Summer 2022
Time-Effective Firefighter Workouts for Power & Stamina
Zar Horton, Master Kettlebell Instructor Elite at StrongFirst


The demands of being a firefighter are rigorous and varied. The job is demanding not only from tasks involved in fighting fires in super-heated environments, but also in rescues of many types including, confined space, water, trench, hazardous material mitigation, automobile accidents, vehicle extrication, and emergency medical procedures. Once on scene, there is no pause button, so your body and mind must be prepared to successfully respond to chaotic and uncertain situations at all times. Proper physical preparation not only ensures your body is ready to take on the mechanical and environmental challenges of the job, but it also has a positive impact on your cognitive performance in perception, information processing, and decision-making. 

I recently attended a fire cadet graduation ceremony where all of the cadets that made it through, 12 of the original 25, are men and women I trained using the firefighter prep program I developed. In 2004, I had the great fortune to evaluate and change the physical fitness program at the Albuquerque Fire Department Training Academy, and below are some lessons learned from my experience as a firefighter and strength and conditioning coach. 

When I was developing and refining the program, I was acutely aware that firefighters must be strong and fit enough to successfully perform tasks required on the fireground for extended periods and multiple repetitions. They are required to move heavy loads using proper mechanics and often encounter unstable loads in awkward positions. These factors combine to create a fairly unique mixture of mobility, strength, power, endurance, and work capacity requirements. Add to this, finding windows of time for training can sometimes be challenging and when training in the firehouse there may not be a wide variety of equipment. 

The bottom line for the job is you need to be bulletproof and mobile, develop strong joints, perform athletically underload for long periods carrying, dragging, breaching, sitting on a hoseline, moving a hoseline, ladder operations, rescue operations, pulling heavy loads at odd angles and the list goes on. 


Below is an example of a simple but effective workout used in the program that delivers a big bang for your buck to improve and sustain your firefighter fitness built on stamina, endurance, strength, raw horsepower, and determination.

Sensible warm-up and mobility work: 5-10 min:

Round 1

  1. Deadlift: 10 reps with moderately heavy KB or barbell (finish feeling you have 3-4 reps in reserve) OR 10 reps Squat Jump
  2. Single-arm farmer carry 20 yards out – switch hands and carry back 20 yards
  3. Goblet squats: 5 reps
  4. Push-ups: 5 reps
  5. Rest 1-2 min

Round 2

  1. 2-hand KB swings: 10 reps OR 10 squat jumps
  2. Single-arm KB rack carry 20 yards out – switch hands and carry back
  3. Goblet squats: 5 reps 
  4. Push-ups: 6 reps
  5. Rest 1-2 min

Round 3

  1. 2-hand KB swings: 10 reps OR 10 squat jumps
  2. Single-arm KB overhead carry 20 yards out – switch hands and carry back
  3. Goblet squats: 5 reps 
  4. Push-ups: 7 reps
  5. Rest 1-2 min

Round 4

  1. 2-hand KB swings: 10 reps OR 10 squat jumps
  2. Crawl: 20 yards out –  20 yards back
  3. KB strict overhead press x5 reps + push press x5 on each side
  4. Goblet squats: 5 reps
  5. Push-ups: 8 reps 
  6. Rest 1-2 min

Round 5

  1. 2-hand KB swings: 10 reps OR 10 squat jumps
  2. Backward crawl: 10 yards out – 10 yards back (add distance each week)
  3. Single arm bent over row: 8 reps each arm with heavy KB (8-10 RM)
  4. Goblet squat: 5 reps 
  5. Push-ups: 9 reps
  6. Rest 1-2 min

» ALSO SEE: What Are The Tactical Games?

Repeat rounds 1-5 or selected rounds as time permits (one time through typically takes 18-22 min depending on fitness)

Workouts can be repeated 2-4 times per week — increase weight as strength improves and distance as endurance increases.

Zar Horton is a 32-year veteran of Albuquerque Fire Rescue, who retired in 2021 as a Battalion Chief. He has been training others in the use of Kettlebells since 2004. For the last 21 years, he has devoted himself to bringing safe, functional, strength training and fitness, along with greater quality of life and longevity, to fire service, law enforcement, and our military members. Zar has also trained professional athletes and enjoys training with collegiate and youth athletes. He currently holds the position of Master Kettlebell Instructor Elite with STRONGFIRST.