Ever wonder how firefighters stay in such great shape? The work they do on a daily basis not only requires a high level of strength and cardiovascular ability, but it also provides an intense workout in and of itself. What comes to mind when you think of the work a firefighter does? He’s climbing stairs and ladders, lifting heavy objects, and wielding axes and sledgehammers to break down barriers and push his way through burning buildings. He does all this while loaded down with gear that by itself weighs up to seventy pounds! It’s no wonder these men are known for their incredible physical ability. Whether you are interested in a potential career as a firefighter or you’re just looking to amp up your workout routine, everyone can benefit from the types of training these men do on a daily basis.
One important aspect of a firefighter’s workout which is often overlooked in typical fitness programs is the concept of unilateral training. Unilateral movements involve loading one side with weight at a time. Think of a firemen wielding a heavy axe, or having to carry imbalanced weight such as equipment or an unconscious victim from a burning building. These kinds of motions force the core to work harder in keeping the body stable, which in turn strengthens the core and abdominals.
Another benefit to adding unilateral motions to your workout is that you prevent your dominant side from taking on more of the weight since you are working each side separately, so you are better able to target and then work to strengthen that weaker side.
If you weight-train on a fairly regular basis, chances are that you already perform some of the workouts that can be done unilaterally, so you don’t have to add a whole new program to your routine. Here are a few example of unilateral motions:
For the upper body:
- Single arm dumbbell row
- Standing single arm dumbbell press (pictured)
- Swiss ball alternating chest press
For the lower body:
- Single leg deadlift with a dumbbell (pictured)
- Single leg split squat
- Single leg hip extensions
- Single leg glute bridges
- Power skips
With each of these motions, aim for three sets of fifteen reps each. When the movements become easier, lessen the reps and increase the sets, or increase the weights of the dumbbells in the weighted exercises.