Firefighter Fitness series

Ever wanted to be in the fire service? Want to know how to train to improve your chances of passing the entry test? Or if you want to mix up your training then training like a fire-fighter could be what you’re looking for.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be talking about how fire-fighters should train, how they get fit for the job, what the job requires physically and how both serving fire-fighters and members of the public can train to be fit and strong for duty.

What do I know?

I joined the fire service in 2008, and have been full time in Manchester ever since. In Greater Manchester we are the 2nd busiest service in the UK and have a metropolitan population of over 2.5 million people.

On top of that I have 15 plus years of training experience under my belt, I own The Fit Controller Private Gym and am a fully qualified PT.

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Fire fit? What’s required?

So what’s required to be fit for service? Well that’s an interesting question at the moment. For the recruitment test, well not that much. A decent level of fitness will get you through the bleep test to a level of 9.4. That’s the absolute basic level, if you can’t reach that then go away and just get fitter.

After that the tests are currently changing. So prepare for the new one. And this is what you’ll need to think about and how to train for it.

The fire ground fitness test involves wearing fire kit and performing a number of drill yard tests in a circuit, the test is timed and training will be required. The most important components of the test are:

Pulling / dragging force. – You will be expected to drag dummy casualties and pull fire hose.

Equipment carry. – Obvious one really, carry length of hose over a designated distance, also carrying other pieces of equipment.

Hose running. – Running out fire hose over a course of 25m various times, the hose has to be run out as per operational technique, at shoulder height.

Moving in fire kit. – As it says on the tin, get used to running and walking in boots and heavy, hot clothing.

The most effective way to train for the fire service is a dynamic and varied approach to fitness, strength is a vital component of the job, and is actually much more important than being overly quick. We don’t run when carrying equipment or wearing breathing apparatus (except for hose) But you may be asked to climb up a tower block carrying gear in full kit, so sustained weight bearing fitness is vital. Our equipment is heavy, and you often have to hold it for a long time, so strength is also vital.

This advice is just a starting point, the series will progress and I’ll post workouts and more detailed training techniques in the coming weeks, in the mean time, if you have any questions please contact Tom.

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Hybrid training

The interest in physical training and exercise seems to be at an all time high, more gyms pop up all the time and we seem to be inundated with social media surrounding plates of food, pictures of booty shots and straining faces. But what do people want? How do people train and what is the current vision of a well rounded training routine?

There have always been trends in the fitness world. The general training population have always had a favourite form of exercise or fad. From Zumba to Crossfit we see things come in and slide out of fashion, currently powerlifting is having a boom, an injection of new blood and interest in a sport that both deserves and needs it. 

However, despite the new interest there seems to already being a swing of interest towards a hybrid approach to training. People, myself included are coining powerbuilding as the new training philosophy. A combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding, training for both strength, but maintaining the aesthetic to go along side it.

Crossfit is a perfect example of this hybrid training mentality, it is essentially circuit training. The same kind people have been doing for decades, mixing in with barbell movements and any other activities that fit. This in it’s self is the beauty of hybrid training, people love Crossfit, people get results from Crossfit and a lot of these results are due to the style of training. 

Much like powerbuilding, if we combine two differing forms or extremes we can stain the best balance from both, and that’s our goal, to be strong like a powerlifter and look like a bodybuilder. For Crossfit we want to be good at everything, to be able to run and swim at pace, and also Olympic lift. 

Hybrid, or mixed, or functional training programmes give balance and a good level of balance to peoples programming. Ultimately it would seem, that specific sports and training styles are for the few. Either the gifted athletes or the impassioned, dedicated fan. Specific training styles and sports will always have a small, specific market, most gym goers are after something more than just being strong or fast, big or flexible. Adding variety and combining techniques often produces the most well rounded athlete, and in turn most well rounded physique.

As trading styles develop, sports and training fads will come and go. But for now, the combination training that we are starting to see widely favoured can’t be a bad thing. Keep mixing it up, keep the body guessing and the results will keep coming. Use specific goals and train towards them, but don’t be afraid to mix it up every now and then. 

The most effective training programmes are always the next ones, the one we haven’t adapted to yet. 

Cutting the carbs

I’ve hit a decent weight plateau recently, actually I’ve been around the 200-205lbs mark for nearly a year now. Now, I don’t find that particularly worrying, I’ve been much heavier in he past…I think 240lbs was my heaviest, I’ve also been leaner and lighter at around 189lbs. 

In my mind around 210-215lbs would be my ideal weight, but lean, obviously. When I was hitting the 240lbs mark, one thing I definitely wasn’t was lean. 

In light of these musings on body weight, I needed to re-asses both my strength goals, and body image goals. I suppose I have the same issues that most people do, I want to achieve the impossible and gain strength whilst losing body weight and dropping my body fat percentage.

After re-writing my strength training programme (I try to do this every 3 months) I decided it would be a good time to change my diet up. In doing this I have stopped calorie counting, and cut carbohydrates from my breakfast and lunch 5 days a week. 

This change has seen me lose 5lbs in the 2 and a half weeks I’ve been doing the diet. Aside from breakfast and lunch, my main meals are the same as they always have been, healthy(ish) high protein and free from processed foods and white carbs (as far as possible) 

I haven’t set any firm rules, aside from cutting out the carbs in meals 1&2. I still have a few beers a couple of nights a week and still have sweet treats too. 

As far as my training goes, I still train primarily for strength, with a power building style programme. This also has the addition of 2 cardio workouts a week, generally at the fire station or a 30minuite swim.

Results….. well aside from the 5lbs, I generally feel better. I definitely feel less bloated, I don’t think I realised how bloated I was before. I’ve lost 1cm off my waist too, which isn’t much, but is welcome and I generally feel like I look slimmer. 

I’m never really an advocate of cutting a thing out completely. Food, drink or exercise wise. So for me cutting down the carbs has had a good effect on helping me get leaner. I don’t plan on using it forever, but do thin that it is a positive dietary change to implement when your body needs a shake up.

Training…. I was worried that my energy levels would drop off with less carbs early in the day, and in turn effect my output in the gym. This doesn’t appear to have happened yet, and despite losing some mass, all three of my lifts are still on course and have not dropped. Again, this has been over a short term, and I would have hoped they wouldn’t. But it is always reassuring to find that a negative change hasn’t occurred. 

I generally try and train around mid-afternoon, so I am still carb free when I hit the gym. I’ve found I feel lighter like this, noticeably so from a few weeks ago. In turn I feel like this has helped my deadlift and squat, no bloating and I don’t feel like I’m going to burst at the bottom of a squat…. which is good! The second thing I have noticed could be psychological, but as I feel lighter, I feel faster too. I’m finding pushing the prowler, jumping and pull-ups are feeling easier, although this could be in my head…..?

To sum up the low carb route I’ve taken, I’d say that I’m both happy and surprised with the diet. I can’t really think of a negative part of it to be honest, aside from the fact that I can’t eat pizza and drink beer for breakfast anymore. I’ll keep you posted on the progress, but until then here are some example days nutritionally and some easy recipe ideas to go with the low carb mornings.

Breakfast ideas:

Scrambled eggs, avocado, mushrooms & tomatoes. 


Skyr yoghurt & berries


No carb fry up – No bread/ hash brown etc.


Fruit and a protein shake.

Lunch ideas:

Ive been trying to use the combination of high protein mains with vegetables or salad on the side. For example:

Firehouse chilli with veg (steamed or oven cooked) 


Recipe here

Grilled steak or chicken & salad.


Chicken, tomato & veg blast


Recipe here

These of course are just examples, there are some more recipe ideas in the nutrition part of the website. 

As I said earlier, the last meal of the day is what you would have on a normal, healthy day. Carbs included.

TFC.x

Burn easy calories

It’s always the one thing people are looking for, and it’s often right before your eyes. I’ve said before that there is no such thing as a quick fix, or cheat method to stripping off a few pounds, and this is true. However there are thing that you can do to help boost your metabolism and add a bit of extra exercise to your everyday routine.

I am a big proponent of trying to boost your every day activity level. Not just through training in the gym, but in your everyday life.

Gym time is precious, especially if you are on a tight schedule and need to smash that workout. The people I see at my gym come in for one hour sessions, mainly looking to get stronger. My philosophy is to spend time as effectively as possible and hit the weights and equipment you only get in the gym.

If you’re into running, cycling, rowing or using the cross trainer, then my gym isn’t for you, we want you to get stronger!

I’m not saying don’t do cardio, far from it actually. But if you are into running etc, then get out and about and do it. Add it into your commute to work or morning routine. Let’s keep those one hour PT sessions for the equipment we can only find in a gym.

Also by separating your sessions you may find that a evening jog or cycle actually speeds up muscular recovery times, meaning that you get less soreness.

On top of that, perhaps the simplest way to increase the amount of calories you burn is just to be more active. This doesn’t have to mean you train twice a day, but, as a minimum try and do more. Walk more, take the stairs. Even if it’s getting of the bus a stop earlier and walking the final trip to work.

When doing this, if you can track your steps and set targets it offers easy motivation and a way to track progress. Start with 5000 a day and work up! A good target is 10000 a day, but more movement equals more calories in the bank.

Ultimately increasing the amount you move will only help you. It’ll help you build fitness and strip off those extra pounds. It’s not a magic cure, or quick fix, but the benefits go far beyond what you may think.

TFC

Personal Training at The Fit Controller 

At the Fit Controller private gym we offer bespoke and innovative personal training packages. Here we take a look at what’s on offer, and give an overview of how personal training with us can work for you, help you achieve your goals! 

Our personal training is completely flexible, with no contacts. I want your training to be specific to your goals, it should be enjoyable and help you get results.

The Fit Controller private gym is set up for people to get stronger, leaner and become more athletic. I want my clients to become more confident, both with their appearance and physical abilities. Ultimately I want my clients to be able to move on, and use everything they’ve learnt on their own in any gym they choose.

Training Options

Ongoing training: This option is for continuous training. You choose your goals and I help you achieve them, training works in blocks of sessions with reviews at the end of each month. Bespoke nutrition and programmes are followed.

Barbell Basics: This is a course of 6 sessions and teaches beginners and intermediate lifters how to squat, bench & deadlift.

Stronger in 8 weeks: Does as it says, get stronger and leaner in 8 weeks. Break through strength plateaus and begin to gain some extra muscle. Clients must be available to train 3 days per week. 

Contact Tom: +447920132786

Barbell Basics Course

The barbell basics course is now available at The Fit Controller. The course is spread over 6 one on one or one on two private training sessions and is structured to cover the deadlift, squat and barbell bench press.
The idea of the course is to offer beginners to intermediate level lifters an introduction to the big three barbell movements. If you’ve never done these movements before but are interested to learn how, then this is the course for you! We focus our attention on learning safe and good technique, as well as learning how to perform the exercises to give lifters a strong starting point that they can use in their on-going training.
The course is also ideal for the intermediate lifter that is looking to check their technique or break through a plateau in any of the lifts, information on programming and what assistance exercises to use is also included in the sessions.

Course Content

Sessions 1 & 2: Deadlift Training.

Session one is aimed at deadlifting safely, proper technique and the functionality of the movement. How you warm up for deadlifting and how we incorporate it into our training schedule.

Session two is another look at the deadlift and a technique based session. After we have gone through this we will look at assistance exercises for the deadlift and how to programme them.

Sessions 3 & 4: Bench Press Training.

Session 3: Here we focus on the bench press, technique and safe form. How we warm up and get ready to bench press. We also go through how often and when to bench.
Session 4: A recap on session 1 and another look at tweaking and improving the bench press. We will then look at assistance exercises to boost the bench and how to programme for the bench press.

Sessions 5 & 6: Squat Training

Session 5: Introduction to the barbell squat and working up to getting under the bar, focus is on technique and making depth, safely and effectively and how we warm up for the squat.
Session 6: Further squat technique and analysis, ensuring good and safe form. We will follow this by looking at assistance exercises and how to programme for the barbell squat.

Costs & Further Info

The course is £200 for one person or £270 for two-person sessions. All sessions are held in our private gym in Manchester and are done either one on one or one on two with a fully qualified PT.
A 12 week programme for the squat, bench and deadlift is available to purchase at the end of the course if required.

Bench Day Programming

Following on from my deadlift day programming post, I’m going to put out the programming I tend to prescribe and follow for bench press / chest day. Similar to the deadlift day programming here’s an example bench / chest day that concentrates on building overall strength to increase maximal bench press output.

This day follows the same basic format as the deadlift day; we are going to focus around the main movement of barbell bench press and then build assistance work to support the main movement and develop the muscles used.

The good thing about training in this fashion is it allows you to combine programming techniques, meaning that you can run a programme that is specific to the main lift, like Smolov, Wendler, 5×5 etc and that will then be followed by a programme of assistance work designed to promote hypertrophy to assist the main lifts.

To fit this style of programming in, you could plan your cycle around the main lifts, so a bench, squat and a deadlift day. It is possible to combine main lift days, so for example pairing squats with deadlifts. The only problem with this is time, and fitting in all the assistance work.

You can of course fit two sessions of each in a week, over 6 training days, or do as I do and run a 5 day cycle. I always have two bench days and then generally cycle squats and deadlifts for the second two lift week. Which lift I choose depends on soreness and progress.

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So, here’s an example of bench day with a warm up and assistance work.

Warm up:

This can be of your choice, but make it relevant to the main movement. We want you to be warm, have your heart rate increased and the main muscles and joints mobilised. For example:

Tabata skip or row x8

Press Ups 3×12

Resistance Band Rows 3×15

Light Lat Pull Downs / Pull Ups 3×15 (if pull ups do what you can, try not to go to failure, use assisted if possible)

Start bench pressing, begin with the bar and work up to your working weight.

Bench Press

Now’s the time to start your main set. This will vary depending on your chosen programme.
If you haven’t got a specific bench programme then you need to asses your goals. Is it a 1RM? General strength? Or hypertrophy? What ever the answer is will change your weight and rep scheme.
Strength is the most common goal when it comes to bench pressing so something like a 5×5 programme would be good for a beginner.
Work up to your working rate as per the warm up protocol, and then perform your working sets.

Assistance work

Once the main sets are complete it’s time for us to move onto the assistance work, here we are looking specially at hypertrophy work (muscle gain) so more of a bodybuilding type approach. I’m recommending this as we and to increase the strength potential of the muscle we use to bench. The best way to do this is to increase their size.
The assistance work focuses on the upper body and the prime and secondary movers for the bench, mainly chest, triceps and anterior and medial deltoids.

There are obviously a lot of other muscles associated with the bench, a strong back is vital, as well as core strength. However we are not focusing on those muscles here, as we cover them on deadlift day. You can of course sub them in if you feel that you have a particular area that is lacking.

When we are looking at what weight to use we want to go heavy enough that you can do the number of reps prescribed, plus one or two that you hold back. So, if we’re doing 12 reps we want to finish the 12 and think I could do one, maybe two more. If you think you could have done 15+ then put the weight up. If you can’t get to 12 then drop it down!

  1. Incline barbell press 4×8-12
  2. Decline dumbbell press 3×8-12
  3. Military press 3×8-12
  4. Triceps extensions 3×15
  5. Rolling DB triceps extensions 3×15
  6. Arnold presses superset with lateral raise 3×15

So that’s the programme, the assistance exercises can be mixed up and changed at your preference.

Any kind of barbell or dumbbell chest pressing movement can be interchanged into the programme.

Questions and or comments are welcome as always.

 

Deadlift Day Programming.

I get asked regularly what a good deadlift day looks like exercise wise, what sets / rep ranges can be effective etc. So here’s an example deadlift day that concentrates on building overall strength to increase maximal deadlift output.

To begin with, what your deadlift day looks like will depend very much on how you break your training down. Most serious trainers do some form of split training and this is no different. However the programme that I am suggesting is based on a split that focuses on the three main barbell compound movements: Bench, squat & the deadlift.

This programme template focuses each training session around one of these main lifts, this is used as the focus point of the workout,  I then like to add a number of assistance exercises that are meant to complement and improve the larger compound movement.

The good thing about training in this fashion is it allows you to combine programming techniques, meaning that you can run a programme that is specific to the main lift, like Smolov, Wendler, 5×5 etc and that will then be followed by a programme of assistance work designed to promote hypertrophy to assist the main lifts.

You would struggle to fit this in with a general split of upper / lower or push / pull as it would mean training some body parts on repeated days.

Deadlift Day Programme 


Warm up:

This can be of your choice, but make it relevant to the main movement. We want you to be warm, have your heart rate increased and the main muscles and joints mobilised. For example:

Tabata skip or row x8

Light straight leg deadlifts (20 reps)

Light kettle bell swings (20 reps)

Light deadlifts, starting with the bar and working up to your working weight.

Deadlifts

Now’s the time to start your main set. This will vary depending on your chosen programme.

If you haven’t got a specific deadlift programme then you need to asses your goals. Is it a 1RM? General strength? Or hypertrophy? What ever the answer is will change your weight and rep scheme.

Strength is the most common goal when it comes to deadlifting so something like a 5×5 programme would be good for a beginner.

Work up to your working rate as per the warm up protocol, and then perform your working sets.

Assistance work

Once the main sets are complete it’s time for us to move onto the assistance work, here we are looking specially at hypertrophy work (muscle gain) so more of a bodybuilding type approach. I’m recommending this as we and to increase the strength potential of the muscle we use to deadlift. The best way to do this is to increase their size.

The assistance work focuses on the bodies posterior chain, and all the associated muscles that take part in the deadlift.

When we are looking at what weight to use we want to go heavy enough that you can do the number of reps prescribed, plus one or two that you hold back. So, if we’re doing 12 reps we want to finish the 12 and think I could do one, maybe two more. If you think you could have done 15+ then put the weight up. If you can’t get to 12 then drop it down!

Lat Pull Downs 4×12 reps

Seated Row (or row variation) 4×12 reps

Dumbbell shrugs 4×8 (with pause at top)

Straight Leg Deadlift 4×8

Hammer Curls 4×8

Hamstring curls 4×12

Finisher (time allowing)

Pull ups and hypertension superset. 3×20


So that’s the programme, the assistance exercises can be mixed up and changed at your preference. The important thing is to try and hit as much of the posterior chain as possible.

There is not a massive focus on hamstrings as they get another round of focus on squat day.

Hopefully this programme can help you progress your deadlift and strength goals.

Questions and comments are welcome.

TFC

The gym: 6 months in.

So its been six months since The Fit Controller opened it’s doors, and I thought this would be a good chance to reflect on how its going, what I see in its future, and offer my thoughts and advice for anyone looking to do the same thing.

Firstly and most importantly the gym is still open! Yes! Now that’s gotta be a definite positive. And I’m still looking to take on new clients, so that’s also good.

I’m also at a stage now where I’ve started to look for other personal trainers to rent the space from me. I think an extra PT in the space will really help the gym, both in terms of publicity and just to get it used to it’s full potential. I am extremely happy with the space, and the equipment that I’ve chosen to populate it with. I honestly think its a great environment for people to train in, and I’d like to extend that opportunity as far as I possibly can.

It’s not until you really get into a space that you truly appreciate what it needs, how it feels. Over the last six months the fundaments have stayed the same, but tweeks to decoration and new equipment have hopefully changed the gym for the better.

ISQQ3920I want the space to be as welcoming as possible, whilst still maintain the training focused environment that I wanted the gym to represent, some changes are small, but I do feel that the gym is a constantly changing and evolving entity, and I believe that can only help drive it forward.

The journey so far has definitely been a positive one, there have of course been setbacks, but you just have to work hard to find solutions. People will let you down, this goes without saying, although I don’t know if I was really prepared for the regularity that this would happen. The most difficult part about the unreliability of people is that occasionally people just don’t get back to you, or break agreements. Trying not to let it bother you or to take it personally is hard, it does however lead you to understand why people become hardened in the business world, and at some point I may have to harden up, I’m just not really built that way.

On the other hand the true rationality behind the gym has come to the forefront, I opened it because I love strength training. I wanted to help spread that positive message to others that want to make a change in their lives, and help them along the way. I wanted to create a place where beginners can get stronger, fitter, leaner and get to grips with proper weights, not just machines in their local “Globo-gym”

I have a great bunch of personal clients, all different, all at different levels. I’m sure that a lot of them would not even have thought of deadlifting or bench pressing six months ago, but now they’re doing it regularly, and with style!

The people that use the gym are really the sole of the place, they are the ones that clang the metal plates together and it is their hard work that gives the place the character that it so  longs for. Some of the results that have been produced in such a short time have been nothing short of inspirational, especially for me, its what drives to keep going.

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This is Kevin, Kev has lost over 30lbs in four months. His effort has been immense, and he’s a fine example of what can be achieved with hard work and a good support structure.

Athletes like Kevin (yes athletes!) are the reason that the gym exists, your goal doesn’t have to be to drop weight, it could be to get bigger, stronger or faster. I want the Fit Controller to be able to cater for as wider range of people as possible.

As for the future, it’s quite simple really. I want to keep offering the best possible service that I can, I want to make strength training safe and available for as many people as I possibly can. I want the gym to keep getting better, I want myself to keep improving as a trainer too.

I’ve learnt more than a few lessons over the last six months, I came into this as a complete amateur in a business sense, and I definitely think that I still am one! However my advice for anyone looking to start their won venture would be just to go for it!

Do your research,

Be true to your own vision and don’t compromise,

Be prepared to get let down, but also be prepared to bounce back even stronger.

Do it for the right reasons,

Be prepared to put the work in!

Get better at all the computer stuff ( I am still horrendous at this) It’s boring, but essential unfortunately.

Please comment or leave any questions below, I’m always happy to talk training or offer whatever business questions I can.