Physical Agility: Technique, Momentum, and Grip

Firefighter candidates don’t realize that it’s not just strength that is required in physical agility. If you are having problems in the physical, there are steps you can take to prepare. Before I go any further, I want to be clear that the NUGGETS here are technique, momentum, and grip. You do not want any surprises during the Physical Agility.

I encourage firefighter candidates to take advantage of any college or academy program teaching the techniques used for pulling hoses, throwing a ladder, dragging a dummy (not you), etc. Many fire departments offer practice “run-through” sessions for their physical test prior to the actual date of testing. Make sure you participate and do not pass up this opportunity.

This type of prep will give hands-on experience with every segment of the agility. Too many candidates think they are in great shape.  One candidate who did not take advantage of the practice session told me, “Hey, that 75-pound hose pack was heavy.  Humping that hose bundle up the tower, hosting and other manipulative skills, then back down the tower steps made my lungs burn (they were still burning days later) and caused the loss of valuable seconds.”

Here are some tips:

  • Up your cardio work by going up and down bleachers with a backpack with weights inside or purchase a weighted vest from
  • Work with a trainer at a gym in those fields of motion that would improve your ability. Often, fire training divisions know the exercises that would apply to those areas. When ice skaters were trying to break the record for a triple lux, they found by working on upper body strength was the secret.
  • Check-in with your local area department and arrange for a little coaching. What firefighter would not want to puff out their chest showing his or her special techniques that got them their job?
  • With ladder throws, it’s all about momentum and a continuous movement from the beginning to the end of the throw. Make certain you are using a pivot point and the weight of the ladder to your advantage.
  • Dragging a hose or a dummy starts with a thrust for momentum followed by taking shorter steps, keeping a low forward center of gravity, while using your own weight to keep up the momentum during the pull.
  • Walking a ladder uses a pivot point and the weight of the ladder to your advantage. When raising the fly, pull the rope in short hand-over-hand movements in front of your face and not much higher than your head. On each grip of the rope, turn your fist palm down to improve your grip. Keep one foot planted at the spur (bottom one side or the other). Keep the other foot back for balance. Slightly tilt the ladder towards the wall for balance as you raise it.

Many candidates feel if they set some kind of a record it will help in hiring. Not true! Remember, the physical agility is PASS or FAIL. Another “Nugget” here is to pace yourself. You don’t have to break the record. There is no need to impress the training staff, the other candidates, nor tout that you set a new record. In your haste, you might injure yourself, or even fall down the stairs in the tower. If this is the case, you don’t pass and are eliminated from the hiring process. How would you feel McFly?

Fire Captain Bob