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Musculoskeletal Fitness Changes over 12 Weeks


“This is what I’ve been trying to pay people to do for me for a long time now,” Kate says. Her words probably reflect the thoughts of most other people. Although exercise science isn’t rocket science, some guidance and direction is important, and that’s what I hope my articles have done for you. Kate Drake and McKensie Dallaserra are students in the Applied Health Science program at Montana Tech, and were required to participate in a 12 week musculoskeletal fitness training program as part of one of their classes.

We conducted a fitness assessment of the girls prior to and following the 12-week program. College students have inconsistencies in their schedules that aren’t unlike the EMS professional; and, consequently, sometimes it’s challenging for the student (and EMS professional) to maintain compliance with a fitness program. So Kate and McKenzie made an agreement with me that they would commit themselves to the program.

Pre-Program Assessment
% Body fat: 24
Waist Circumference: 32.5
Thigh Circumference: 20.75
Bicep Circumference: 11.25
Push-up Test: 14
Sit up Test: 36
Starting Weight: 138

% Body fat: 30
Waist Circumference: 32
Thigh Circumference: 21.5
Bicep Circumference: 10.25
Push-up Test: 10
Sit up Test: 45
Starting Weight: 150

As noted earlier, the strength training programs described in previous columns are perfectly suitable for both females and males, because at the molecular level, although there may be differences in muscle fiber type percentages from one individual to the next, our muscular systems will respond in the same manner to an overload stimulus.

So, it’s really quite simple: strength training for women should be balanced and comprehensive, and it’s not much different than a strength program I’d recommend to a male under the same circumstances. The guidelines listed below are similar to the guidelines I’ve discussed in previous articles:

1. Warm-up and cool-down. Warm-up prior to the strength program by using large body movements for up to 15 minutes. Cool-down afterward for 5 to 10 minutes. Include stretching in the cool-down.

2. Start with a resistance that is comfortable, and progress slowly to allow your body time to adapt.

3. Train with a high level of intensity: Intensity is the most important (controllable) factor in determining the response from strength training. Failure to reach a desirable level of intensity—or muscular fatigue—will result in little or no gains in muscular fitness or strength.

4. Attempt to increase the resistance used or the repetitions performed every work out (**After you’ve allowed enough time for your body to adjust to the program—don’t start off too intensely too soon, do only what’s comfortable for you**)

5. Perform one to two sets of each exercise to the point of muscular exhaustion—reach concentric muscular failure within a prescribed number of repetitions or amount of time: usually around 10 to 15 repetitions, but it can depend on the exercise.

6. Perform each repetition with proper technique. Using your full range of motion, raise the weight slowly, hold for a pause, and then lower it slowly. If you can’t hold the pause, then you’re using too much weight along with momentum to complete the repetitions.

7. Strength train for no more than one hour per workout. If you’re training with a high level of intensity to achieve true muscular failure, you literally can’t exercise for a long period of time.

8. Exercise large muscle groups prior to small muscle groups.

9. Alternate workout 1 with workout 2, 2 to 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. Perform 30 minutes of cardio on each lifting day and up to 45 to 60 minutes of cardio on non-lifting days.

10. Keep accurate records. Buy a book and record repetitions and weights for each set.

Strength Training Program

Workout 1
Leg Extension 1x12
Leg Curls 1x12
Bench Press 1x12
Lat Pulldown 1x12
Standing Shrugs 1x12
Bicep Curls 1x12
Tricep Extensions 1x12
Bent Leg Sit-ups 1x30
Hyperextensions 1x30

Workout 2
Leg Press 2x15
DB lateral raise 2x12
DB overhead press 2x12
Stability Ball Abdominal Curl 2x 20
Stability Ball Hypers 2x20
Calf Raise 2x15
Tricep Extensions 1x12
Bent Leg Sit-ups 1x30
Hyperextensions 1x30

Cardio Training Program
Frequency: 6 days a week
Intensity: 12 to 15 on the RPE scale
Time: 30 minutes on strength training days; 45 to 60 minutes on non-strength training days
Type: Combination of jogging, elliptical training, biking

Following 12 weeks of training, we conducted a post-program assessment. Their results showed impressive improvements.

Post-Program Assessment

% Body fat: 22
Waist Circumference: 31.75
Thigh Circumference: 21.75
Bicep Circumference: 11
Push-up Test: 27
Sit up Test: 45
Ending Weight: 136

% Body fat: 25
Waist Circumference: 31.5
Thigh Circumference: 21.5
Bicep Circumference: 11.75
Push-up Test: 21
Sit up Test: 51
Ending Weight: 138

Most impressive were the push-up tests from 14 to 27 for McKensie and 10 to 21 for Katey.One of the keys to their improvements was their consistency; they were dedicated to the program. We held weekly meetings to monitor their progress and to share concerns, answer questions and offer support. With commitment, you can also experience similar improvements to what McKensie and Kate experienced.


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