Fire Fighting in Canada

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FitSmart July 2010

Every fire department has its issues and always will, but, for the most part, the global community of firefighters is a very tightly knit group. Fire departments are rich in tradition and are filled with camaraderie and teamwork among their members.
With that camaraderie comes plenty of opportunity to get involved in the activities that bring firefighters closer together.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest celebrations of the firefighting community lies within the World Police & Fire Games.

July 6, 2010
By Brad Lawrence

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Every fire department has its issues and always will, but, for the most part, the global community of firefighters is a very tightly knit group. Fire departments are rich in tradition and are filled with camaraderie and teamwork among their members.

With that camaraderie comes plenty of opportunity to get involved in the activities that bring firefighters closer together.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest celebrations of the firefighting community lies within the World Police & Fire Games.

The WPFG needs no introduction to the fire service. Whether or not you have become a fan and follower of the WPFG (held in 2010 in B.C.) you will want to tune in next year as the 2011 games in New York are set to be the biggest in history, with a special 10-year anniversary of 9-11 planned. I’m sure many of you are already training to make the journey as competitors or spectators.

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Regardless of your goals, an overview of plyometric performance training should present a few ideas for your training regime, whether you’re WPFG bound or not.

The basis
It’s important to remember that your training program should evolve with your body. Your program shouldn’t become routine or mundane and it should be changed every four to six weeks as your body adapts to what you throw at it.

Plyometrics training is designed to increase speed, explosiveness and power in your muscle contractions. Plyometrics training also boasts great benefits to core conditioning, co-ordination and balance, making it ideal for athletes. These workouts are performed at high intensities, with heavy loads placed at times on several muscles at once. While extremely effective for achieving results plyometrics isn’t without risks. Most exercises include heavy loads and a reasonable impact on muscles and joints. The workouts are very safe; however, they shouldn’t be attempted without an adequate base fitness level or supervision, especially when trying new exercises. Remember to cycle a plyometrics program through your normal routine just as any other; do not let these intense workouts take over your yearly training plan.

The training programs
Top athletes who participate in most sport or events generally desire similar physical traits. The most successful athletes possess explosive speed, power and endurance above and beyond most of the other competitors. Your training should break away from your traditional workouts and out of your comfort zone. Your training should be geared toward increasing these athletic traits.

The program I recommend consists of four training scenarios that you can spread over the week as you choose. Make sure you leave space to start the next week with no delay or you’ll quickly fall behind. For those who love to assign workouts to certain days of the week, try lower body Monday and Thursday and upper body Tuesday and Friday. The other days are yours to play with.

This workout is an upper/lower body split – two days each. Off days can be used for rest, cardio, sport-specific work and soft tissue work with a foam roller (you’ll see why after day one). If you are unfamiliar with any exercises listed, consult Google or YouTube, which are both great resources for exercise instruction. Make sure each workout starts with a proper warm up consisting of a brief run and dynamic stretching.

Lower body
We’re going to start with lower body work, which is the foundation for all power movements. Perform lower body on days one and three. Alter the program on the two days as you choose to best suit your needs.

Finish your workouts with an upright bike at a very low intensity for five to10 minutes to help flush out your muscles.

Upper body
Our upper body workout is designed around traditional metabolic programs, with plyometrics incorporated. Be sure to properly warm up with a brief run and by engaging your shoulders in a band warm up before performing any explosive movements. If you feel it necessary, add additional rotator cuff work at the conclusion of the upper body training day.

Perform upper body on days two and four. Alter the program between days two and four as you choose to best suit your needs.

Rest days
What you decide to do with your rest days is entirely up to you. Determine what your body can handle, as these programs will likely be quite a shock to your system. I’d strongly encourage using a foam roller the day after lifting, and rolling out the soft tissues you recently worked so hard. Also, try to set aside some time to work on your core conditioning while still allowing your major muscles to rest.

The first few times you decide to perform plyometrics training will undoubtedly be very difficult. Expect to be sore, expect to be tired and expect to be better than you were the day before.

For plyometrics workout charts see the online version of this column at www.firefightingincanada.com – just click on
current issue. 

Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a certified personal trainer who specializes in training and nutrition for emergency responders. He has trained and coached countless firefighters through all aspects of fitness and overall wellbeing. E-mail Brad at bradmlawrence@gmail.com


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