Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Firefighter Fitness Standards

Are you fit enough to be a Firefighter?

Physical fitness is often described as the overall physical condition of the body, which can range from peak condition for performance at one end of the spectrum to extreme illness or injury at the other. Fitness should be seen as a global term with a number of specific components contributing to it. The key fitness components for fire fighting are aerobic (long term) endurance, muscular strength, muscular (short-term) endurance and flexibility. Optimum physical fitness for firefighters translates in being able to carry out daily fire fighting activities successfully and without undue fatigue.

Aerobic endurance allows you to continue to exercise for prolonged periods of time (> 3 minutes) at low to moderate/high intensity (e.g. running out a number of 70 mm hoses to provide a water supply for a fire). This is typically what limits your ability to continue to run, cycle or swim for more than a couple of minutes and is dependant upon your body’s heart, lungs and blood to get the oxygen you breath (aerobic) to the muscles providing you with the sustained energy needed to maintain prolonged exercise. Typical aerobic activities include walking-hiking, running-jogging, cycling, aerobic dance/group exercise, rope skipping, rowing, stair climbing, swimming, skating, and various endurance game activities or some combination thereof.

Muscular Strength allows you to lift, pull, push and carry heavy objects over very short distances/periods of time (e.g. lifting a 13.5 m ladder back on to an appliance). Your muscular strength is determined by your muscles ability to generate large forces, and is best trained using resistances such as weights, including your own body weight. It is important to remember that sensible weight training does not make you look like a body builder! Most of your improvements in strength will take place without your muscles getting any larger; they will just become firmer, more toned and more skilled at performing the task. A whole body approach should be adopted. Adequate rest should be given to allow the muscles to recover before performing further exercises. At least 48 hours rest should be allowed before repeating the exercises. Learning proper technique is important for safe and effective resistance training, and you are strongly recommended to seek professional fitness advice on this aspect of training. Lifting light weights to start with until you have mastered the correct technique is essential.

Muscular Endurance is closely linked to both aerobic endurance and muscular strength, but allows you to continue to lift, pull, push and carry heavy objects for more prolonged periods of time (e.g. carrying a light portable pump (~ 33 kg) from an appliance across a field to an external water source). Muscular endurance is best trained using more moderate resistances over a more prolonged period of activity, like circuit training using your own body weight as the resistance.

Flexibility refers to your ability to move your limbs and joints into specific positions at the end of their normal range of movement. Flexibility is important as it will allow your body to work in cramped positions without unduly stressing the muscles, tendons and ligaments (e.g.. crawling through small spaces or openings whilst searching the floor space for a casualty in a house fire) and may reduce the risk of injury. Flexibility is best developed using slow controlled stretching exercises.

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