Few occupations or activities are more physically demanding than firefighting. Swinging tools to breach doors, advancing hose lines into burning buildings, and lifting people from awkward positions are just a few of the physical tasks firefighters commonly perform in the line of duty.
Now consider that often times these tasks are performed while wearing an additional 75 pounds of personal protective equipment. Firefighters must possess a wide array of physical attributes to perform at a high level and avoid injuries. Attributes such as strength, power, endurance, and mobility come to mind. The physical attribute at the center of it all, the key to building a strong foundation for physical performance, is the development of core strength.
Coach Scott Sonnon has been training emergency responders such as firefighters, police officers, and military personnel for years. He recognizes the need for core strength and has developed the “Power Chamber Workout” to build that strength. Check out his introduction to the program and Part 1 of the workout:
The Basic Position
• Pull your ribs downward at the sides, engaging the internal and external obliques as well as quadratus lumbarum (your suspenders). Pull inward your transverse abdominus (your corset) but don’t suck upward, and crunch downward your rectus abdominus (your 6 pack) pulling your chest down to your hips. This creates the strongest core activation possible with exhalation mandatory.
• The part of the chamber that many have trouble lies with the pelvic tilt and leg drive. The pelvis has a small range of motion. Relax and lay down flat on the floor with arms extended above head. Your body will naturally form an arch in the lower back. While laying on your back, place one hand under your lower back. Notice your hand go right under your lower back as if going through a tunnel. The key aspect of the Power Chamber is to press the lower back to the floor so that “tunnel” goes away. In order to do this you must be able to tilt the pelvis, while driving both hips forward into one line.
• With the pelvic tilt, you must also contract the pelvic wall upward, as you have exhaled to contract the intercostals inward, the diaphragm downward. This muscular lock “crushes the can” of power chamber, creates a systemic knot of strength.
• Exhale and engage the pelvic floor, drawing it upwards towards your navel. Think of it as the space between the pubic bone and the tailbone. Initially you may need to contract and hold the muscles around the anus and genitals, but you want to isolate and draw up the perineum (between the anus and genitals). Engaging the pelvic floor creates both powerful lift and secure rooting. This is especially useful when jumping, receiving a collision or administering force.
• Squeeze your abdominals, thighs, and glutes very hard. Grab the floor with your toes and feet, and push the Earth away midfoot while knees remain bent. The tighter – the lighter!
The Power Chamber Workout: Part 1
Day 1: Gravity-Resisted Rotation
Exercise 1 – Floor “V” Control Pause
Lay on the ground with arms overhead/shoulders packed down. Follow the steps outlined above to achieve the basic power chamber position. Start tightening with your exhale, and hold as long as you can at the END of your exhale in the basic position. When you must inhale, relax the body down for the end of the repetition. AS SOON AS you begin to exhale at the end of that inhale, begin the next repetition. DON’T ADD AN EXTRA BREATH CYCLE! Repeat 10 repetitions in ten consecutive breaths.
Exercise 2 – Bar Hold Control Pause
Grab a hold of a pull-up bar. (If you don’t have a pull-up bar, then improvise some sort of recline position, like under a sturdy table, porch, or even holding on to a partners hands). Pull the shoulder blades down, lock the elbows, and round the mid-back while tucking the pelvis to get into the basic position. If you’re holding on to the pull-up bar at dead hang, pull your shoulder blades down and hold that position. Don’t bend your elbows at all; as a matter of fact, flex your triceps to keep them locked! Imagine that someone is standing in front of you punching you in the abs, contract your core like in Exercise #1 – the Floor V. Perform the same exhale and controlled pause contraction at the end. When you absolutely must inhale, relax and let your shoulders go (sliding your delts to your ears). Pull them down again as you exhale into the power chamber position, be sure to maximally contract at the end of your exhalation. Repeat for 10 consecutive breath cycles without taking any extra breaths! Trust me. This is neurologically vital to fully awakening the core activation, and giving you this mighty abdominal power.
Exercise 3 – Arched Pushup Control Pause
Move down to the ground onto your belly. Press up into the top of a pushup position. At the top, begin exhaling and driving your palm heels to press the Earth away. Tighten the quads to lock the knees, and drive the heels away pulling toes to shins. Tuck the glutes and squeeze them as you move into the power chamber position from Exercise #1 and #2. At the end of your exhale you should be in a slightly arched position at mid- back with your lower-back flat (as in Exercise #1). Strive for maximum contraction for the control pause at the end of the exhale. When you absolutely must inhale, relax down into the top position of the plank / pushup. But as soon as you begin to exhale, go up again into the power chamber position. Repeat for 10 consecutive breath cycles without any addition extra breaths in between.
•Allow a maximum of 30 seconds between each exercise transition (from #1 to #2, and #2 to #3) for optimal effect.
• Shake out your body in between exercises and rounds while performing fast, powerful exhalations, like if you’re out in the cold winter and trying to warm yourself (some of us are! LOL!)
• Take a 2 minute break in between. Repeat that circuit of 3 exercises for 10 breath cycles for 4 total rounds.
Check in next week for Part 2 of the Power Chamber Workout!