I’ve done fitness testing for firefighters all over southern California and Oregon and I’ve seen how unbelievably beneficial it is for firefighters to be able to track their fitness throughout their careers, not to mention be screened for cardiac issues and injury risk. It is my hope that all fire administration place a high priority on being able to provide these for their personnel. NFPA 1583: Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members, calls for periodic fitness assessments for all members, among other things.
I also know that for some departments, finding the funding is a struggle (even though it’s well known that firefighter fitness programs deliver a major return on investment). So, for those of you who don’t have this benefit, today’s tip is for you:
How do you assess your own fitness if your fire department doesn’t have fitness testing?
Below is a description of some quick and dirty ways to assess your muscular fitness and flexibility. And, I’m sharing something with you that is extremely valuable to me – some normative data that I’ve collected over the past 7 years conducting hundreds of fitness tests on firefighters. These tables tell you the average scores for each age group, so you can understand how you compare to other firefighters.
Muscular Fitness Test:
Follow this protocol exactly: perform push-ups to a cadence of 80 beats/minute using a metronome (metronomes are available as apps). Lower down on one beat and extend up on the next beat. This will be much slower than you normally perform push-ups. You only need to bring your elbows to 90 degrees (your chest does not need to touch the floor). Straighten your elbows all the way during each up phase.
Tape a ruler to a wall (horizontally). Sitting next to the wall, stretch your legs out in front of you so your feet are in the center of the ruler. If you can reach your toes, holding for 2 seconds, your score is 0. If you can’t reach your toes, your score is the number of inches you are from reaching them (a negative number). If you can reach beyond your toes, your score is the number of inches you can reach past them (a positive number).
OK, go do these tests and tell us how it goes in the comments below!
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