There are many great exercises a firefighter should implement into their workout routine to increase longevity on the fire-ground. Exercises that touch many elements such as core stabilization, muscular endurance and overall strength. We all know as firefighters that the job requires a “different kind of strength”. When things go bad we often don’t have time to warm up or to properly set up before lifting an awkward object such as the spreaders. However, we can better prepare ourselves through weight training to increase our chances of being more productive when the time comes. Here are 6 fire related exercises you can add to your firefighter fitness routine.


1. Single Arm Dumbbell/Kettlebell Complex

Single arm dumbbell or kettle bell complexes are great for increasing core stability and overall strength. With proper core activation, single arm work will help you to be able to move awkward objects easier.

An example of a single arm dumbbell complex would be the Firefighter Furnace Dumbbell Tri-Plex walk:

  • Perform a dumbbell snatch and walk 10 paces
  • Lower dumbbell to front rack and walk 20 paces
  • Lower dumbbell to farmers carry and walk 30 paces
  • Switch sides and walk back

You can use the same method for walking, lunges or climbing stairs.


2. Pull-Ups

The pull-up is a great compound exercise meaning that it involves activation of many important muscles and joints. Not only is it a great upper body exercise but it strengthens your grip as well.

There are many different pull up variations such as traditional, kipping, chin-ups, alternating grip, butterfly and even muscle ups. So which ones should you do as a firefighter? Our answer is all of them. Being able to lift your own body weight can and will get you out of trouble in certain situations.

An example of a workout using different pull up variations would be:

  • 5 muscle ups
  • 10 traditional pull ups
  • 15 butterfly pull ups
  • Without letting go of the bar

If this is not possible with your current fitness level, it’s a good goal to work towards.


3. Heavy D-Ball Holds or Dummy Holds

D-ball holds are great for building strength and stability through your midline. Just by picking it up and holding it, you’re training to lift awkward objects and being able to activate your core, arms and shoulders for an extended period of time thus increasing on-scene performance.

If a D-ball is not available, you can use a heavy dummy (or your engineer) instead to get the same effect.

An example workout would be:

  • 4 sets:
  • 30 seconds D-Ball Hold @150lbs guys and 100lbs girls
  • 30 seconds rest


  • 3 sets:
  • 1 minute on
  • 1 minute off

Once you master the d-ball hold, you may start to advance to d-ball carries for distance.


4. Deadlift

There is a reason the deadlift is one of the two basic exercises for increasing strength. Also, the deadlift performed in different variations can target specific goals. For example, you can utilize the deadlift to increase over-all strength, endurance, cardio, stamina, posture and grip strength.

The deadlift must be performed with proper form to capture all the benefits. Start light, learn and become a master.

An example workout would be:

  • 5 sets of 2


  • Perform 10 smooth touch and go reps every 2 min for 10 min @55-60% of 1 rep max.


5. Weighted Burpee Step Up

This exercises is great for any firefighter looking to increase their engine. This multiple movement exercise increases strength as well as endurance. It is also a great exercise for testing lactate threshold meaning that the more times you do it, the better you will become at it as well as many other physical tasks you may encounter on the fire ground.

An example workout would be:

  • 50 for time (25 each leg)


6. Ball Slams

The ball slam is a great for increasing explosive strength and stamina. Short bursts of explosive strength is something every firefighter should be proficient in in order to increase overall performance on the fire ground.

You can use either a medicine ball, slam ball or mimic the same motion on a tire with a sledge hammer.

An example workout would be:

  • Tabata circuit alternating between left, front and right ball slams


  • 6 tire hits left side
  • 6 tire hits right side
  • 12 tire hits alternating sides



Donny Pearson is the founder of Firefighter Furnace and co-creator of the HERO programs designed to increase on-scene longevity through advanced firefighter performance training.  

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