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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Modern Day Core Training For Firefighters"

Does this sound like your “Core Workout”?
100 Crunches
100 Decline Sit-ups w/25lb plate
100 Side Bends w/45lb plate (50 each side)

If this sounds like your “Core Workout”…than my friend…we really have some work in front of us.  This is the same exact “Core Workout” that bodybuilders 20-30 years ago did to look good in front of the mirror.  As a Firefighter, even though it is nice to look good in front of a mirror, it is much more important to be functional with your “Core Workout”.  What you do inside of the gym may mean the difference between you saving or not saving a 6-year-old child in a burning building.

To become the best Firefighter that you can be, you must always look to improve upon your total body strength, core strength, and overall endurance.  As a Firefighter, working out is not only beneficiary for your health, but helps to benefit others in case of need and emergency. I am sure there have been plenty of scenarios in which you had to pry through doors, carry heavy objects/people, or push yourself through extreme measures to complete a task. Have you ever asked yourself that if you trained the right way, meaning, a specific type of training for which your body needs to train in order to help enhance performance; could you have done that job better? Faster? More efficiently?

There are so many reasons why I feel it is necessary to have a strong core.  Here is my top five:
1.     Strong Core is essential to a healthy lower back
2.     Enhances balance and stability
3.     Improve posture
4.     Improve functional movement
5.     Help you lift heavier loads…like a human body
Are these enough reasons to continue reading this article?

When I train Firefighters, their program design will always include some hard-core fitness, weight training, plyometric, and endurance training. Not to forget to mention that every session WILL include core training.

Top 3 “Bang For Your Buck” Core Exercises:

Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish Get-Up is one of an exercise that every one should be doing, and do not see enough of.  This exercise has an endless number of benefits such as total body coordination, proprioception, overall mobility, shoulder strength, and most importantly core strength.
How does the Turkish Get-Up work the core? The load is continually held overhead while you progressively move through the steps of the exercise underneath the load. By having the load overhead, moving from a supine position to standing position, forces the oblique’s and transverse abdominals to stabilize, while the rectus abdominals are used to prevent spinal flexion. So what does this say to me?  A hell of a lot of core work.

3.  TRX Body Saw
The TRX Body Saw is a complex move that I first learned from Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the world’s leading researchers on the lower back and core.  Dr. Stuart McGill’s research has shown that repeated spinal flexion (which is what happens when you perform crunches and sit-ups) damage spinal discs.  You can actually get a more challenging workout for your abdominals without increasing the risk of injury to your back.   
The TRX Body Saw is a core exercise that I always recommend my athletes add into their programming. It provides a combination of stability and mobility. It is a very deceptive and challenging move and requires you to totally lock up the core before you start to incorporate any type of movement.

3.  Ultimate Sandbag Shoveling
Ultimate Sandbag, or USB, Shoveling closes the gap between the weight room and functional movement. It may sound great for a Firefighter to be able to do 100 crunches in a certain amount of time with no rest, but unfortunately will not help them in a case of emergency.
USB Shoveling is another one of those exercises that may look to be deceiving.  This is because of the dynamic rotational movement needed to properly execute this exercise. This movement is without a doubt a total body movement. Relying solely on the trunk will place unnecessary stress on the spine, but by taking advantage of the power in the hips can prevent any back injuries during rotation.  Also just like the Turkish Get-Up, the USB Shoveling provides hip mobility which will prevent Firefighters for having their hips lock up and allowing for extreme stress to be placed on their lower back.
Another unique aspect that USB Shoveling provides is the eccentric load in a multi-planar base.  Eccentric load and extreme ranges of motion are two variables that bridge the gap of why people get injured during training.

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