Fit Firefighter? Maybe not!

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is held around the country in many regional events. Thousand of spectators witness the best of the bravest, in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus performing the physical demands of real-life firefighting in a linked series of five tasks: climbing the five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175-lb. "victim" as they race against time and their opponents.

The event inspires many smoke eaters to a higher level of physical conditioning. Unfortunately, those who need to be inspired most, rarely hear the call.

Many of America's firefighters are not up to the standard of passing CPAT, never mind the Combat Challenge. There is resistance within the ranks to embrace physical conditioning programs because of general laziness and fear of reprisal. Both union and management see only the risk and expense, but not the long term benefit, reduction of risk, and saving of millions in health care and workmen's comp costs.

The Challenge helps bring the concept of the fit firefighter to the forefront, for all to see. Getting the boys out of the back room and into the weight room is the clear message. With that in mind, I'd like to offer a training program, designed to improve abilities and work capacity, within the five events featured in the Challenge.

Years of long shifts, intense stress, and downtime spent filling up on five-alarm fast foods have taken their toll on the bodies of America's Bravest. So AbFitt sounded the alarm--and came to the rescue. First stop: Chicago. With the help of personal trainer Dave Gould; nutritionist Brian Jackson and trainers Carrie Smith and Arnold Perez, of 24HR fitness Clubs, we designed an intensive diet-and-exercise program to manufacture muscle and burn fat. Next, we took the same challenge to New York and some flabby members of the FDNY. Then on to the home of AbFitt the Allentown FD. I want to thank those fire fighters who took part in this year long study. Great job guys!!! AbFitt is Americas firefighters first tool in living a fitness lifestyle.

After just 5 weeks, firefighters in both cities saw remarkable results. Some cut their body fat by a third. Others layered on lean muscle. But the best result? These strategies can help you build a body of heroic proportions, too. I continue to work personaly with each of these Fire eaters as we move forward with more intense training and zeroing in on the proper diet and supplementation. Stay tuned for individual stories to come.

1. Direct your efforts

Most resistance exercises require you to move only forward and backward or up and down. But if you train in additional planes--side to side and diagonal--you'll burn more fat and use more muscles with each move, according to Hays. The following multiplanar moves were staples of the firefighters' program.


Lunge forward with one foot and back to the starting position, then step out to the side. Return to the middle and step to the other side with your other foot. Next, pivot on your right foot to lunge back at a 45-degree angle with your left foot. Then pivot on your left foot and step back diagonally with your right foot. Do one or two sets of 12 reps in each direction.


Standing on one foot, jump out to the opposite side and land softly on your other foot. Immediately jump back in the same fashion. Repeat the same type of jump forward and backward, as well as diagonally. Do one or two sets of 12 repetitions in each direction.


Perform a standard squat, then step forward with your left leg and squat again. As you rise out of the squat, bring your right leg forward so it's even with your left, then take another step forward with your right leg and squat. Next, take a step back with your left foot and turn it at a 45-degree angle, so your toes are pointing to the side, then squat. Bring your left foot back and repeat the move with your right foot. Do one or two sets of 12 repetitions in each direction.

2. Drill your core

The firefighters did core-stabilization moves like the Swiss-ball long-lever crunch while adhering to a strict tempo: Crunch forward for a count of 2, pause for a second, then lower your body for a count of 4. "The core is slow to fatigue," says Perez, and this slow tempo provides the necessary stress. Perform core exercises early in your routine, when your energy is high.

3. Hit the floor

Once you've mastered the multiplanar lunge, start the move holding weights at your shoulders. As you lunge, lower the weights toward your toes and touch them to the floor. Then, as you push back to the starting position, press the weights overhead.

We call this move a multiplanar lunge matrix, and the benefits are as cool as the name. By bringing the weights to the floor, you stretch your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. You also increase the amount and intensity of work you do by moving the weights through such a large range of motion.

4. Snack smarter

5. Keep your balance

As with their snacks, the firefighters' high-protein "diet" meals weren't the flab busters they seemed. "Eliminating things like fruit, whole grains, and yogurt is not a long-term solution to weight maintenance. What's more, by cutting out certain foods, the firefighters were also handicapping their health. "Yogurt is full of good bacteria, which can aid your immune system. "These guys are in such stressful, dangerous conditions that they need all the help they can get to stay healthy. Bottom line: Stick with a ratio of 50 percent vegetables and fruit, 25 percent whole grains, and 25 percent lean proteins.