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Most people, when asked this question, will normally think about how much weight they can lift or if the are overweight or not.  I argue that being "firefighter fit (fire rescue fit) is much more than that.  You may be able to lift heavy weights but that doesn't necessarily mean that you are that strong.  When talking about Firefighter fitness you are only as strong as your "weakest" part.  You see true strength comes in the form of functional fitness, fitness that can be applied and used in fireground situations, not just in a gym.

We all know that firefighting is a physical job, we need to be strong, have good muscular endurance, great core and grip strength and must be able to recover quickly.  The challenge that we (as fire rescue athletes) face is trying to identify how to functionally test fire rescue athletes?  There are so many components of the body that must work efficiently in order to do the everyday tasks of the Fire Rescue Athlete.  How do you define firefighter fit?  What tests do you think are good measures for our job?

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I think the most important aspects of beings considered "firefighter fit" are muscular endurance and agility.

On today's fire scene's, you are no longer only hitting a door once or making one pull on the ceiling. The days of efficiently barreling through obstacles is over. Every activity done on scene is done is repetion.

Similarly, firefighters must be agile. Increased muscle mass means less flexibilty/manuverability.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is one benchmark for sure.

The Firefighters' Combat Challenge involves rapid, repetitive, arduous tasks in a non-stop circuit training format. Any job task related training or exercise that brings the participant to an oxygen consumption rate (VOmax) of 40-45 ml/kg/min should be a relevant firefighter fitness assessment. Recovery should be 20-30 minutes max . . . in my opinion. Both the Firefighters' Combat Challenge when completed within 6 minutes or less, and the Wildland Firefighters' Arduous Pack Test when completed within 45 minutes or less bring the participant to a VOmax of about 42 ml/kg/min. Read the book: "Hard Work", by Dr. Paul Davis (inventor/founder of the Firefighters' Combat Challenge), for more details on this subject.

Michael H. Reynolds, Fire Chief

Carlsbad, NM Fire Dept.

Great discussion

I believe that being "Fit" is being prepared to perform any physically exerting task(s) that you might come across. Employees should be tested to see if they're prepared/fit initially before a trainer tests the individual's fitness and performance levels.

Testing someone to determine if they're fit enough to be a firefighter can be done (is typically done) by putting individuals through a functional obstacle course.  A functional obstacle course test should mimic an array of job specific situations. Being considered fit is having the necessary mobility/speed/endurance/strength needed complete the tasks safely and timely ("timely" depends on department standards).  These functional tests should vary from department to department.  I live in a suburb/rural community; we don't have tall buildings with tall stairwells.  So we don't test on a lot of stairs, and I get a kick out of the guys training on the stair machine (what are you training for).  Tailor the test to your response area and what obstacles you may come across. 

Fitness levels/performance levels depend on staffing and standards.  Fitness levels may be low due to available staffing.  It's tough, but sometimes you have to build a championship team from a bunch of mutts (watch any sports movie made by Disney).  Training programers or Trainers should have their own tools to test performance levels and what a standard would be for their department.  A good way to raise performance levels is to hire a trainer or do internal training.  It doesn't take alot of thinking to know what movements we use on most calls.  Train on those movements.

My post/reply in a nutshell:

>My opinion is that "fit" is being able

>Train/test for your surrounding obstacles

>Measurements are based on department standards

>Mighty ducks


looking for some free functional structural firefighter and EMS workouts? (it's free stuff, don't pay for fitness programs. ever)

My blog/website.  It's free (and I spend my own money to run it).


Jason Arney-O'Neil

Working Firefighter/Paramedic

Woodbury, MN

You all have some valid points.  If you are looking for more information on how to get "firefighter fit" go to  This is a great educational website on Firefighter Fitness and Wellness.

-We have discontinued the Combat Challenge and replaced it with the CPAT for approximately five years now. In my opinion the CPAT seems to be a much better gauge of the overall fitness level required for professional firefighters than the Combat Challenge.  

-I am a firm believer that firefighters must regard themselves as akin to a professional athlete and maintain the fitness levels necessary for this very special work. Cardio and weight training are a must; there is no excuse for being overweight and out of shape in this business. I still get a good chuckle out of the "biggie" sized fireman who thinks his "size" directly translates to strength... not even close to understanding just how diluted they are. 

-I also believe, having witnessed some of the new training regimes being administered around the country, that there are far to many "Training Academies" out there who's young instructors have begun taking things way to far with new recruits. These new "self appointed bad a**" instructors have forgotten (or don't care) that we are training professional firefighters not commandos or Seals; and our training must be reflective of the nature of these job requirements in order for our people to perform to the expectations of firefighting.

I believe that intense events that involve short periods of recovery are good measures.  We are placed into intense physical exertion and then must recover quickly before the next task is done.  I believe the CPAT is a good measure in some ways, but I also believe the FFCC has some redeeming qualities as well.  The muscular endurance and strength must be maintained in addition to the cardiovascular in order for one to be sucessful in our trade.  Strength is great but you have to maintain it over a period during a fire incident.

Strength, power, mobility and endurance. And mental toughness. The idea of fit enough will never be settled on. If you can run a 5k in a good time. Clean your bodyweight, have good range of motion in all your joints. And Vian do it without being at your cardiac limit. Your are probably fine.

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