Exercises to improve performance during NFPA 1582 fitness evaluation

These fitness routines are important to learn to pass the NFPA requirements and for long term success on the job


By Alex Bryant, FireRescue1 Contributor 

If you’re considering joining your local fire department, you will have to take the NFPA 1582 fitness evaluation. This exam measures all aspects of one’s physical fitness that will be required to perform the tasks that firefighters face every single day. 
 
It’s important to train for a strong performance on the NFPA 1582 fitness evaluation and for long-term performance on the job as well. For each test, we’ve listed 1-3 exercises that will help improve overall performance when taking your fitness evaluation.

Improving Aerobic Capacity for NFPA 1582 exam

There are two factors to consider when trying to up your VO2 max for the NFPA 1582 aerobic capacity test. Since VO2 is scored relative to one’s body weight, improving oxygen consumption as well as losing weight can help your score. Luckily, by following a healthy diet and training your aerobic capacity, you might shed a few pounds along the way.
 
When training, the key is to reach your breaking point and sustain it for a few minutes to improve your performance. A few sample workouts from Men’s Fitness to help increase VO2 max include:

  • 4 runs of 1000m with 2-3 minutes of recovery (Studies show this can increase VO2 max by up to 10 percent).
  • Running hard uphill for 2 minutes, jogging back down and repeating 4-10 times.
  • Running on an inclined treadmill for 2-6 minutes, resting for 2-3 minutes and repeating 4-10 times.

The key with all of these workouts is to make sure that you can complete all of the sets, but are worn out at the end.

Grip strength

If you’re already incorporating a weight lifting routine into your everyday training, there are plenty of simple additions you can make to your routine to improve grip performance:

  • Avoid using grip aids such as straps and gloves that take pressure off your hands.
  • Incorporate pulling and lifting exercises that tax the grip.
  • Heavy lifts will boost your grip more than light weights and high reps.
  • Use grip building tools like towels and thicker bars to place added stress on your hands.
  • Squeeze the bar with every set, avoiding letting the bar rest on the fingers.

In addition to your normal workout, you can also get grip strengtheners that you can use during the day while you’re at your desk or watching TV for an added boost.
 
VIDEO: How to perform the Farmer’s Walk
 

Bicep Curl

The bicep curl is one of the more basic exercises in a weightlifting routine, but changing up several aspects can help get greater strength in your arms. A few tips include:

  • Mixing up the angles. Instead of just doing straightforward curls every time, throw in a few sets from the side, lying at a forward or backward angle and changing your hand position.
  • Change up your grip by moving your hands in or out from the center of the dumbbell or barbell.
  • Perform fast sets to increase blood flow and wear out the arms quickly.
  • Mix up the range of motion from half curls in each direction to full curls, as well as static holds.
  • Keep constant tension on the biceps by not resting too much on the top or bottom of a curl.

With all bicep curls, one big key is making sure you are isolating the arm muscle itself. Avoid leaning with the back, using the legs or incorporating the shoulders to complete a rep. Those mistakes would count as an error in the NFPA 1582 test.
 
VIDEO: Hot to Do a Dumbbell Biceps Curl
 

Leg strength and power

Working out leg strength and power requires several different exercises to focus on each aspect. For building power, this means:

  • Performing multi-joint movements like squats, lunges and deadlifts. Instead of just doing leg raises or curls, these power movements will engage all of your leg muscles and lead to more strength.
  • Attack from different angles. Your legs have many muscles working, so doing the exercises above with different stances and at different angles will help engage all of the muscles in different ways, adding more overall strength.
  • Engage your core. In the NFPA 1582 test, you’ll need to keep a straight back. A solid core is fundamental to helping straighten your back and preventing injury. 

VIDEO: How to Do a Squat Correctly
 

For leg power, or explosiveness, you’ll want to work on improving your vertical jumping ability. While the heavy lifts described above will show some gains, training with explosive movements will help you jump higher. A few exercises to try include:

  • Squat Jumps. Squatting down, then exploding up and getting right back into another rep is a good way to build leg power. Once you’ve mastered the move, consider adding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your arms for an added challenge.
  • Box jumps. This move will challenge you to reach a certain jumping goal by trying on different platform heights. Always make sure you land squarely in the middle of your platform to avoid falling. Add difficulty by increasing the box height. 

VIDEO: How to do a Box Jump
 

Pushups

As with bicep curls, proper form on pushups is key for the NFPA 1582 evaluation. Improving things like core strength will help keep that proper form. However, improving your pushup in just a few weeks can be done by training them often.

  • On odd days, do 200 pushups in as few sets as possible.
  • On even days, do 200 pushups over the course of the day in small sets. Focus on form for these.
  • Change up the distance between your hands to better target the entire chest and supporting muscles. 

If you can’t do a complete pushup, start on your knees and work your way up to your feet. Alternatively, find some stairs and do the pushups at an angle, moving down a step every day or two.

To get ready for the NFPA 1582 test, use a metronome (there are free smartphone apps available) and focus on keeping your rhythm (40 beats per minute). Place a 5-inch block under your chin to make sure you’re completing full reps each time.
 
VIDEO: How to Do a Pushup
 

Core strength

As mentioned above, having a strong core will help you train many of the other areas of the body. Like pushups, training often can help improve your plank time. However, once a simple plank starts to get stale, you can make a few modifications:

  • Raise one leg or arm off the ground.
  • Put both feet on an elevated surface.
  • Widen your legs and arms without rounding the back.
  • Place your arms/hands on an unstable surface like a medicine ball. 

Test yourself before the NFPA 1582 exam by trying to hold a standard plank for as long as possible. It will help to have a training partner time you and make sure you aren’t breaking your form, an error that would end your test.
 
VIDEO: Plank for Beginners: How to do a Plank
 

Flexibility

Make sure you’re stretching often. If you’re not already able to touch your toes in a forward fold, it might be tough to feel like you’re gaining much flexibility by just hanging forward for a few minutes after each workout. While it is key to always stretch after a workout, it helps to understand that there are several muscles involved in trying to touch your toes. The NFPA 1582 test requires flexibility in your hamstrings, hips, back and even shoulders for maximum reach.
 
One of the best ways to improve overall flexibility is by incorporating yoga into your workout routine, which will target your whole body and leave you feeling (and stretching) looser. Incorporate a few of these moves into your stretching routine to see an increase in your sit and reach performance:

  •  In downward dog, place a block between your thighs and squeeze together, then try and straighten the leg.
  • Lie on your back with a yoga strap in your hands. Wrap the strap around one foot and extend your leg straight, lifting the leg into the air as high as it will go.
  • Sitting up, bend your knees and wrap your hands around your feet, rounding your back and pulling forward to stretch your back.

VIDEO: Supine Hamstring Stretch
 

Try a variety of stretching options and measure yourself often with your back against the wall, trying to touch your toes. By stretching every day after a brief warm-up - or after a workout - you should start to see noticeable gains in your flexibility.
 
The NFPA 1582 fitness evaluation is a comprehensive test that measures you on every aspect of physical fitness. Incorporating VO2 max-increasing cardio, weightlifting, plyometric leg moves, pushups, core strengthening exercises and stretching consistently will see you acing the evaluation as you try and make the fire squad. Always remember that proper form is going to not only help you get better results but also to help you perform the NFPA 1582 tests properly.
 

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