Fitness Goals for First Responders: Strength

As a first responder you are responsible for the public's safety and well-being. FR are some of the most important jobs in today's modern world. There is a catch though. Not only are you responsible for the public's safety (including my own!), you are also responsible for your own. You owe it to yourself to be prepared and ready to respond to the demands. To do this you need to be injury free, strong and fit. Sometimes when you are living a high performance lifestyle (such as a first responder) it is easy to get side tracked and forget about what is important. When it comes to fitness, there are a few goals that I recommend working towards to stay in tip-top shape. Whether you are running into a burning building, chasing after the bad guy or lifting the MI patient into the stretch, these goals give you the fundamentals you need.

Goal #1: Squat a multiple of your body weight

Women: 1-1.5x BW for 1-3 reps
Men: 1.5-2x BW for 1-3 reps

It is hard to find a better exercise than the Barbell Back Squat (except maybe the Deadlift) that correlates to EVERYTHING you do as an athlete and physical performer. Train to master these numbers and be comfortable holding the weight on your back.


Goal #2: Deadlift a Multiple of your Body Weight

Women: 1-1.5x BW for 1-3 reps

Men: 1.5-2x BW for 1-3 reps

Surprised? You shouldn't be. If Squats is Heads, then the Deadlift is Tails. The deadlift is an even more functional movement than the back squat because it represents exactly what is sounds like: picking up dead weight from the ground. If you are able to lift an object from the floor to standing with proper form you are going to be able to better perform your duties without getting hurt. Translation: longer career, happier career.


Goal #3: Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat a Fraction of your Body Weight

Women: 40-50% of BW for 3-5 reps per side

Men: 70-80% BW for 3-5 reps per side

The split squat has become more popular in the high-performance sporting community for a couple reasons. 1) it adds torso demand to a lower body strength movement; 2) it is a measure of unilateral strength, which is a better predictor of performance and injury likelihood than bilateral movements; 3) it is really fr***n' hard. If you have never performed a split squat then I suggest starting with the video below and adding it into your regular strength routine.



Goal 4: Strict Pull Ups for Repetitions

Women: x5-10 at BW

Men: x10-20 at BW

Don't make the mistake of thinking the Pull Up is an upper body movement. It is a FULL body movement. For many, the pull up can be a challenge, even to get your first one. If you are on the quest for your first rep then check out my article here on how to set your foundation the RIGHT way.


Goal 5: Bench Press a % of BW

Women: 70-90% BW for 1-3 reps

Men: 110-150% BW for 1-3 reps

It isn't just a "bro-lift" because if is a VERY good representation of your pressing strength. You don't need to dedicate your life to maximizing your bench press, but working towards a goal will improve your upper body strength and health.


None of these goals are perfect, nor are they a rep-requisite for a successful career. What they ARE: markers of athletic strength and solid goals. One word of caution though: form is more important than raw numbers. Don't EVER sacrifice your form just to hit a higher number on paper. Keep your technique strict and work your way up gradually. Plateaus will happen, but that is a normal part of the journey.

Don't know how to train? Check you the Fit to Fight Training Program for Firefighters and the Prepare to Protect Training Program for Law Enforcement Officers.

-Mark Murdoch, DC Student, Kinesiologist

Happy lifting.

-Mark Murdoch, DC Student, Kinesiologist

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Author: Mark Murdoch, Kinesiologist, Chiropractic Student. Have questions? Email me. I want to help!