Monday, December 31, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Firefighter Fatigue

Dehydration, poor nutrition, inadequate fitness, physical hard work, and insufficient rest prior to turn out often leads to fatigue. Fatigue leads to exhaustion, and exhaustion leads to impaired judgment and bad descision making which is usually followed by injury or worse... death.

When are we most likely to see fatigue on the fireground? Firefighter fatigue is at its absolute worst during overhaul. Common sense says we need to maintain vigilance for potential problems with firefighters during this time.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:
-Be mindful of hydration & nutrition strategies during work.
-Use recovery strategies between shifts.
-Add interval training to your workouts which helps you develop the anaerobic capacity needed to resist the inevitable fatigue that is part of this job.

Happy Holidays

Cat and Camel

Q: Is it ok to go straight to the gym when I get off shift?

A: Some exercise shouldn't be done in the first hour after awakening because of the increased hydrostatic pressure in the intervertebral disks during that time. If that's the only time you can train, then do some cat and camel exercises during your warm up as a way to achieve spinal segment motion before starting more aggresive exercises.

The Exercise: The Camel-Cat
How to do it: Get down on all fours. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders, and your knees directly below your hips. To create the hump-of-a-camel position, round your back by pushing it upward. Pause for one count, then push your lower back toward the floor to create the arched position of a cat. That's one repetition. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why Horizontal Training is Important to Firefighters

Witness any firefighting activity and what do you see? In almost ALL parts of the job, advancing the line, forcing entry, removing a victim from the occupancy, etc, strength is a major factor, and the majority of force application and absorption in those activities is heavily influenced by horizontal forces.

Rarely is vertical loading seen in actual firefighting activitites yet look at the typical exercises firefighters do in their workouts.

□ Squats-Vertical loading
□ Military press-Vertical loading
□ Lunge-Primarily Vertical loading
□ Pull Up-Vertical loading
□ Leg Press-Truly vertical if you analyze what is happening.
□ Olympic Lifts-Vertical loading

Don't get me wrong, all these are extrememly valuable in a firefighter program. On their own however, they will not produce the optimum enhancement of multiplanular strength and power, capable of transferring to the actual job requirements seen in firefighting.

To optimize strength training for firefighting, you must train the body to effectively neutralize and produce the horizontal and rotational forces encountered every day on the job.

Friday, December 21, 2007


"Don't Let Your Knees Go Past Your Toes When Lunging."

I'm sure everyone has heard this one.

My response is simple...What about the other knee? In a lunge, it's apparently too dangerous for the knee of the front leg to extend past the toes, but the knee of the back leg is past the toes the whole time.

Do you think about where your knee should go in firefighting activities? Of course not, it's a reflex, you don't consciously think about it.

In fact Vern Gambetta, an atheletic development coach, says,"It is all sub cortical and reflexive, not planned and programmed. This demands that training progressively load the knee in all the positions that could occur in the demands of training."

So if you can't restrict your knee consciously because it's a reflex then don't restrict it in training. Artificially restricting knee motion will not prevent knee injuries, in fact, you may be setting up the knee for injury.

Besides, the knee passes the toes every time you go up stairs with your Hi Rise Pac.

Think about it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Contrast continued...

Employing a structurally balanced program of push to pull exercises, will help to create balance between the anterior and posterior musculature.

One great exercise to develop the overall posterior shoulder girdle is the inverted row.

It not only is a great multi-joint strengthener, but also helps to teach proper scapula position: retracted and depressed.

Be Safe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The 3 C's of Training

1. Content: Everything needs a reason to exist, otherwise it shouldn't.
If you're program is designed to develop strength and power, why are you doing db curls?

2. Context: Everything has to fit together.
Your program should flow from begining to end. If it doesn't see number 1.

3. Contrast: Everyting has to have balance.
Your program must have quad dominant exercises, and hip dominant ones. Vertical Pushing has to be balanced with Vertical Pulling and Horizontal Pushing should be complimented with Horizontal Pulling.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Foam Rolling

Self myofascial release (SMR) an interactive soft tissue release technique. A foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam. Think swimming pool noodles, but a little more dense and larger in diameter. They usually come in one-foot or three-foot lengths. Using a foam roller can provide similar benefits as deep-tissue massage. By increasing flexibility and decreasing muscle tension, it can help prevent injury and improve performance.

1. Start by searching the tissues for tenderness.Place your body on the roller and slowly roll up and down (for about 10-15 seconds) along the muscle group you are targeting. If you find a particularly tight area, pause on that spot. Putting pressure on a tight area can help release the tissue. If tenderness is identified, hold foam roll on the "hot-spot" until the discomfort subsides by 70%. Repeat by coming back to area 3-5 times or until tenderness has subsided.
2. If tenderness is too much to handle simply add another foam roll dispersing body weight over a greater surface.
3. If no tenderness is identified while SLOW rolling, continue in a smooth rhythmical manner.
4. Maintain a tight stomach by pulling the belly button back towards the spine.
5. Do not perform under the following conditions:
Feelings of nausea
Acute rheumatoid arthritis
Painful varicose veins
6. You can perform SMR massage 1-2 x daily

When: Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and promote a better warmup. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover from strenuous exercise.

Best places to use a foam roller on:
Gluteal Muscles, Piriformis
Illotibial Band

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In case you forgot how to do the job.

Exercises to Improve Firefighter Ankle Mobility

Regardless of what kind of fire boot you wear, (I wear the Warrington Pro's and have so for 15 years) being on a working fire can make your feet hurt and your ankles feel stiff. You already know it's an area that we injure a lot in the fire service.

Bill Hartman gives us some excellent tips regarding ankle mobility.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What are the Most Common Firefighter Injuries?

Recent numbers released by the Calgary Fire Department don't paint a pretty picture when it comes to firefighter injuries and the numbers back up my previous post,'It's a Tough Job/Dec 9th".

According to them: These are the reasons Firefighters came to their Wellness Center:
33% knee/ankle problems
33% back problems
18% others things
16% shoulder problems

So remember to include an injury prevention component in your workouts for the knee/ankle, the lower back and the shoulders.

Be Safe!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Station Workout

Q: How can I do a workout at the station that's not too draining, but effective?

A: I think bodyweight circuits work well for on-duty training. You can cover the entire body, and it's very effective.

Here's one that I do sometimes.

Dynamic mobility warm up 5-7 mins.

Round one: Pushups for 30 sec
Round two: Prisoner Squats x 30 sec
Round three: Front Plank x 30sec

2 circuits / 30s rest between rounds

Round four: Glute bridge x15 reps
Round five: Band Pulls or Chins x10 reps
Round six: Prone Cobra's x10 reps

2 circuits / 30s rest between rounds

Then finish with some metabolic work : Jump Rope for 6 minutes

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top 7 snacks for Firefighters

Snacking is an art form. Choose wisely and you’ll be covered. Choose wrong and your stomach and body will remind you of the bad choice. It never fails!
You can keep a small cooler with some stuff, that’s always available.

— A truck snack, like apples.
— Oat meal packets that can be nuked in a cup of water in two minutes flat for breakfast—and cooled in 30 seconds with frozen berries before adding protein powder. Take it with you on the way to the,"I've fallen and I can't get up", call.
— Canned tuna or salmon (which is pre-cooked of course), and throw in a sliced lime. Note to self: Bring fork!
— Meal Replacement Packets, kept dry in a shaker container, just add water .
— A box of low-fat Triscuits (goes great with the aforementioned tuna and a little low-fat mayo. Relish optional).
— A can of mixed nuts kept on the truck (zero prep time and better than junk food for snacking on 2nd alarms). Almonds are the best choice here.
-Protein/MRP bars. I'm not into bars but on this job I have been very, very thankful at times...for a protein bar, cause it was the only thing I was able to eat for hours.

It's a tough job!

The fire service continues to be one of the most hazardous occupations in the world. Its rates of work related injury/illness and fatality far exceed those for most industries. Musculoskeletal injuries account for almost half of all line-of-duty injuries among the millions of firefighter in the U.S.A. These injuries are primarily sprains, strains and muscular pain that mostly affect the back, shoulder and knee.

So what do we do about it? How can we better protect ourselves? It’s simple… GET FIT!

Physical fitness mitigates against physical and mental fatigue, and acts as a mediating variable in the prediction of musculoskeletal injuries. In firefighter terms, the more fit you are the less physical and mental stress will affect you. The less fit you are the more likelihood of injury.

When you review published physical fitness intervention studies in the fire service, with few exceptions, the primary focus has been on cardiovascular risk reduction rather than musculoskeletal injury risk reduction.

So you have to include an injury prevention program as part of your program design, primarily for the back, shoulder and knees.

With back injuries, the gluteal muscles shut down, abdominal/lumbar extensors will be weak and the piriformis (posterior hip) will be tight, so perform some anti-inhibition drills, foam rolling and stretching.

For gluteal strengthening, perform glute bridges and fire hydrants, monster or x-band walks 2 sets of 10-15 reps and make sure the abs stay tight throughout the exercise. Do front and side planks for core stability and endurance along with prone cobras for the extensors, 2 sets of 15 seconds and build up to 1 minute. Make sure the trunk stays perfectly straight. Roll over the posterior hip and glutes with a foam roller to remove adhesions and finish with some stretching for the glutes.

Lack of core stability and endurance is one of the main reason firefighters suffer back injuries.

Doing Y’s, T’s and W’s along with pushup pluses can protect the shoulders. Do these as a circuit for 1 set of 10. Also, reduce overhead lifting, which can create shoulder impingement.

With knee problems the quadriceps and calves will be weak and inhibited. The hamstrings and IT Band will be tight, and there is possibly a loss of dorsiflexion range of motion at the ankle.

So start by foam rolling your quads, hamstrings and IT band and switch to front squats to fire the quads. Start doing ankle mobility drills in your warm up and post workout stretch the hamstrings and IT band along with the quads.

Getting fit and adding some simple exercise can go a long way in making you injury proof.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Accountability !

"Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise . . . personal responsibility."

Albert Schweitzer


Q: I read that some low back pain is a result of muscle imbalances.
What are the most common imbalances, why does it happen and what can be done about them?

A: The most common dysfunction is a forward tipped pelvis. This is when the front of one or both sides of the pelvis are pulled down.

There are several things that contribute to the creation of this problem. The most common is sitting. We all do it, some more than others. It seems that as technology has advanced and replaced manual labor, more and more people are sitting at their jobs all day long. The more you sit the more likely you are to develop the muscle imbalance in the hips and thighs that creates the forward tipped pelvis dysfunction. This position can lead to low back pain.

The imbalance is created by weak hamstrings, glutes, lower back, lower abdomen, tight hip flexors, quadriceps and lower back.

Very tight muscles or those pulled too much should be stretched daily. And the muscles that are too weak or not pulling enough should be strengthened.

So what to do? Stretch the, hip flexors and quadriceps and
strengthen the lower abdomen, glutes and hamstrings.


Q: I’m a firefighter in my early fifties, and I try to maintain some level of fitness for the job and be healthy. Recently I noticed I seem to be losing muscle mass. What’s going on?

A: Your may be suffering from sarcopenia. Sarcopenia means age related loss of muscle mass. It is part of the erosion cycle where we get reminded that we’re no longer twenty. It generally starts to set in around age 45, when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent a year.

Why does sarcopenia happen? So far, the best guess is that it’s caused by a gradual loss of certain nerve cells that link the brain to the muscles; in turn, loss of chemical connections between the two causes a loss of muscle cells themselves. Other age-related declines may play into it as well. For instance, the immune system gradually weakens, and that, some researchers suggest, may increase levels of substances that break down muscle. In addition, levels of hormones that stimulate muscle growth—estrogen, testosterone, and growth hormone—fall with age.

How do we stop it? While you can’t completely halt sarcopenia in its tracks, there’s much you can do to slow it dramatically and thereby remain nearly as active in your 50s and 60s as much earlier in life. So here’s the plan, can you say, strength training? For a couple times a week of strength training—about 30 minutes a session—you get so much back. I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is. Preserving your muscle mass is about more than just keeping up a particular level of fitness. It can also impact your ability to withstand disease. When you’re sick, the body burns protein faster than usual, pulling protein components from the muscles and delivering them to the immune system, liver, and other organs for use in healing wounds and building the antibodies and white blood cells needed to fight illness. If the muscle protein “reservoir” has already been depleted by sarcopenia, there’s that much less ammunition available.

Rest assured that it’s perfectly safe, even for people with conditions like arthritis or heart disease. Get a doctor’s ok before you start, slow down sarcopenia and enjoy the many benefits of strength training.

Remember,” “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”.

Firefighter Fatloss

Q: What are 3 good fat loss tips?

A: It depends. If the question is "what are 3 good fat loss tips for an overweight person who isn't exercising?” the answer is going to be different from "what are 3 good fat loss tips for a irefighter who is already lean, lifting, dieting and doing interval training?"... despite there being apparent similarities in the question. For GENERAL fat loss you need to observe some primary goals, including:
1. Burn as many calories as possible through resting metabolic rate. Lean muscle is metabolically active, so building muscle or at least maintaining it is extremely important. You can interpret this to mean that to lose fat, you need to weight train.
2. Burn more calories through increased meal frequency (digestion burns calories). Food has a thermic effect on the body. The more meal frequency, the more your metabolic furnace gets stoked. Not eating breakfast and eating 1 or 2 meals a day keeps your metabolism slow and keeps you fat.
3. Burn more calories through macronutrient manipulation. The thermic effect of protein is twice as high as the thermic effect of fat or carbohydrate — and it adds up! Make protein a focal point of your daily diet. Pick your protein source first and then depending on your whether you’ve done activity or not, add carbs and good fats.