Stuck in a rut? Not seeing progress? Stop making these workout mistakes and get fit for duty.
The goal of every firefighter, EMT and medic's workout program should be to improve performance and reduce chances of injury on (and off) the fireground. Would you agree with that? You can also add that a workout program should help manage stress and improve general health. Unfortunately, there are times when we may lose our motivation and/or the program we are following stops working for us. Has this happened to you?
There can be a million reasons why we stop making progress with our fitness. After coaching athletes and firefighters over the past 25 years and battling with my own fitness struggles, I have been able to uncover some major mistakes that most fire rescue athletes make with their fitness.
So, take a look at the common mistakes and avoid a fitness rut. Then pass these suggestions to others so they don't make the same mistakes.
#1 Mistake= Lacking a plan
It doesn't matter if you write it on paper or save it in the cloud or have it memorized. Without a plan of action your workouts will be half-assed and so will your progress. I see a ton of people do their "friends" workout. Why? Is it part of your plan to achieve someone else's goal? Set your goal, get a plan and kick some ass. Stop wasting time and getting frustrated.
#2 Mistake= Neglecting certain body parts (selective weight training).
We all have a tendency to focus on our favorite muscle groups. Most of the time these are the muscles you can see in the mirror (pecs, abs, biceps, quads). Overdeveloping these mirror muscles can lead to imbalances and injury. Make sure you plan and work on the posterior chain muscles (hamstrings, back, triceps, lower back) as much if not more than your anterior muscles. You might be able to do 100 push-ups, but can you do that many-pull ups or body rows?
#3 Mistake= Doing "Ab" work not "core" work.
Crunches and sit-ups might get your abs looking good but these movements will not do too much to improve your performance on the fireground and improve strength. All movements start with the core so you have to make sure you incorporate movements that will strengthen it.
Try to add one or two isolation moves to your workouts like the plank, side plank, glute bridge, and bird dogs. And to really work your core make sure you are doing some full-body exercises like front squats, deadlifts, and standing (not seated) shoulder presses.
#4 Mistake= Your resting too much
Powerlifters aside, a minute of rest or less should be used for all sets. Your total workout time should be an hour or less, this includes active warm-up and some recovery at the end. Look around the gym and you will see people wasting time; talking around the water cooler, checking their phones, or just sitting around. Don't be that guy or girl. Keep your rest to a minimum and get through your workout quickly. The faster pace not only mimics the fireground but will also jack up your metabolism.
#5 Mistake (this is a big one)= You're not working on your mobility and cardio conditioning
I see this all the time in the firehouse workout rooms and in most gyms... People go right to the weights and start working out without any warm-up or active stretching. In those situations where you are crunched for time, I understand the rationale of skipping the warm-up. This however should not become the norm of your workouts.
A warm-up activity serves two major purposes—to enhance performance and prevent injury. A proper active warm-up will activate muscles you will use during your workout, improve the range of motion of your muscles both before and after your workout, and can improve body awareness and balance. Active warm-ups also enhance muscular performance and power. Studies reveal dynamic stretching before a workout can help you lift more weight and increase overall athletic performance compared to no stretching or static stretching.
To really improve performance and avoid injury make sure you are actively stretching before your workouts and doing static stretching and foam rolling after. Even try some yoga, your mind and body will thank you. Click here for a great active warm-up example.
To improve your cardio conditioning you need to add some FRF afterburner intervals and/or Tabata protocols at the end of your workouts. These are intervals that incorporate fireground movements (carries, crawls, slams and stairs) that are set up in a circuit and performed at the tail end of a workout. These intervals or "afterburners" can improve your VO2 max and cardio recovery and help burn more calories.
If you have been struggling to make progress with your fitness these tips are guaranteed to help you get through that plateau. If you are contemplating getting back in shape then make sure to include these tips.
I hope these help. Let me know if you have any questions or tips that you think I should add.