Make It Burn Challenge: Get Firefighter Fit

Ready. Set. Sweat.

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to battle a blaze at a moment’s notice, carry full-grown men and women or children through thick smoke, climb hundreds of stairs carrying 80+ pounds of gear, or any of the myriad of physically demanding tasks a firefighter may face, you finally have a chance to find out.

Welcome to the #MakeItBurnChallenge, a weekly exercise series we’re offering to help our community get a taste of what it’s like to train like a firefighter. We’ve teamed up with firefighter and Lift Gym owner, Nick Rhodes, and firefighter Tony Clink, to show you the ropes.

Learn more about the challenge from Cory Whitlock, Truck Captain in Fire Station 1 and PFFN’s southern district VP, in the quick video below:

It’s simple. Each week we will post a series of exercises you can do at home with little or no equipment right here on our blog and our social media channels. We’ll also be sharing why each move is beneficial for a firefighter. Here’s where the challenge comes in:

  • Complete the series every day and challenge your friends to do the same by tagging them in a Make It Burn Challenge post.
  • Or, video yourself completing an exercise series, upload to your social channel(s), and tag a friend you’d like to challenge using the hashtag #MakeItBurnChallenge.

We’re so exited to share a piece of our training with you and look forward to helping you get firefighter fit. Check back often for more videos, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Week 7

For week 7 of our #MakeItBurnChallenge, we thought we’d implement a “seventh-inning stretch” of our own…firefighter style.

What is a dynamic warm up?

Basically, it’s a series of moving or active stretches designed to get the blood flowing to your muscles and prep your body to get into the real workout. Gone are the days of purely using static stretches! Athletes have been implementing dynamic warm-ups into their routines for years now to help improve performance and prevent injury. It’s important that firefighters do the same.

Here are some more benefits to a dynamic warm-up:

  • Increases your range of motion prior to working out.
  • Activates muscles you’ll be tasking during your workout.
  • Activates the central nervous system, aka: your brain and nerves.
  • Increases heart rate and blood flow in the muscles and the brain.

Ideally, a dynamic warm-up should be at least 10 minutes long, but always just do what your schedule allows. Try our dynamic warm-up at least once through and repeat as needed. Don’t be surprised if you’re a little winded afterward; you’re doing it right!  However, if you’re gasping for breath, consider adding in more conditioning work.

Week 6

1.Single-leg push up, 15x each leg 3 Rounds 

How to:

  • Begin in your high plank or push-up position.
  • Lift one foot into the air without allowing your hip to roll open.
  • Squeeze your glutes and draw your navel into your spine.
  • Lower your body to the ground and press yourself up to the starting position.
  • Make sure to alternate legs in between sets and/or reps to create a symmetrical body.

Why it’s good for firefighters:

By now in the challenge, we know push-ups are a great compound bodyweight movement to work the chest. Adding a leg lift helps improve balance and also works our stabilizer muscles for a more functional benefit.

2.Step ups with chair, 20x each leg 3 Rounds

How to:

  1. Step onto a chair, bench or other stable service with your right foot.
  2. Straighten your right knee to stand on the surface while lifting your left leg so your knee is in line with your hip.
  3. Hold your right foot still, bend your right knee as you lower your left foot to tap the floor with your left toes without putting your weight onto your left foot.
  4. This completes one rep.
  5. Keep the glute of your standing leg engaged. It should burn by the end!
  6. Repeat on each leg.

Why they are good for firefighters:

Step-ups are a compound exercise that work multiple lower-body muscles critical to firefighter performance. They also task our balance and core stabilization and are good for strengthening since they mimic many of the movement’s we perform on duty.

3.One-arm roll up, 1 minute each side, 2 Rounds

How to:

  1. Lie down on your back, legs together.
  2. Reach one arm up only as far as you can keep your ribs on the mat. Leave the other hand by your side or place it gently behind your head, elbow open. Inhale deeply.
  3. Tuck your chin to the chest and begin to lift your head and chest up. Exhale and pull the belly button to your spine and squeeze your inner thighs to continue the curling up until your hips are stacked over your shoulders.  
  4. Keep the chin tucked, pull the abdominals in deeper, and roll back down one vertebra at a time.to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for one minute, then switch sides.

To make more challenging, hold a weight in the extended hand.

Why it is good for firefighters:

Rumor has it that each roll up equals six sit ups. That’s a lot of bang for your proverbial buck, and when you’re as busy as a firefighter, quick and efficient is the way to go! Aside from strong abs, the one-arm roll up is a great way to increase flexibility by improving hip flexor length and mobilizing the spine.

4.Bulgarian Squat, 20x each leg, 3 Rounds

How to:

  1. Stand 2-3 feet in front of a stable knee-high surface.
  2. Bring your right leg behind you and set your toes on the surface. Toes can be flat or tucked.
  3. Square your hips and shoulders. Keeping your torso upright, slowly lower your right knee toward the floor. Your front knee will form a 90-degree angle.
  4. Keep your weight even on all four corners of your feet, careful not to bring your knee past your toes.
  5. Reverse the move and return to the start.

Why it is good for firefighters:

As a lower body exercise, Bulgarian squats strengthen the muscles of our quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. As a single-leg exercise, our core works extra hard to help us maintain and increase our balance.

Week 5

1. SIDE-TO-SIDE JUMPS ,1 Min, 3 Rounds

How to:

  1. Stand with feet together, abs engaged, knees soft (not locked).
  2. Hop to the right, and then immediately hop to the left once your feet touch the ground.
  3. Repeat as fast as you can.


Why they’re good for firefighters:

Side-to-side jumps help us build more explosive leg strength because they work our fast-twitch muscles while strengthening the tendons and improving their elasticity. Cardio builds the endurance and stamina we need to make it through long shifts.

2. PLANK TO SIDE PLANK, 10-30s each side, 3 Rounds

How to:

  1. Bring yourself into a forearm plank with your feet on the floor, and your elbows are directly below your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet.
  2. Hold for at least 10 seconds, and then rotate to one side, either placing the top foot in front of the bottom or stacking both feet. Keep your body aligned and abs and glutes tight.
  3. Rotate back to the center then alternate to the other side.
  4. Repeat.

Why they’re good for firefighters:

This is another great way for firefighters to avoid the ever-common back injury. The front-to-side plank improves core strength, endurance and balance and really hits the obliques and deep muscles of the glutes. Since lot of our back injuries come from some sort of twisting motion, working those obliques and glutes can help control movement through the transverse plane and reduce the chance of injury.

3. ALTERNATING LUNGES, 20X 5 Rounds Each Leg

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Engage your core.
  2. Step forward with your right leg.
  3. Lower your body until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. Press into your right heel to drive up to starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Altering your foot placement changes the leg muscles activated in this exercise. Try some reps narrow and some wide.


Why they’re good for firefighters:

Firefighters are often required to move heavy loads vertically, yet the tools and circumstances in which we work don’t guarantee that load will be evenly distributed. Lunges help us build leg strength and balance within a vertical position, while also working our core.

Try holding or pressing up uneven weights in this move to challenge and strengthen your stability. 


Week 4

1. Dynamic Warm-Up Kick Ups 30s, 3 Rounds

  1. Stand with your legs slightly wider than your hips. Bring one heel off the floor toward your glutes. Mimic this movement with the opposite-side hand coming up toward your shoulder, almost like you’re running.
  2. Repeat this movement on the other side, again with the opposite arm coming up toward your shoulder. Go at a pace that works for you.
  3. Keep your abs tight and land gently on the balls of your feet, not your heels.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Kick ups are often used by runners as a warm-up because they help increase the speed of hamstring contractions which helps them run faster, but the explosive movement is great for us too because they warm up our hammies, glutes and quads before the real work begins. Kick ups also get our heart rate up which increases our stamina.

2. Wall Sits 1 min, 4 Rounds

  1. Start with your back against a wall with your feet shoulder width and about two feet from the wall.
  2. Engage your core and slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  3. Ensure your knees are directly above your ankles, not extending past your toes.
  4. Keep your back flat against the wall. Hold for one minute and repeat.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Wall sits develop strength and stability. As they’re a static/isometric exercise, they activate our slow twitch muscle fibers and help us build endurance rather than sheer muscle. Wall sits engage several muscles and joints at the same time, and works our glutes, hamstrings and quads, all muscles we rely on throughout our shifts.

3. Single leg extensions 90s, 3 Rounds

  1. Start on your back and bring your legs into tabletop position (shins parallel to the floor).
  2. Pull your abs in as you exhale, taking your belly button down toward your spine and extend one leg at a 45-degree angle. The opposite leg remains in a tabletop position.
  3. Do 3-4 on one leg, then switch legs.

* For an added challenge curl your head and shoulders up to the tips of the shoulder blades and hold as you alternate legs.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Single leg extensions train our abs to initiate movement and support and stabilize the core as our legs are moving. The fluid motion also stretches the back of the legs and hip flexors, which helps keep us agile.

4. Shoulder Taps 45s, 4 Rounds

  1. Start in a plank position with your wrists directly underneath your shoulders.
  2. Keeping your belly button drawn in and your core engaged, tap your left shoulder with your right hand, then your right shoulder with your left hand.
  3. Push up once.
  4. Repeat, touching each shoulder while keeping the hips as still much as possible.

Modification: Bring your knees to the floor

Why they’re good for firefighters

Shoulder taps elevate the standard push-up while continuing to strengthen our shoulders, arms, glutes and core. They also help reduce the lower back pain that plagues many firefighters.

Week 3

1. PUSH UP DECLINE WITH CHAIR
15X, 3 Rounds

1. Start in a plank position with your toes on the seat of the chair and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width.

2. Lower your upper body toward the floor and push back up to the starting position.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Push-ups work many of the muscles we recruit while on duty, including our chest, triceps and shoulders. Adding a decline to the movement forces us to lift more of our body weight, helping us increase our upper body strength without putting pressure on our back as we may with other exercises.

2. TRICEP DIPS WITH CHAIR ASSIST

15X, 3 Rounds

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair and grip the edge next to your hips. Your fingers should be pointed at your feet, elbows should point directly behind you. Extend your legs and feet about hip-width apart with the heels touching the ground. Look straight ahead with your chin up.
  2. Press into your palms to lift your body and slide forward so your behind clears the edge of the chair.
  3. Lower yourself until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees.
  4. Slowly push yourself back up to the start position and repeat.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Tricep dips build some of the major muscles we enact on the scene of emergencies, like when we’re hoisting ourselves through a window or over a ledge. For added challenge, alternate lifting one leg up as you dip down, or draw a knee into your chest.

3. PISTOL SQUATS

3x 3 Rounds each leg

1. Stand with your back to a chair or bench, then lift one leg off the ground and extend it out in front of you.

2. Send hips back to slowly lower until you’re seated.

3. Stand back up on the same leg and repeat.

Note: The speed does not matter, do them slow and controlled.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Pistol squats are not easy, but they offer one heck of a leg workout. They’re great for improving balance, increasing ankle joint mobility and flexibility, and strengthening our legs stabilizing muscles. Plus, they look really cool. Once you master them with a chair, kick it up a notch by taking the chair away and seeing how low you can really go!

4. PLANK

45s, 3 Rounds

1. Plant hands directly under shoulders like you’re about to do a push-up, or come down to your forearms.

2. Ground toes into the floor, engage your core and squeeze glutes to stabilize your body. Be careful not to lock or hyperextend your knees.

3. Keep your neck in line with your spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands.

Modification: Bring your knees to the floor, maintaining a push-up like position. Do not bring your knees directly under your hips.

Why they’re good for firefighters

Back injuries are common among firefighters. Whether we’re reaching up to pull hose from a hose bed, opening walls during overhaul or lifting patients, our bodies are at constant risk of injury. Planks can help us combat them by building our core, shoulder and glute muscles. A stable core is essential for any fireground movement.

Week 2

1. CALF JUMPS: 1 MINUTE, 3 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Stand in front of a wall with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Jump up from your heels through your toes and tap the wall above you.
  3. Land and repeat as fast as possible.

Why they’re good for firefighters:

Cardiovascular training is an important part of every firefighter’s workout. Calf jumps are great because they help us work the fast-twitch muscle fibers we need to execute quick, powerful movements without putting compression on our spine like using a calf machine would.

2. ALTERNATING SIDE LUNGES: 90 SECONDS, 3 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Start standing tall, feet hip-width distance apart.
  2. Take a wide step out to the left. Bend your left knee as you push your hips back. Don’t let your knee go beyond your ankle.
  3. Push off with your left leg (through your heel) to return to standing. Repeat on the other side.

Why they’re good for firefighters:

Working in multiple planes is useful for firefighters because we are always working in so many different angles and are hit with forces that challenge the stability of our knee joints. Side lunges help strengthen the ligaments, tendons and other muscles that increase our knee stability.

3. PUSH-UPS: 20X, 3 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Get down on all fours, placing your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Straighten your legs behind you, keeping your shoulders above your wrists.
  3. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
  4. Pause, then push yourself back up.
  5. Repeat.

Modification: Do from your knees

Why they’re good for firefighters:

As the name indicates, push-ups work all the pushing muscles of our body – chest, triceps and shoulders. They also work our core and back as we have to pull in our ab muscles to maintain proper form.

4. FLUTTER KICKS: 1 Minute, 3 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Lie on your back and extend your legs up to a 45-degree angle (or as low as you can go without your lower back popping up).
  2. Keeping your legs straight and your toes pointed, start lowering one leg.
  3. Raise your lowered leg and lower the other, focusing on keeping your core engaged.
  4. Continue the movement, alternating between legs.
  5. For an added challenge, lift your head, neck and shoulder blades off the floor.

Why they’re good for firefighters:

Flutter kicks get our heart rate up while working our entire core. They also help keep our back healthy as we’re not flexing our spine forward as we do in traditional sit-ups. This action may compromises our intervertebral joints and lead to herniated discs (the most common back injury among firefighters).

Week 1

1. AIR SQUAT: 20X 5, ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Send hips back to squat down until thighs are as close to parallel to floor as possible while keeping chest lifted.
  3. Stand back up to start and repeat.

Why they’re good for firefighters:

Squats may look simple but they should be a staple of every firefighter’s workout routine. They’re vital to functional movement and reduce your chance of injury in training and real-life scenario.

2. TUCK JUMPS: 5X, 4 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes forward.
  2. Hinge at your hip, forcing your butt back and jump as high as possible bringing your knees to your chest.
  3. Catch yourself back in the hinge position in which you started.  

Why they’re good for firefighters:

Tuck jumps improve force production, agility, strength, and balance while generating more muscle recruitment than a vertical jump alone. Firefighters need exercises like this to build strong lower bodies and improve balance for when we’re pulling hose lines, dragging people, carrying equipment along roofs and up ladders.

3. CRUNCHES: 20X, 5 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Lie down on your back. Plant your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Bend your knees and place your hands lightly behind your head. Contract your abs and inhale.
  2. Exhale and lift your upper body, keeping your head and neck relaxed.
  3. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Why they’re good for firefighters:

A strong core is key to being a firefighter, and crunches are just one way to work toward those infamous six-pack abs. Whether we’re entering a home to put out a fire or trying to lift an injured person, everything starts in the core.

4. PLYO PUSH-UPS: 5X, 8 ROUNDS

How to:

  1. Set with your hands in a comfortable position with elbows tucked.
  2. Push body up and off the ground, keeping the core tight and ensuring hands are airborne.
  3. Land in the upper part of the pushup.  

Modification: Do from your knees


Why they’re good for firefighters:

Plyo push-ups make pressing capabilities faster and more forceful and generate more muscle recruitment. Ballistic training translates into easier efforts with fire ground activities like swinging an ax, forcing a door and throwing a ladder.