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Resist This!


Whether your goal for the New Year is to lose weight or just stay fit enough to do your job effectively, there are ways to accomplish your goal without sacrificing several hours of your week at the gym. But long shifts make a regular workout routine next to impossible for some and can be discouraging for others, especially after you miss a couple sessions and get off schedule. Let's face it, sometimes after a long day you just have no energy left.

Bodybuilders typically have a no excuses view on scheduling exercise. But I haven't met too many bodybuilders in EMS, and all the common provider probably wants is a good, sturdy core to get the job done. One way to accomplish this is to concentrate on strengthening the most commonly used and abused muscles from a day at work. As an EMT, medic or firefighter, you know fatigue quickly catches up with you when it's time to put your body to task. Firefighters notice it after a fire when it's time to rip out sheetrock and insulation over their heads with a pike pole. EMTs and paramedics feel it every time they lift a heavy patient or carry a load of equipment up several flights of stairs. It's not necessarily harmful. But, like I've said in the past -- and my doctor constantly reminds me -- repetition can take its toll.

Think about this for a moment; every time you bend down to activate the carriage lever on your stretcher, you activate your quadriceps. When you lift it up, you further activate the quadriceps and also activate the biceps, trapezius and deltoid muscles around your neck and shoulder. If you feel a sore back at the end of the day, it could be the result of an awkward lift. Strengthening these areas will help reduce these instances of pain, because those areas will be strong enough to handle a little abuse here and there. Although you're never to lift with your back, keeping those muscles strong helps with overall core stability. That brings us to the meat of this discussion.

If any of the above applies to you, you may benefit from resistance-band training. Resistance bands are cheap. You can use them anywhere, and you can throw them under your bed when you're finished. The best part is you can get a workout that's as good if not better with them than with traditional exercise equipment. Additionally, they lower the risk of injury because you're not picking up heavy weights and putting them away every five minutes, and they save time and conserve valuable energy for the workout itself. I could go on. But to avoid sounding like a Sunday morning infomercial, I'll just show you what I mean.

We'll take some simple everyday tasks and match them with an appropriate exercise designed to strengthen that particular muscle group. These examples are based on using medium resistance bands, but you may adjust accordingly. A good trick to increase resistance is to simply "choke up" on the band. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully to avoid injury. I recommend waiting about 30 seconds between each set.

Lifting a Stretcher

Pimary muscles used: Quadriceps

Recommended exercise: Squats

See Figure 1 in the photo gallery at the top of the page.

(3 or 4 sets of 8 repetitions)

  • Stand on the band with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Keep tension on the band by holding a half-bicep curl.
  • Lower into a squat while pulling on the band to add tension.
  • Keep your head up, your back in an in-line position and your knees behind your toes.
  • Return to start position and repeat.

Transferring Patients to Hospital Beds

Primary muscles used: Biceps

Recommended exercise: Bicep curls

See Figure 2 in the photo gallery at the top of the page.

(3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions)

  • Stand on the band and hold the handles with palms facing out.
  • Keep your abs in and knees slightly bent.
  • Bend your arms and bring palms toward your shoulders into a bicep curl.
  • For more tension, widen your stance.
  • Return to start position and repeat.

Salvage & Overhaul

Primary muscles used: Deltoids/Triceps

Recommended exercise: Overhead press

See Figures 3a and 3b in the photo gallery at the top of the page.

(3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions)

  • Stand on the band while holding handles in both hands.
  • Begin with arms bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Keep your wrists straight and your abs in.
  • Contract the shoulders to straighten arms up and lower back down.
  • The emphasis should be on the shoulder muscles.

Performing CPR

Primary muscles used: Entire Core

Recommended exercise: Bent-over row

See Figure 4 in the photo gallery at the top of the page.

(3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions)

  • Center the band under your feet and bend forward at the waist.
  • Your body will maintain that 90 degree angle throughout the exercise until the end of each set.
  • Keep your back flat and abs in. Your abs/back muscles should now be activated.
  • Grab the band close to the feet.
  • Bend the elbows to pull the arms up to the torso while squeezing the back (rowing motion).
  • Slowly return your arms to the start position and repeat.

I recommend purchasing resistance bands on Amazon.com, where you can get one for around $9.

Get a few different lengths, and make sure they're the type with handles. Hopefully you'll find them as useful and versatile as I have.


  1. About.com. "Total Body Resistance Band Workout." http://exercise.about.com/cs/exerciseworkouts/l/blresistanceban.htm
  2. About.com. "Strength Training with Resistance Bands." http://exercise.about.com/cs/exerciseworkouts/l/blbandworkout.htm

Legal Disclaimer

Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. The exercises listed in this article are suggestions only and shouldn't supersede the recommendations of your physician. If for any reason you experience abnormal discomfort during any of these routines, stop immediately. Do not attempt any of these if you've ever sustained injuries that would inhibit your ability to perform them correctly.


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