Hey Guys, Ryan Here:
I have spent the past several years collecting a wide variety of “tactical” fitness equipment for the home gym in my basement. I use the word “tactical” to describe basic tools used to perform exercises that mimic common firefighting tasks. This collection of basic equipment provides me with all that I need to participate in a wide array of tactical fitness programs designed to improve occupational performance while preventing injury.
I wanted to share this with you, because if I can put this together in my basement, you can do the same in your fire station or home.
Here are a few specific benefits of the tactical gym:
- I was able to quit my commercial gym saving more than $50 per month
- The cost of all of the equipment pictured above was very manageable, especially as I pieced it together over time
- Training at home is very convenient
- I am able to train any time, day or night
- The equipment requires little storage space
- The exercises require little space to perform
I think it is safe to say that the emphasis on firefighter fitness and health has never been higher, but we are operating with budgets that are limited to say the least.
HOW DO WE SET UP OUR FIRE STATIONS WITH QUALITY FITNESS EQUIPMENT ON A LIMITED BUDGET?
We need to look at the needs of our personnel and the funding available to improve firefighter fitness and wellness. Part of this process should be an honest assessment of the fitness equipment that is available, and then decide how to get the most “bang for the buck.” For the sake of this article, let’s put fitness equipment into two general categories:
CONVENTIONAL FITNESS EQUIPMENT
Conventional fitness equipment can be found in most commercial gyms around the world. This equipment tends to be expensive, and often requires a lot of space. In many cases, the use of this equipment is not of great benefit to firefighters looking for improved occupational performance and injury prevention. Please keep in mind that the prices below do not include discounts or shipping. Let’s look at a few examples:
USE: The treadmill may be used to walk, jog, or run. It can be used to develop different energy systems depending on the duration and intensity of the training session. Firefighters are not called upon to run very often. Our time is better spent using a different training modality.
COST: Firefighters would need a commercial treadmill. The approximate cost is: $2,000 – $6,000.
USE: The Stepmill and Stairmaster are used to replicate climbing stairs. Finding stairs near your station or home, or performing lunges are simple and more realistic substitutions for this piece of equipment.
COST: The approximate cost is $2700 – $6000.
USE: I would argue that the best use for this piece of equipment is to set your water bottle on it, or hang your towel on it when you are training. The use of a machine to perform single plane movements is of little or no value to firefighters.
COST: The approximate cost is $3,000 and up.
USE: The bench press is used to develop upper body strength and size. Unfortunately, this movement does not translate well to any specific firefighting task.
COST: The approximate cost of the bench with a bar and 300 lbs. is approximately $500.
TACTICAL FITNESS EQUIPMENT
Tactical fitness tools are often simple, compact and inexpensive. The exercise options that translate directly to improved occupational performance are too numerous to list. Please keep in mind that the prices below do not include discounts or shipping. Let’s look at a few examples:
USE: The clubbell may be the most functional fitness tool available to firefighters. It can be pressed, pulled, and swung through all planes of motion. A single clubbell can be used for a wide variety of strength and conditioning exercises. The unique design creates a distinct leverage disadvantage when moving the clubbell. For those new to clubbell training, 15 lbs. is plenty of weight.
COST: The price for a pair of 15 lb. clubbells and a 25 lb. clubbell is approximately $205.
USE: The kettlebell is another great tool for firefighters to use for functional strength and conditioning. The kettlebell can be pressed, pulled, and swing through all planes of motion.
COST: The price depends on weight. The price range is approximately $40 – $200 each.
USE: The Dynamax medicine ball is soft and durable with little bounce when thrown or slammed. Exercise options are vast, another versatile tool for firefighters.
COST: The price depends on weight. The price range is approximately $55 – $95 each.
USE: The sandbag may be described as an “awkward object.” It helps train firefighters to utilize proper lifting mechanics in less than ideal circumstances.
COST: There are a few different sandbag options available. The approximate cost is $100 – $175 each.
USE: Dumbbells may be used to perform a variety of bilateral and unilateral movements through a wide range of motion. They may also serve as a cheaper alternative to some of the tools listed above.
COST: Price varies depending on design, weight and quantity.
PULL UP BAR
USE: Pull-Ups are a great dynamic body weight exercise for firefighters.
COST: Varies depending on the type of pull-up bar fabricated or purchased. The bar in the photo has 2 segments (2 people may train together), and was fabricated and installed for $110.
GYM RINGS / TRX / SUSPENSION TRAINER
USE: Another simple tool with a wide variety of exercises to choose from. Great for developing joint stabilization and core strength.
COST: Varies depending on design. The approximate cost is $100 – $200.
USE: A simple tool used to augment body weight training. Many exercises can be performed using the parallette bars, building up to more advanced movements such as the “Lever Press.”
COST: A set of parallette bars will cost less than $25 to fabricate.
USE: The plyo box may be used to jump on or over. A great tool in building explosive strength and body control.
COST: Pre-made plyo boxes can be purchased for $85 – $350. The image shows a valve cover purchased at the hardware store for $35.
USE: The surface you train on is important to proper footing and safe movement.
COST: The black mats are “horse stall mats” purchased at the local grange supply for approximately $40 each. The grey mat is a “Zebra Mat” designed for grappling, purchased for $100 each.
USE: To aid in recovery and alleviate trigger points.
COST: The price of the roller in the image is approximately $40.
I think that we can all agree that firefighter fitness and health should be the highest priority in the fire service. Firefighter fitness is not just a matter of performance, but a matter of survival for us. So the question remains, “How do we set up our fire stations and homes with quality fitness equipment on a limited budget?” The answer is simple. Stop spending your department budget on overpriced machines. Improve the health of your department and save money by purchasing more functional equipment. You will be able to participate in more effective and efficient fitness programs at a much lower cost.
If you are interested in more information about tactical fitness equipment, click on the link below:
If you are interested in a specific and comprehensive fitness program designed for firefighters, by firefighters check out this link:
Train hard and stay safe!
Christian and Ryan
TACFIT Fire Fighter