Fit for Duty: The Fitness of Fire Fighting

Fitness Standards in the Fire Service

The fitness standard of the fire service is very high. You have to meet these standards if you want to become a firefighter. There are two types of fitness standards: physical and mental.

Physical fitness means how well your body will perform under various conditions; it includes things like endurance, strength, flexibility, speed, agility and balance. Mental fitness refers to your overall ability to deal with stressors and situations that may arise during your work life.

Firefighters must maintain good health because they are exposed to extreme temperatures, pressure, vibration and other hazards all day long. They often face danger while performing their duties. A firefighter’s job requires them to perform strenuous activities for extended periods of time.

These include fighting fires and rescuing people from burning buildings or vehicles. Some firefighters even use explosives or chemicals during their work. If a firefighter gets injured, he might not only lose his job but also his livelihood and possibly his life.

Physical Fitness Standards

There are three levels of fitness standards in the fire service: basic, advanced and elite. All firefighters must meet at least one level of fitness standard before they can move up to another. The basic standard is the minimum requirement for most jobs in society.

Most people need to be able to do some sort of manual labor, such as working a factory line or doing menial tasks around the house. This level of fitness is also good enough to pass the firefighter job entry standards. The advanced standard is usually required for a police officer (in most places) or even for some specialized jobs in the fire service. The elite standard is currently used by only a few firefighters around the world. This includes members of United States Presidential Security Division, who are often former special forces soldiers and must maintain this standard even after they retire from their military career.

The physical fitness standards of the fire service are in some cases higher than those of law enforcement officers and soldiers. This is because firemen must be ready for strenuous activity at all times, whether there is a fire or not. The job also requires them to wear heavy protective clothing and gear, which adds to the weight they have to carry around.

All firefighters must be in good physical shape to perform their duties safely and efficiently. This usually means they should have good strength, endurance and overall fitness. Good strength refers to how much force a person can exert; this is usually measured by how much weight he or she can lift.

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Good endurance means how long a person can perform a certain activity before getting tired.

The physical fitness standards of the fire service change depending on where you live. Some fire departments may not even have formal fitness requirements. Others may only require that you do one or two “max” lifts such as the bench press and leg tuck.

These numbers are then compared to others who took the test in your area. To find out what the fitness levels are in your area, contact your local fire department.

General Guidelines

These physical fitness standards are for firefighters who work on ground or in a truck company. They should be able to perform all required duties and not get tired while doing them. If your job requires you to work at heights or use a rappelling device, then you will most likely also have some sort of physical fitness testing to determine if you are able and fit enough to do this.

The standards are split into three categories: endurance, strength and flexibility. The level to which you must perform these are determined by your age and the standards that are set by your fire department.

These exercises are not listed in any particular order. You should cycle through them each time you work out. Do not do the same exercises every time or you will quickly plateau and not gain any further benefits from working out.

Before starting any exercise routine consult your doctor. If you have a history of heart problems, diabetes or other health issues be sure to check if the exercises are safe for you.


Running – Run in varying terrains and distances to build up your endurance.

Treadmill – Set the treadmill at a incline and vary the speed to build up endurance as well as strengthen your legs.

Stairs – Climb stairs of varying heights and lengths.

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Strength Training

Push-Ups – One of the best ways to build upper body strength.

Pull-Ups – Another great way to build upper body strength. Vary the grip and type of bar you use.

Dips – Builds strength in your chest, arms and shoulders.

Squats – The king of all leg exercises.

Abdominal Crunches – One of the best ways to build core strength.


Hanging – Use a pull-up bar or something similar to stretch yourself through the torso.

Forward Bend – Stretch out your hamstrings by bending forward while keeping your legs straight. Do not do this with bad form!

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Torso Twist – Stretch out your side and back muscles by twisting at your waist.

Back Bend – Stretch out your chest, shoulder and upper back muscles by reaching up high as if trying to touch the ceiling.

Sources & references used in this article:

Validating ‘fit for duty’tests for Australian volunteer fire fighters suppressing bushfires by C Lord, K Netto, A Petersen, D Nichols, J Drain… – Applied ergonomics, 2012 – Elsevier

Fire fit: assessing comprehensive fitness and injury risk in the fire service by GS Poplin, DJ Roe, JL Burgess, WF Peate… – International archives of …, 2016 – Springer

Physiological aspects of fire fighting by PO Davis, CO Dotson – Fire technology, 1987 – Springer