Firefighter Functional Fitness – Required Reading

“Being physically fit for duty is one of the most vital and foundational ingredients of being a successful firefighter.”

This is one of the opening lines to Dan Kerrigan and Jim Moss’s book, Firefighter Functional Fitness, and it sets the stage for a powerful, well-written, easy to read manual for any firefighter looking to start or improve their physical training program.

You must take care of yourself if you want to be safe and effective in doing what it is we do. Very few would argue that firefighting is a physically demanding job. While not every shift will challenge you, when the tones drop and its time to go to work, there’s no doubt a high level of physicality is involved in the job. There are dozens of areas a firefighter can and should train on, but the one underlying foundation for all of those, the one that has the biggest impact on all the others, is physical fitness. If you’re physically incapable of doing your job you are not fully realizing your potential a firefighter.

”Our performance (or lack thereof) directly impacts fellow firefighters, the citizens we serve, and everyone’s fireground safety. Our quality of health impacts our quality of life at home, it impacts our family, and it impacts the quality and longevity of our retirement.”

FFF - Duty

Getting Started

Getting on the road to physical fitness can be an intimidating experience for the beginner. What gym to go to? What type of workouts to do? What about the nutrition factor? Rest and recovery? Being physically fit is so much more than just being able to lift heavy weights. Thankfully, Kerrigan and Moss have packed a 320-page book full of the information you need to get started. Firefighter Functional Fitness covers topics ranging from strength training, flexibility, recovery, and cardiovascular health to nutrition, programming, and leading a fitness change in your department.

Being firefighters themselves, the authors wrote this book catering to the firefighter as an “occupation athlete.” You won’t find beach body workouts or any quick fix diets in these pages. What you will find instead are training and nutrition advice geared towards making you better and more efficient at what you do, focusing on job-specific strength requirements like dragging and pulling and emphasizing the importance of hydration for people who sometimes work in extreme conditions.

”When performing any exercise, ask yourself these three questions: 1) Is it safe? 2) Is it effective? 3) Is it functional?”

The Big Eight

The authors break down firefighter physical fitness into what they call The Big Eight: Core, Cardio Capacity, Flexibility, The Push, The Pull, The Lift, The Carry, and The Drag. They define, describe, and use these core components to create a plethora of workout programs to get any firefighter, regardless of fitness level, started on a road to improvement. Best of all, these exercises can be done at the station with the equipment you already have on your apparatus. Hose drags, ladder carries, gearing up and walking up the stairs, all of these things will increase your functionality and fitness level and Firefighter Functional Fitness does an excellent job of explaining how.

Kerrigan and Moss break the book down into easy to digest sections with each section ending in clearly written Action Steps to help you implement their advice. All of the training programs are given as a tiered system that can be catered to your or your crew member’s current fitness level. The clear, direct writing and directives in this book make it an indispensable reference for setting up a functional fitness plan in your firehouse.

FFF - Big8

The Heart of the Matter

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of line of duty deaths for firefighter, “causing 45% of all firefighter LODDs.” This is unacceptable. Almost 80% of the fire service is overweight1. Again, unacceptable. This is a cultural issue and an improvable issue. Do yourself, your crew, your department, your community, and your family a favor and read Firefighter Functional Fitness. Take in all of the information, not just about fitness but about attitude, mindset, and spreading a positive message about physical fitness through your department. Listen to Dan Kerrigan and Jim Moss, take care of yourself.


  1. National Volunteer Fire Council ↩︎

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