Five-Alarm Fat Burner

Incinerate your fat stores with this plan based on the real workouts of America’s fittest firefighters. You’re only 8 weeks away from your leanest look ever!

It’s December 25, just after 2 a.m. and I’m sound asleep. The breaker hits, the room lights turn on and a booming voice on the loudspeaker repeats, “Structure fire!” My crew and I jump in the rig and boot it out of the hall in what feels like 10 seconds. As we approach the fire, I can see that it’s huge.

Smoke is billowing out of the already broken windows. We strap on our packs. I grab an axe and my captain orders me to pull a line off the rig, so I grab a length of 1.5-inch hose and set it up in front of the broken shop windows. I strap on my mask and join the crew as we rush into the storefront, hurdling over fallen shelves and merchandise. I can barely see anything as we advance the weighted hose into the dark, aiming the jet of water at the glow of the fire ahead.


Just as we think we’ve put it out, we’re radioed to exit the building, as the fire has traveled to the second floor. Outside, as I’m gasping to catch my breath, the captain asks me and another firefighter to climb to the top of the 100-foot aerial ladder to control the fire stream. My lower body burns under the weight of 100 pounds of gear I’m hauling up the ladder. Any extra fat on my body is dead weight that I’ll be forced to drag up that ladder along with the rest of my gear. Is it any wonder firefighters are so ripped?

The fire is upgraded to a third alarm and we work well into the morning to extinguish the “enemy.”

That was one experience I had working with the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service in British Columbia, Canada, before I moved eastward to pursue a master’s degree in exercise physiology. I discovered first-hand the physical intensity of firefighting and how the job requires an intense fat-burning cardio and circuit-training program to match.

Studies have shown that during on-the-job tasks such as carrying heavy equipment and climbing ladders, firefighters use up to 12 times more oxygen than they do at rest. So not only do these guys need to be strong, but they also can’t afford to carry extra weight around their guts.

This eight-week training program based on the workouts of top firefighters will set your metabolism ablaze, torch calories, burn fat and build lean muscle mass. But let me reiterate: Above all else it’ll incinerate fat! The program works so well because it alternates between fat-fighting cardio intervals and high-intensity circuits (more fat fighting) that incorporate significant strength moves. If you already have some good muscle built up from traditional strength workouts, this program will help you chisel out the fat and jack up your power output.

“All the different little arm machines and leg machines don’t really have good carryover to the job,” says career firefighter Tom Corrigan from the Everett Fire Department in Washington, D.C. Sure, they may bring out the assorted muscle sections of various muscle groups, but, notes Corrigan, “You need power that endures, which means having both strong muscles and a strong heart.”

Two recent studies in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the best type of training regime for firefighters is non-linear periodization, which means focusing on power, strength and endurance in the same workout. This exclusive Reps! program — ideal for guys who want to blast away fat without compromising their hard-earned muscle — uses linear periodization strategies.

Try Sprinting Three Flights in This Gear

  • Helmet: 5 lbs.
  • Turnout gear (Jacket, pants, boots): 18 lbs.
  • SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus): 33 lbs.
  • Small tools in pockets: 1 lb.
  • Axe: 7.5 lbs.

Other items a firefighter may haul, include an apartment pack (typically 100 feet of 1.5–1.75-inch diameter hose with an adjustable fog nozzle bundled so that it can rest evenly over the SCBA bottle), 34 pounds; a utility belt with bucking strap and wrench, 6 pounds; gloves and balaclava (protective hood worn under the helmet).

The Firefighter Fat-Burner Training Week


The 8-Week Weight Workout Plan



Weight Workout 1: Part A

High Clean Pull from Hang


PRIMARY MUSCLE TARGETS: Calves, Hamstrings, Glutes, Paraspinals, Delts, Traps.

SET UP: Using an overhand grip slightly beyond shoulder width, hold a barbell in front of your thighs. Soften your knees and stick out your chest.

MOVEMENT: Brace your abs while you simultaneously push your hips rearward (without rounding your back in the process). The motion allows the bar to move downward: Keep your weight on your mid-foot and lower the bar to mid-thigh.
Then, explode up onto your toes while you pull the bar upward toward your shoulders at the same time (not unlike a barbell upright row). Pull with your arms as you apply as much force as possible into the ground while you push up onto your toes.
Absorb the weight of the bar on its way down and guide it back to the hanging, start position in front of your thighs. When you’ve completed the required number of reps and sets, immediately start Part B: Full-Body Circuit.

Part B: Full-Body Circuit

EXERCISE 1: Dumbbell Front Squat to Overhead Press

PRIMARY MUSCLE TARGETS: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Trunk Stabilizers, Deltoids.

SET UP: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip in front of your shoulders. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.

MOVEMENT: Squat down keeping your chest up and knees out until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Don’t fold at the waist. Stay tight. Then drive upward through your thighs and glutes, and as you return to the starting position, press the dumbbells overhead, just short of elbow lockout. Lower the weights back to shoulder height and repeat the entire sequence.

EXERCISE 2: 1.5-Rep Dumbbell Push-Ups


PRIMARY MUSCLE TARGETS: Pecs, Outer Delts, Triceps.

SET UP: Place two dumbbells shoulder-width apart on the ground. Get into the push-up position with your palms facing each other.

MOVEMENT: While maintaining a straight line with your entire torso, lower yourself all the way down. Then, return but only halfway to the starting position; lower your torso from this position all the way down. Now, push back up to full extension. That’s 1.5 reps. Now repeat.

EXERCISE 3: Wide-Grip Seated Cable Rows
(or Wide-Grip Machine Rows or Wide-Grip Chins)

(Not pictured)
SET UP: Attach a lat bar to the pulley cable of a cable row apparatus, and then grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip, as you sit on the pad in an upright position. Your lower back should be in a natural arch position and your arms extended.

MOVEMENT: Pull the lat bar toward the base of your sternum, stopping just short of the chest area. Retract the scapulae briefly to engage additional muscle fibers, and then slowly control the bar back to the starting position. Avoid leaning rearward or excessively forward.


EXERCISE 4: Bent-Over Dumbbell Piston Row
(this is essentially an alternating bent-over dumbbell row)

PRIMARY MUSCLE TARGETS: Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, Biceps, Trunk Stabilizers.

SET UP: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend forward at your hips keeping an arch in your lower back. Stop when you achieve a 45-degree angle. The dumbbells should hang straight down, palms facing inward.

MOVEMENT: Stick out your chest and pull one of the dumbbells up toward your ribs to get into the starting position. Then, as you raise the other dumbbell to the lower rib cage, lower the opposite dumbbell into a hanging position. When you’ve alternated raising and lowering each dumbbell one time, that’s one rep. Continue. Your goal is to move as quickly as possible without breaking form or using upper torso momentum to get the dumbbells moving.


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