Exercise for EMS Providers

“I don’t have time to exercise.” This is probably the excuse I hear the most when consulting with people who are interested in beginning an exercise program. Making exercise a priority is up to you and nobody else; however, finding ways to improve your compliance is well within the rules of exercise adherence. Some examples of how to commit yourself to exercising regularly may mean joining friends for a daily walk, jog or strength training session. It could even mean participating in your own “Biggest Loser” contest, or promising your dog that you’ll walk him twice a day!”ž

Another approach to improving compliance is to consider implementing a convenient at-home program. I’ve had success developing at-home solutions for those who otherwise wouldn’t exercise at all. Most of the programs I’ve developed for those who prefer to exercise at home require a minimal financial investment but a consistent personal commitment.”ž

The extra tools that you will need to exercise at home include, but are not limited to:

  • A small set of dumbbells,
  • Surgical tubing of different diameters,
  • A few medicine balls, and
  • A stability ball.”ž

With this equipment, we can effectively develop comprehensive home exercise programs. Some will have a foundation in the basic exercises we’re all familiar with from physical education classes; however, some will be completely new.”ž

An effective strength-training program must be balanced — every major muscle group should be targeted as opposed to a few select muscle groups. One of the goals of strength training is to improve overall structural integrity, and this can only happen with balanced increases in strength. Think about it, when a house is built, the solid (usually concrete) foundation of the house is poured first, and the rest of the house rests on that foundation. Could you imagine trying to rest a house on half a foundation?”ž

Some common “select” muscle groups I see targeted by men include chest and arms. Conversely, the “select” muscle groups I see targeted by women include the glutes, calves, arms and abdominals.”ž

An effective strength training program will include at least one exercise for the following muscle groups from head to toe:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Upper back (Lats)
  • Arms and forearms
  • Lower back
  • Abdominals”ž
  • Thighs
  • Hips
  • Lower leg
  • Neck and upper trapezius”ž

To see an overview of a program that targets all of these major muscle groups and could be done two to three times per week on non-consecutive days,view the photo gallery at the top of the page.Performing one set of up to 15 repetitions for one of the exercises listed under each muscle group per week would give you an excellent strength workout.”ž

If you plan on using surgical tubing for one of your exercises, be sure to inspect it prior to use. If the tubing appears cracked or excessively worn, get another piece. Also, if you’ve never used surgical tubing, a medicine ball or a stability ball before, take your time in learning some of the nuances of using these pieces of equipment. You may have to practice how to balance on the ball, how to anchor the surgical tubing and how to hold the medicine ball.”ž

Remember, all exercise repetitions should be done slowly while breathing. Holding your breath during exercise may lead to the valsalva maneuver, which can drastically raise blood pressure. Also, you should always seek approval from your physician prior to beginning a new exercise program.”ž For more on developing a comprehensive strength training program, read”Fit to Respond: Strength Training for EMS Professionals” from July 2006 JEMS.

You can combine this with cardiorespiratory training to improve the efficiency of the program. For example, once you’ve learned the basic movements, try this out:

  • Warm-up by taking a walk around the block, and then another lap around the block at a slow pace.
  • Do one set of 15 repetitions for each exercise:
  • Calf raise
  • Reverse calf raise
  • Lunge walk
  • Stability ball squat
  • Jog two laps
  • Do one set of 15 repetitions for each exercise:
  • Stability ball abdominal curl
  • Side plank (45 seconds each side)
  • Stability ball hyper extension
  • Jog two laps
  • Do one set of 15 repetitions for each exercise:
  • Surgical tubing reverse flies
  • Stability ball dumbbell bench press
  • Surgical tubing lateral raise
  • Dumbbell shrug
  • Jog two laps
  • Do one set of 15 repetitions for each exercise:
  • Dumbbell curl
  • Tricep extension
  • Wrist curls
  • Jog two laps
  • Cool down and stretch”ž

Depending on the size of the block you live on, following this workout means you will have trained the musculoskeletal system in a balanced fashion and completed a cardiorespiratory workout of approximately two miles. Adding cardio training to your strength training can improve overall efficiency of the training program.”ž

  • Of course you can modify the intensity of this or any other program by:
  • Increasing or decreasing the distance jogged;
  • Replacing jogging sessions with any other cardio activity that is rhythmic in nature and can be continued for a prolonged period of time, such as biking, rowing, stair stepping or rope jumping;
  • Increasing or decreasing time between sets; and
  • Adding or removing exercises. However, this must be done in a balanced fashion. For example, you should have as many pulling exercises as pressing/pushing exercises. So, instead of doing four sets of push-ups, it would be more prudent to do two sets of push-ups balanced with two sets of pull-ups. But this is a topic for another article!”ž

Where’s the Fluff?
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this program. If you commit to it and put effort into it, it will be effective. For the readers out there who are thinking, “Nah, you’ve gotta lift heavy weights to improve musculoskeletal fitness,” then consider this: Kahl Clark, a Butte, Montana firefighter, is a 135/145 Fightforce mixed martial arts champion, and he uses a modified form of this program as his main strength and conditioning regimen in preparing for his fights. Our three-day-per-week sessions last approximately 30 minutes — and Kahl is, pound for pound, one of the strongest men I’ve ever known. I believe this program works well for Kahl because he’s motivated and trains with intensity. (See the photo gallery above for a picture of Kahl.)”ž

Most exercise equipment purchased for at-home use ends up collecting dust under the bed because we didn’t make the commitment to use it. If you purchase the equipment to use this program and you commit yourself to it, I can guarantee that your overall fitness will improve!

Acknowledgment:Thank you to my models/exercise demonstrators, Montana Tech Applied Health Science students Kyle Kansala, Savanna Maldonado, Nicole Rowton and Natalie Shaw.

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