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The Effect of a Novel Tactical Training Program on Physical Fitness and Occupational Performance in Firefighters

Pawlak, Ross1; Clasey, Jody L.1; Palmer, Thomas2; Symons, Thorburn B.3; Abel, Mark G.1

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p 578–588
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000663
Original Research

Abstract: Pawlak, R, Clasey, JL, Palmer, T, Symons, TB, and Abel, MG. The effect of a novel tactical training program on physical fitness and occupational performance in firefighters. J Strength Cond Res 29(3): 578–588, 2015—Structural firefighting is a dangerous and physically demanding profession. Thus, it is critical that firefighters exercise regularly to maintain optimal physical fitness levels. However, little is known about optimal training methods for firefighters, and exercise equipment is often not available to on-duty firefighters. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the effect of a novel supervised on-duty physical training program on the physical fitness and occupational performance of structural firefighters. Twenty professional male firefighters were divided into a supervised exercise group (SEG; n = 11) and a control group (CG; n = 9). The SEG participated in a 12-week circuit training intervention. The SEG exercised for 1 hour on 2 d·wk−1. At baseline and after the intervention, subjects performed a battery of physical fitness tests and a simulated fire ground test (SFGT). At baseline, there were no significant differences (p = 0.822) in the completion rate of the SFGT in the SEG (82%) vs. the CG (78%). After the intervention, a significantly greater proportion of the firefighters in the SEG completed the SFGT compared with the CG (SEG = 100% vs. CG = 56%; p < 0.013). In addition, the SEG demonstrated significant improvements in body mass, fat mass, and body mass index (p ≤ 0.05). The findings of this study indicate that training with firefighter equipment improved occupational performance and anthropometric outcomes in incumbent firefighters. Furthermore, implementing a supervised exercise program using firefighter equipment can be done so in a safe and feasible manner.

1Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky;

2Athletic Training Education Program School of Human Services, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio; and

3Department of Gerontology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

Address correspondence to Mark G. Abel,

Copyright © 2015 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.