Evaluation of circuittraining intensity for firefighters

Mark G. Abel, Anthony J. Mortara, Robert W. Pettitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Firefighters are required to perform a variety of strenuous occupational tasks that require high levels of both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Thus, it is critical that firefighters train at an appropriate intensity to develop adequate levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Circuit training is a unique training method that stresses both energy systems and therefore may be a viable training method to enhance firefighter preparedness. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare the aerobic and anaerobic intensities of a circuit-based workout to physiological data previously reported on firefighters performing fire suppression and rescue tasks. Twenty career firefighters performed a workout that included 2 rotations of 12 exercises that stressed all major muscle groups. Heart rate was recorded at the completion of each exercise. Blood lactate was measured before and approximately 5 minutes after the workout. The workout heart rate and post-workout blood lactate responses were statistically compared to data reported on firefighters performing fire suppression and rescue tasks. The mean circuit-training heart rate was similar to previously reported heart rate responses from firefighters performing simulated smoke-diving tasks (79 ± 5 vs. 79 ± 6% maximum heart rate [HRmax], p = 0.741), but lower than previously reported heart rate responses from firefighters performing fire suppression tasks (79 ± 5 vs. 88 ± 6% HR max, p < 0.001). The workout produced a similar peak blood lactate compared to that when performing firefighting tasks (12 ± 3 vs. 13 6 3 mmolL -1, p = 0.084). In general, the circuit-based workout produced a lower cardiovascular stress but a similar anaerobic stress as compared to performing firefighting tasks. Therefore, firefighters should supplement low-intensity circuit-training programs with high-intensity cardiovascular and resistance training (e.g., ≥85% 1-repetition maximum) exercises to adequately prepare for the variable physical demands of firefighting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2895-2901
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Heart rate
  • RPE
  • Resistance
  • Strength
  • Tactical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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