While the term athlete “athlete” has generally been used to describe people who compete in individual or team sports, a new category of athlete has emerged in recent years that doesn’t involve competition. Today, members of the military, law enforcement and first responders such as firefighters or paramedics are often described as “tactical athletes” because of the physically demanding nature of their jobs. As a result, the field of tactical strength and conditioning has emerged to provide appropriate exercise and fitness programs to meet the fast-changing nature of these physically demanding jobs.
Exercise programs for tactical athletes and first responders should address a variety of needs, including mobility, movement efficiency, aerobic capacity and power. This is in contrast to a traditional approach to strength training that focuses on only one body part or muscle group at a time. Here, firefighters and tactical strength and conditioning experts share seven tips for designing effective workout programs for first responders.
1. Proper mobility training and dynamic warm-ups are essential for injury prevention.
Joey Fignone, a captain with the Menlo Fire Department in Northern California and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Peer Fitness Trainer (for firefighters), helps run his department’s training academy. He ensures that mobility and flexibility are key components of the fitness programs for new recruits.
“When speaking with new recruits about fitness, we emphasize that a healthy, functioning body is essential for job longevity,” explains Fignone. “To help reduce the risks of injury from performing the physically demanding tasks of the job, we make mobility and flexibility training a key part of the conditioning program at the academy. We provide foam rollers to our recruits and then take the time to teach them how to use them properly. In addition, we teach recruits how to perform a complete full-body dynamic warm-up prior to starting a workout.” Learn how to use foam rollers to help improve mobility and joint range of motion.
Fignone explains that they need to account for the daily fire-training schedule when designing programs for firefighters. “When it comes to planning the fitness programs we work inversely proportional to the daily fire training schedule,” he explains. “If the day includes a lecture, then we do a more challenging workout, but if they are doing live fire training, we do a lower-intensity workout. The one constant is that we always perform a complete dynamic warm-up before every workout.” This dynamic