Create an Effective Firefighter Workout Schedule

Do you work out on shift?  Should you work out on shift and what is the best workout to perform?  How do you schedule your workouts around your shifts or calls?

This is a major concern for the fire rescue athlete (firefighter, EMT, and/or medic).  On one hand, we know we should be working out to stay and get fit for duty. Yet, if we burn out in the gym, we will not be able to perform when it really matters.  So, what is the best thing to do?

Here is my take on the question.  We all know that when the bell (or pager) goes off we MUST be ready to perform.  With that in mind, it does not make a lot of sense to perform a grueling workout while on duty.  With that in mind, as firefighters, EMTs, and medics we must plan our workouts and recovery based on our shift schedule, sleep and rest, and our goal.  It can be a delicate mix but with the right plan, you can really feel and see the results.

To ensure that you are making fitness progress and are ready to perform your duties on-shift, I suggest that you take some time each week to plan your workouts.   Each week should be a snapshot of a bigger plan and goal and work into the next week of workouts.  I suggest following fitness programs for 8 weeks at a time.  This allows for great fitness progress and ensures that you do not lose motivation and plateau.  Take a day each week to plan around your shifts and ensure your success.  Here is a great example of a "planned” week of workouts.

firefighter workout schedule


Firehouse Shift- Cardio Interval Crew Workout and foam rolling (click here to check out a great crew interval workout).   For this workout, I try to get other members of my crew involved.  We start with 4 or 5 active warm-up movements and then set-up a circuit.   We like to do our circuits in the apparatus bay and set up 8 stations and perform them in a circuit for 3 rotations.  I have an interval timer set to music and we perform 30 seconds of work and then take 30 seconds to rest and transition.  This past shift we performed stair climb with weights, tire drags, crawls, band twists (core exercise), sledges on a tire, dummy drags, ladder raises (against the wall), and then held a squat.   You can change the exercises based on the equipment you have and your level of fitness.  We then finished with a 5-minute group stretch and foam roll.  What a great way to build crew camaraderie!


Full-body Strength or Metabolic Workout.  Currently, I am following the FRF HERO X and would do one of the strength workouts from the program.  This workout, like all our FRF workouts, includes all the essential components needed to improve performance, reduce injuries, and prolong the career of first responders.  They start with active warm-ups and core exercises and progress to full-body strength exercises and finish with some challenging cardiovascular intervals.  And, then finish with some light stretching and foam rolling to prepare for my next workout and shift…


Firehouse Shift- Steady-state cardio on the bike or a jog on the treadmill.  If I am training for an event, like the 5K the FRF Way, I would use this day to run.  I also like to use this day to focus on some foam rolling (click here for foam rolling basics) and will use a massage percussion gun throughout the day to help with sore muscles.   If I am feeling tired from the previous shift or workout, I will just use this day as a recovery day and do some stretching and foam rolling.  You must listen to your body!

Great tools to help first responders recover.


Full-body Strength or Metabolic Workout.  I would perform another workout from my program.  Again, each one of these workouts includes all the needed components that help improve performance: active warm-up, core, functional strength, and power, intervals, and recovery.


Firehouse Shift- Yoga and recovery day.  I follow the FRF 24-minute recovery workout this day.  It really helps with mental and physical recovery.  No equipment is needed.  You can follow the workout by clicking here.

Fire Rescue Fitness Recovery Workout

Try this great firefighter recovery workout.


Full-body Strength or Metabolic Workout.  This type of workout challenges all muscle groups including the core.  I might also take this day off to recover based on the call volume and sleep from the previous day.  If so, I would then perform this workout on Saturday.


OFF DAY/ Nutrition Planning Day.  I use this day to rest and to prepare meals (Nutrition prep) and my workout schedule for the next week.  I also might switch this day with Friday depending on call volume and my energy level.  I think it is especially important to continually plan your workouts and recovery!

Obviously, everyone's schedule is a little different, the main idea is to plan your workouts to help you continue to work towards your fitness goal and to "be ready" on shift.

Plan your workouts, work out your plan, and Get FRF!  Please leave some comments and as always email me with questions. 

Stay Safe and Healthy,

Aaron “ZAM” Zamzow

Are you ready to accomplish your fitness goals this year? Fire Rescue Fitness has workout programs that will help first responders lose weight, gain strength, lose body fat and most importantly improve performance on (and off) the fire/rescue scene.


first responder fitness challenge to improve performance and your career

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