TACFIT Study for Whatcom County Fire Fighters

In 2005, Scott Sonnon introduced his TACFIT (tactical fitness) program to fire fighters in Whatcom County.  A few of us embraced this new program, and achieved unprecedented levels of physical fitness.  We found the program to be very comprehensive.  It achieves the perfect balance of no intensity joint mobility, moderate intensity strength training, high intensity metabolic conditioning, and low intensity compensatory movements.  Those of us that were dedicated to the program felt like it had what other programs we used in the past were missing.  Christian Carson and Ryan Provencher became certified as TACFIT Team Leaders, and put the program to the test on a much larger scale.  We set up a 108 day “TACFIT Challenge” for our fire department.  We served as coaches and instructors for the entire 108 days.  Kelly LaBounty issued a similar challenge to fire fighters for North Whatcom Fire & Rescue.  The results are outlined here:

Bellingham Fire Department has 137 fire fighters. Sixty expressed interest in TACFIT, forty participated sporadically, twenty maintained sixty percent compliance with the program, and eleven had seventy percent compliance or above for the entire 108 days. The average age of the eleven fire fighters with over seventy percent compliance was 41 years old. There were nine males and two females.

Compliance was measured on a ten-point scale. Completing the daily workout was worth four points, and eating six healthy meals was worth one point each. A perfect day was worth ten points. Points were subtracted for missing workouts, consuming foods or beverages with a high sugar/fat content, alcoholic beverages, etc. The goal was to average eight points per day over an eight-day period (eighty percent compliance). Fire fighters who scored seventy percent or above with their compliance had significant increases in the following physical attributes:

Greatest Weight Loss: 11 pounds (Average -1.4 pounds)

Largest Fat Loss: 9 pounds (Average -2.3 pounds)

Largest Body Fat Percentage Reduction: -4.3% (Average -1%)

Largest Lean Body Mass Gain: 5 pounds (Average +1 pound)

Greatest Push Up Increase: 20 reps (Average +4 reps)

Greatest Pull Up Increase: 9 reps (Average +4 reps)

Greatest VO2 Max (aerobic capacity) Increase: +4.9 ml/kg/min (Average +1.73 ml/kg/min)

Greatest Reduction in Abdominal Circumference: -2.25 inches (Average     -1.2 inches)

Fire fighters also reported significant increases in:

Mobility:  Fire fighters who completed the joint mobility and compensatory yoga as outlined noted significant increases in range of motion and better body movement overall after completing the program.

Mental Toughness:  Participants expressed an increase in mental toughness.  They felt like they were able to push themselves harder mentally as they progressed through the program.  Improved mental cognition and retention of fine motor skills under physical stress were noted as the fire fighters adapted to this high intensity training.

Teamwork:  The fire fighters in our department cover a wide demographic.  The age range is between 24 and 67.  The men and women in our department have a wide variation in their baseline fitness levels.  TACFIT allows everyone to train together using the same training protocol at the same time.  This is a tremendous team-building tool.  No one is excluded regardless of their previous training and the group environment serves to encourage and motivate all who participate.

Injury Prevention:  The number one killer in the fire service is heart disease.  The most common injury is back injury followed by ankle strains and sprains.  TACFIT addresses all of these issues and more by providing comprehensive training. Work and recovery are equally important.  Core strength and joint health are targeted specifically on a daily basis.  Training movements instead of muscle groups allow our fire fighters to perform in awkward positions under stressful conditions with greater efficiency and safety.

The TACFIT program has improved the quality of life for many people in our department.  If you are interested in conducting a similar study in your department using the same protocol, it will be available soon to Training Officers and Peer Fitness Trainers.  TACFIT Fire Fighter has evolved from the original TACFIT program to become more specific to fire fighters.  The “First Alarm” will be released soon.

Are you ready to take your physical fitness and job performance as a fire fighter to the next level?


COMING SOON…………… TACFIT Fire Fighter First Alarm!

TACFIT Fire Fighter First Alarm is the first in a series of comprehensive tactical fitness programs designed for fire fighters, by fire fighters.  The TACFIT Fire Fighter series will focus on improving the specific attributes necessary for fire fighters to perform at a higher level and get home safely.  After more than a year of refinement and beta testing, First Alarm is nearly ready for release.


What to Expect:


FILLING THE VOID:  Comprehensive Fire Fighter Fitness

Most physical training programs do not meet the needs of the fire fighter based on basic design.  Many programs come from a sportive or body building focus, which is clearly not fire fighter specific.  Other programs may focus on long, slow duration aerobic training, which does not prepare the fire fighter for the intensity and burst/recovery energy demands of the job.  Another omission from many programs is an emphasis on prehab and recovery to help prevent injuries and maintain operational readiness.

The TACFIT Fire Fighter series uses the model of “PREHAB-STRESS-RECOVERY” to improve injury prevention, enhance physical, mental, and emotional attributes, and provide proper recovery.  Many programs focus on mono or bi-planar action on individual joints with high volume single exercises.  TACFIT Fire Fighter utilizes  multi-joint, multi-planar, and multi-modal exercise.  The result is a body that functions as a whole unit with greater mobility and expressible strength through a greater range of motion.


Day 1 Strength –The emphasis for this moderate intensity day is development of core strength, and increasing expressible strength through dynamic body weight movement.

Day 2 Metabolic Conditioning – The exercises have been reverse engineered from movements fire fighters commonly perform in the line of duty.  Six different protocols are used to mimic the variety of work to rest ratios fire fighters encounter while battling a working structure fire.  Each workout is 20 minutes in duration, similar to the working time for the average person wearing an SCBA.

Day 3 Joint Mobility –  Active recovery from moderate and high intensity training.  These movements flush and lubricate the joints, shaving away restrictions and improving joint health.

Day 4 Compensatory Movement – Further aids in recovery, and prepares the body for the next cycle of moderate and high intensity training.  Decompresses the joints and maximizes muscle recovery through low intensity compensatory movements.

The 4 day wave is designed to maximize recovery from high intensity training so you are able to perform at a high level when duty calls and go home safely.


TEAMBUILDING:  The 4 Levels of Sophistication

Recruit: Brand new to TACFIT Fire Fighter.  Building a foundation for tactical fitness.

Proby: Participating in the program for several weeks. Ready to move beyond basic movements.



Fire Fighter: Participating in the program for several months.  Making great gains in mobility, strength, and conditioning.

Smoke Eater: Participating in the program for a year or more.  Reaching an elite level of tactical fitness.

The entire crew can workout together regardless of individual fitness levels.

EFFICIENCY:  Maximize Training Time

Each workout is 20 – 40 minutes in duration depending on the training scheduled for the day.  This includes specific priming and compensatory exercises on the moderate and high intensity days.

ACCOUNTABILITY: The TACFIT Fire Fighter Compliance Scoring System

The First Alarm includes a program compliance scoring system.  Points are awarded for compliance with the training calendar as it is designed, and for eating healthy, well balanced meals most of the time.  Compliance of 70% or above will provide:


*Significant gains in expressible strength.

*The ability to work near max HR, recover quickly, and continue working.

*Improved joint health and range of motion.

*The ability to move the body through a more complete range of motion, achieving “flow state”.

*Increased lean body mass.

*Decreased body fat.

Are you ready to take your fire fighter fitness to the next level?

TACFIT Fire Fighter First Alarm will get you there!


Special thanks to Chief Fields and North Whatcom Fire & Rescue for supporting this effort to improve the health and fitness of fire fighters world wide.


Exercise Demonstration: The Quad Press

FireFighter Mobility Drill: Hips, Knees and Ankles.

TacFit FireFighter demonstrates a mobility drill to improve firefighter performance by increasing the range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles.



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