Firefighters are educated and trained to alter fire. In fire science we learn that there is more than one way to attack a fire in progress. Different circumstances call for different measures to insure a successful outcome. When we implement different strategies during fire suppression – we stress the fire, we force it to change.
Maximizing your fitness potential begins with applying this principle to your weight training routines. In the gym we call it adaptation. In fitness science we learn if you want to increase muscle strength and mass, you alter the variables in your training routine. If you don’t, your body composition will stay the same and you’ll be whining that your muscles aren’t getting any bigger. Your weight training requires implementing different strategies in order to stress your body and create change.
Why do two people of the same weight and height have such different abilities in the gym? Because of factors such as muscle fiber type, muscle formation and insertions, tendon connections, and energy systems. We are all different with different genetic potential. But just because you can’t squat six hundred pounds doesn’t mean you won’t achieve success with a weight lifting program. Because we are not all born with Arnold’s genes doesn’t mean we can’t develop muscle fitness. It does mean we must utilize adaptation strategies to maximize our fitness potential and develop the muscle fitness we need.
Muscle Fitness: Endurance, Strength and Power
Muscular strength is how much force a muscle can exert at one time or how much the muscle can lift. For example, a firefighter uses muscular strength when lifting heavy equipment often in awkward positions such as during extrication events.
Muscular endurance is how long a muscle can contract before fatiguing. For example, a firefighter uses muscular endurance in almost every fireground activity such as breaching ceilings, manipulating hose lines, forcible entry, climbing multiple stairs, and the list goes on and on.
Muscular power is the speed at which your muscles develop force. This is developed through the connection between the central nervous system and the muscle. Developing rapid control over a group of muscle lessens the impact on the body. When we are called upon to lift a piece of equipment off the ground or drag a victim we must develop rapid power out of our hips and legs to reach the force we need to do the lift. Once we are moving; the load is easier to lift, carry or drag.
Because muscular endurance, strength and power are called upon for different responsibilities on the job, we must use different adaptation strategies to train for their specific development in our weight training. Muscular strength is developed using heavier weight and fewer repetitions. Muscular endurance is developed through a series of changing repetitions. Muscular power is developed through speed and timing.
Adaptation: Strategies at a Glance
By Monte Egerman, M. Ed., CSCS, CFOD