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The Effect of Fatigue and Training Status on Firefighter Performance

Dennison, Katie J.; Mullineaux, David R.; Yates, James W.; Abel, Mark G.

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: April 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 4 - p 1101–1109
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822dd027
Original Research

Dennison, KJ, Mullineaux, DR, Yates, JW, and Abel, MG. The effect of fatigue and training status on firefighter performance. J Strength Cond Res 26(4): 1101–1109, 2012—Firefighting is a strenuous occupation that requires optimal levels of physical fitness. The National Fire Protection Association suggests that firefighters should be allowed to exercise on duty to maintain adequate fitness levels. However, no research has addressed the effect of exercise-induced fatigue on subsequent fire ground performance. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to determine the effect that a single exercise session had on the performance of a simulated fire ground test (SFGT). Secondarily, this study sought to compare the effect of physical training status (i.e., trained vs. untrained firefighters) on the performance of an SFGT. Twelve trained (age: 31.8 ± 6.9 years; body mass index [BMI]: 27.7 ± 3.3 kg·m−2; V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak: 45.6 ± 3.3 ml·kg−1·min−1) and 37 untrained (age: 31.0 ± 9.0 years; BMI: 31.3 ± 5.2 kg·m−2; V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak: 40.2 ± 5.2 ml·kg−1·min−1) male career firefighters performed a baseline SFGT. The trained firefighters performed a second SFGT after an exercise session. Time to complete the SFGT, heart rate, and blood lactate were compared between baseline and exercise SFGT (EX-SFGT) conditions. In the trained firefighters, time to complete the SFGT (9.6% increase; p = 0.002) and heart rate (4.1% increase; p = 0.032) were greater during the EX-SFGT compared with baseline, with no difference in post-SFGT blood lactate (p = 0.841). The EX-SFGT time of the trained firefighters was faster than approximately 70% of the untrained firefighters' baseline SFGT time. In addition, the baseline SFGT time of the trained firefighters was faster than 81% of the untrained firefighters. This study demonstrated that on-duty exercise training reduced the work efficiency in firefighters. However, adaptations obtained through regular on-duty exercise training may limit decrements in work efficiency because of acute exercise fatigue and allow for superior work efficiency compared with not participating in a training program.

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

2School of Sport, Coaching and Exercise Science, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom

Address correspondence to Dr. Mark G. Abel,

Copyright © 2012 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.