Training for the FireFit Combat Challenge requires as much mental strength as it does physical. While the challenge generally only lasts 2-4 minutes, the body is asked to perform under maximum intensity for the entire duration. On top of that, competitors wear full gear which can weigh up to 60lbs and prevent air from cooling the body, as well as breath off a self-contained breathing apparatus meaning oxygen is less readily available.
When the body is asked to perform at maximum intensity, the lungs cannot supply enough oxygen to the muscles for contraction. The body adapts by switching to anaerobic respiration, a process whereby energy is made for muscle contraction without the help of oxygen. The consequence of this process is the production of lactic acid. This process can only be used for a short period of time as lactic acid builds up quickly in the blood and muscles causing nausea, pain, and prevents further muscle contractions from occuring at all.
The goal of training is to improve your body's lactic acid threshold, or the time it can perform at maximum intensity with limited oxygen. This requires a special type of training. For example, jogging does nothing to help a firefighter in this competition. When jogging, the body is performing at an intensity that allows the lungs to provide plenty of oxygen to the muscles for contraction, known as aerobic respiration. Therefore, no lactic acid is made. For this reason, the best training exercises are generally short in duration but require every bit of the strength the firefighter has. At the same time, the exercises should be geared toward developing similar muscles and skills that will be used at the competitions.
Napanee FireFit Combat Team Training
We are a small fire department and therefore don't have some of the resources and equipment that larger fire departments have. Some fire departments have went as far as building replicas of the course to use for their training. We make the most of what we have and created some of our own ideas to simulate tasks used on the course as well. Generally, we use a cross-fit style of training where exercises utilize a broad range of muscle groups at high intensity for short periods of time. Our schedule is generally about 2 times per week of FireFit training in the off season and 3 times per week once a competition gets closer. This is on top of any other training we do outside the fire hall. Generally, we can be found training for FireFit every Saturday morning at the fire hall, and Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings as well.
The stairs we have at our fire hall are not as steep as the tower in the competition. Also, we only have one flight of stairs that is 14 steps. For this reason, we generally run up and down the stairs repeatedly for anywhere from 6 to 12 times. We always wear atleast our bunker pants and boots, but closer to the competition we start to wear our bunker coats and even add the self-contained breathing apparatus. We also carry a bundle of hose on one shoulder which weighs somewhere in the 40-50lb range. The stairs are sometimes used as warm-ups but most ofter are combined with other drills to simulate performing other techniques while fatigued. The stairs are great for building power in the legs.
Dump Truck Tire Pull
This is probaby the most gruelling of the techniques we use. The tire weighs an estimated 100lbs and is generally dragged a distance of anywhere from 75-150 feet. We have an eye-bolt through it that we use to hook about 10 feet of chain onto and drag the tire with a harness. We generally drag the tire forwards and then immediately turn around and drag it backwards as shown. Sometimes this exercise is done by itself, but most often we combine it with something afterwards. This is probably the best exercise we do for building leg power.
Thrusters are a cross-fit exercise that we just started using in 2011. They can be done with a barbell or with dumbells as shown. We generally use a weight of somewhere between 60-100 lbs. The weight is taken down into a squat position, and then the firefighter trys to explode up into a standing position. As he is approaching a standing position, the weight is thrusted up over his head until the elbows are fully extended. The weight is then dropped back down to the shoulders while the firefighter simultaneously goes back into a squatting position and repeats the move. These are always combined with other exercises. They are great for building power in the legs.
Tractor Tire Flip
The tractor tire probably weighs in the 300-400lb range, though maybe more. We generally flip it atleast 5 times. The tire flip is always combined with other exercises. The tire flip helps build full body strength, especially the legs. Care must be taken to keep the back straight when lifting such heavy weight, helping to prevent the risk of injury.
Keiser/Forced Entry Machine
This training exercise is an actual event on the course. On the course you hammer a steel beam that is now controlled with pneumatic resistance. The shot mallet used is 8 lbs. We have built our own using a piece of i-beam. This is always combined with other exercises, and is used primarily to improve technique in the forcible entry section of the course.