Functional Fitness for Firefighting

Functional Fitness for Firefighting

by Fadil Ameerally 

I have been in the fire service for the past 15 years, and I can remember to this day exactly how I trained to start my career.  The first thing I had to do was get into the fire academy, and in doing so I had to go through a physical agility test.  This test consisted of climbing 6 flights of stairs while carrying hose on your shoulder.  Once at the top you had to pull a rolled hose up the 6 stories, then put it down and go back down the 6 flights of stairs. Once you got back to the bottom you had to hit a sled with a sledgehammer until it moved about 10 feet.

When that was completed you had to drag a hose line filled with water 100 feet and then finally you dragged a 180 lbs. dummy 100 feet while walking backward.  I remember training for 3 months straight leading up to this test by running stairs and lifting weights at my local gym. I continued this trend straight through the fire academy and did so until about 5 years ago when I found CrossFit.

I actually owe my wife all the credit for showing me what CrossFit was about because she was doing CrossFit for about a year prior to me.  Before I found CrossFit, I was doing my normal weightlifting routine at my local gym, and running outside for cardio, but it simply wasn’t working for me. I needed something that would mimic my tasks that I would face at work and push me to be a better firefighter so I turned to CrossFit.

At first I didn’t abandon my normal routine of lifting weights and running, but simply added CrossFit into my weekly routine; unfortunately, that was short lived. I simply didn’t have enough time in the day to be a husband, a father, and workout multiple times per day.  So I had to choose CrossFit or the conventional workout routine at my local gym.

After a few weeks, I dove head first into CrossFit and haven’t looked back. I made new friends that are now like family to me, and physically I was stronger than I ever had been. I found that CrossFit was the closest thing I could find to my physical tasks at work. It was a combination of cardio and strength based training all in one.

With CrossFit, I was forced to do movements that I tried to avoid at my local gym including deadlifts and squats. Now I look back and wish that I would have been doing those two movements regularly long before I started CrossFit. Those two movements are used in almost every exercise in CrossFit and they are used constantly in firefighting.

Firefighters need to be able to pick up heavy tools and hoses off the ground and deadlifting is a great way to strengthen your legs, back, and core. The same goes for squatting because you need to have strong legs to carry equipment, run into burning buildings, and carry victims out of harm’s way.

Functional fitness in the form of CrossFit changed my understanding of what it meant to train for overall fitness. In my upcoming posts, I will dive deeper into functional fitness, sharing how it has made me a better all-around firefighter, husband, and father so you train like a firefighter too.