildland team, we are only required to pass the arduous pack test each year to keep our red cards current. We tend to prize our strength and stamina more than the structure guys/gals I work with. I am in no way saying structure folk don't have physical demands, but almost all calls I see them run are medical. It seems most departments around here are 50/50 on focusing on fitness. We can't afford to not be fit in the wildland arena...our motivation comes from necessity.
 

Uphill Endeavors

Level 1 Valued Member
As for training approach, I'd look at some of Rob Shaul's programs...they are pretty demanding. I personally don't do them, but I've seen others get great results. Myself, I am currently on S+S 5x a week, Pavels fighter pullup program, rucking twice a week, and hill sprints once a week.
 

vojtakubi

Level 2 Valued Member
Training of specific skills for your branch?
Are you able to do fireman's carry? (lifting someone unconscious up on your shoulders/back)
Is anyone here competing in Firefighter Combat Challenge or TFA?
 

Sam Goldner

Level 5 Valued Member
On my wildland team, we are only required to pass the arduous pack test each year to keep our red cards current. We tend to prize our strength and stamina more than the structure guys/gals I work with. I am in no way saying structure folk don't have physical demands, but almost all calls I see them run are medical. It seems most departments around here are 50/50 on focusing on fitness. We can't afford to not be fit in the wildland arena...our motivation comes from necessity.
Yeah; our calls are often cakewalks until the one that isn’t, and that’s the one that needs to be trained to. On the other hand, though, even some of the medical calls can be tough just lifting a hefty patient from an awkward position, then navigating down a tight stairwell and through an even tighter doorway. It’s important to be strong enough for even the “mundane” calls. Wildland is different, though; it almost always has the physical difficulty of at least including an uphill endeavor of sort.

Training of specific skills for your branch?
Are you able to do fireman's carry? (lifting someone unconscious up on your shoulders/back)
Is anyone here competing in Firefighter Combat Challenge or TFA?
Training meaning working out
We specifically do NOT train fireman’s carry because it puts the victim higher up into the smoke and heat which will kill them.
Not competing but we’ve considered figuring out contests to do internally, like our PAT for time or reps or whatever
 

grouchyjarhead

Level 5 Valued Member
Perhaps fellow wisconsinite @Ryan Toshner has some thoughts.

Otherwise, perhaps something in this article will spur some ideas.
Novocaine Training
That’s actually an interesting article as that’s very similar to what I do in terms of programming. I don’t program off days as life naturally makes me take them due to my job, family, etc. I just alternate strength and endurance days. On the weekends or days I have time I will push it a bit more.
 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
How many of you train (yourself or others) to perform under stress with only nose-breathing?

I think nose-only breathing is a little "over-played" for general fitness BUT I also have experienced its benefits when working on a tank of air and a tank lasting longer. I also found myself better able to work in NBC gear, although can't say I did that much. I think it largely comes from learning to control your breathing when you feel like you need more, but there might be more to it.

Anyways just an idea that might be relevant to firefighters.
 
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