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Fit for Life: No excuses for not exercising

No excuses for not exercising

December 13, 2007
By Aaron Brouwer

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aaronbrouwerI can’t afford a gym pass!”  “I don’t own any exercise equipment.”  “It takes too long to get to the gym, I would work out if there was something closer.”  No more excuses!  You don’t need a gym pass, heck you don’t even need a gym to work out.  It is time to stop letting your excuses be the reason why you do not do any physical fitness.  There are several exercises you can do that do not require any specialized exercise equipment.  With a little bit of creativity you can get a full body workout without ever stepping into a gym or spending money on exercise equipment.

Here are several exercises you can do around the house that will help you to become stronger and healthier. Let’s review some basic guidelines first:
•    Perform the exercise correctly.  If you do not know how to do it properly ask an expert.  Use proper technique.
•    Use progression.  Set up a program that allows you to get better with each workout.
•    Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness prior to working out.
•    Remember to breathe.  Don’t hold your breath while exercising.
•    Drink lots of water.

PUSH-UPS: This exercise works pectorals, deltoids, abdominals  and the lower back. These muscles are used when raising a ladder, forcible entry, search, and ceiling pull and breach.

Place hands on ground, shoulder-width apart or slightly more.  Keep feet together and back straight throughout the exercise. Lower the body until the upper arms are at least parallel to the ground. Push yourself up to the initial position by completely straightening arms. Inhale while lowering and exhale while pushing.

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BENCH STEPS: This exercise works glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.  These muscles are used when climbing stairs, dragging hose, raising a ladder, forcible entry, search and rescue, and ceiling pull and breach.
Use a step or bench 6" to 18" high (if you don’t have a bench, just use the first step on a stairway). Place your right foot flat on the bench with the left foot flat on the floor. Push down with the foot on the bench and step up until both legs are straight. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Exhale while pushing up and inhale while lowering down. Repeat entire sequence with other leg. Start with a smaller step and progressively increase the height.  Do not exceed 18" high.

LEG RAISES: This exercise works hip flexors, abdominals and obliques.  These muscles are used when climbing stairs, dragging hose, raising a ladder, forcible entry, search and rescue, and ceiling pull and breach.

Lie on your back and place your hands palm-down under your pelvis. Your hands will function as a cradle to prevent your back from arching. Keep your head and shoulders up, with abdominals flexed to flatten your lower back against the ground. Raise your legs about 18" off the floor and then lower to about 12" and repeat. If you feel pain in your lower back your abdominals are not strong enough for this exercise and you should not continue until you have strengthened your abdominals (see crunches).

DIPS: This exercise works pectorals, deltoids and triceps.  These muscles are used when raising a ladder, forcible entry, search, and ceiling pull and breach.

Place your hands behind you on a chair with feet straight in front. Bend arms and lower body in a controlled manner until the upper arms are parallel with the floor. Straighten the arm to return to the starting position. If unable to perform three dips, use a stool or a partner to help you and then lower yourself down slowly. Inhale while lowering yourself and exhale while pushing up.

CRUNCHES: This exercise works abdominal muscles.  These muscles are used in all firefighting activities.
Start in bent-knee sit-up position, with both legs up off the floor, so both your hips and knees are at right angles. Place both hands behind your head. Raise shoulders and upper back off the floor, then lower and repeat. Try to go as fast as you can. Do not pull against your neck. Exhale while curling up and inhale while lowering back down.

CALF RAISES: This exercise works calves.  These muscles are used when climbing stairs, dragging hose, and search and rescue.

Stand on the edge of a stair so that toes and balls of feet are on the edge of the stair with arches and heel hanging off. Raise heels as high as possible by extending ankles. Then lower heels to just below the edge of the stair to stretch the calf. Keep knees straight during the movement. Hold on the rail or wall if you need to maintain your balance, but let your legs do the work. Repeat process, and remember to inhale when raising the heel and exhale when lowering the heel.

BODY PULL-UPS: This exercise works latissimusdorsi, rhomboids, posterior deltoids and biceps.  These muscles are used when dragging hose, extending a ladder, forcible entry, rescue, and ceiling pull and breach.

Lie face up on the floor under the edge of a table or use a bar or a 2×4 mounted on a wall about four feet high. Wrap your fingers around the edge. Arms should be near straight and hands about shoulder width apart. Pull your chest up to touch the underside of the table. Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat. Inhale when you pull up and exhale when you lower down.

WALL-SITS: This exercise works glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.  These muscles are used when climbing stairs, dragging hose, raising ladders, forcible entry, search and rescue, and ceiling pull and breach.

Stand with your back against a solid wall. Slide down the wall, moving your feet out in front of you until your legs are bent to a 90-degree angle. Keep your back flat against the wall. Hold this position as long as possible.

Remember to breathe throughout the exercise.

HAND GRIPPERS: This exercise works forearm muscles.  These muscles are used when dragging hose, carrying equipment, extending a ladder, forcible entry, rescue, and ceiling pull and breach.

Place a tennis ball in palm of hand. Slowly squeeze hand compressing tennis ball. Repeat with other hand.

You can see that you can get a full body workout without ever stepping into a gym or buying expensive equipment.

All you need is a little creativity. There should be no excuse for not keeping yourself in good physical shape.

Firefighting is a physically demanding job; you can give up 30 minutes a day to stay fit.  The public depends on you, your partner depends on you, and your life depends on you.  Do your part, stay in shape.  No more excuses!

Aaron Brouwer has 17 years of combined experience in structural and wildland firefighting. A graduate of Trinity Western University with a Bachelors of Human Kinetics, Brouwer is an instructor with Canwest Fire.


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