Firefighter Exercise Equipment

As firefighers with the City of Everett, you are fortunate to have a fairly decent set of equipment at each of the duty stations.  It’s not the same everywhere.  Whether interested in variety or are limited in equipment the following article from the NSCA will give you some great ideas.

Circuit training is an excellent modality for the firefighter.  The article goes on to provide advice on usiing the circuit in your personal or group training regimine…. Check it out.

Table 2. Exercises and Firefighter Equipment Utilized during the Program    

April Hot Topic - Table 2  

Note: It is important to note that this is not meant to be an exclusive list of exercises. Additional exercises may be performed as long as they are ergonomically correct and do not utilize contraindicated positions. 

 Small (1.75 and 2.5 in.) and large diameter (5.0 in.) hoses were used to simulate the following exercises: hose roll swing and hose undulation. Hose rolls were also utilized to add additional weight to body squats, wall sits, and upright rows. Class-A foam buckets that weighed approximately 45 lb provided additional resistance to the farmer’s carry, overhead press, deadlift, and upright row exercises.  

April Hot Topic thumbnail 

Looking for exercise demos? 

Check out this video, which demonstrates all the exercises mentioned in this article.  

Each exercise was performed with fire equipment that added resistance, improved fitness outcomes, and enhanced familiarity with the equipment, and translated into improved job performance.   

Looking to Circuit Training 

Various types of training programs can be implemented with firefighter equipment. Circuit training with firefighter equipment may be best suited for enhancing muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance given the inability to modify the weight of many pieces of equipment (e.g., SCBA). 

Circuit training (with firefighter equipment) has been reported to be an appropriate training method as it places similar physiological demands on the body when compared to on-the-job firefighting tasks (1). Logistically, several pieces of equipment can be arranged within a fire station bay or outside to allow for multiple firefighters to exercise simultaneously. Furthermore, utilizing circuit training where a group of firefighters exercise together may foster a “team-based” atmosphere, which is a critical concept within the fire service.

Finally, circuit training can be used to train a group of firefighters with various levels of fitness by personalizing the intensity, volume, recovery period, and exercise progression based on fitness level and training status. For example, a beginner lifter should do fewer repetitions, have a smaller work-to-rest ratio, and perform simple exercises; whereas an advanced lifter should do more repetitions, have a larger work-to-rest ratio, and perform complex exercises.

Given the advantages of circuit training with firefighter equipment, it should be noted that other forms of training (e.g., high-intensity cardiovascular training and heavy resistance training) are often necessary to maximize all physical fitness outcomes related to a firefighter’s physical ability (i.e., basic strength, power, cardiorespiratory endurance, etc.). Finally, as with any type of training, it is important that qualified personnel supervise firefighters while training with the equipment to ensure that proper technique is used to minimize risk of injury and damage to the equipment.

Conducting exercise programs that utilize firefighter equipment has several advantages. First, the use of firefighter equipment may decrease the need for traditional fitness equipment and save the department’s money and valuable space within the fire station. Second, training with equipment that firefighters use on the job may optimize their familiarity with the equipment and enhance job performance. Finally, performing task-specific exercises with firefighter equipment may enhance functional performance (Table 2).


In conclusion, firefighters should participate in a regular exercise program to prepare for the physical demands of the job. One of the primary barriers to exercise training while on duty is the lack of access to fitness equipment in the fire station. However, this Hot Topic indicates that firefighter equipment can be used in a regular exercise program to enhance physical fitness and functional performance. The functional performance of firefighters may be further enhanced through proper exercise prescription and the use of a qualified exercise specialist.   

About the Author

Ross Pawlak is a professional firefighter and paramedic. Pawlak is an owner, operator, and lead trainer at FireFITT. FireFITT is a fitness facility that focuses on community health and wellness with a special interest in providing and promoting firefighter fitness to local firefighters and departments. Pawlak is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist®. Mark Abel is a former firefighter and currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion at the University of Kentucky. Abel is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® and Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator™. He conducts research to improve the health, safety, and performance of firefighters and law enforcement officers.

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