In the first article in this series, I cleared up some myths about stretching including when firefighters should NOT stretch and when they should. In these next few articles, I’m going to explain which stretches firefighters should and should NOT do.
Having done thousands of fitness tests on firefighters, I can say that there are several areas that are notoriously tight on firefighters. Those areas are the hamstrings, hips and shoulders.
This is especially problematic because when firefighters are tight in these areas it increases their risk of injury. Why? Because when you have to lift somebody or something from a tight spot (like between the shower and the toilet) you’re probably going to end up being in a wonky position if your joints don’t allow a large range of motion. It’s usually your back that has to twist or bend to make up for that, which is why so many firefighters have back injuries.
Notice I did not say that firefighters need to have more flexibility in their backs. That is an area that you don’t want to overstretch. Research shows that firefighters with extremely flexible backs are actually at GREATER risk for back injury. The picture below shows a stretch that you may want to avoid.
However, if you have SUPER tight back muscles you may be experiencing back pain as a result, so you will definitely benefit from some gentle “cat-cow” stretches like that shown below. But take care to not stretch forcefully, especially if you’re twisting. Also, be sure to stretch when your muscles are warm, either after exercise or a hot shower.
As you can probably deduce, you want to avoid being extremely inflexible, but not to have excessive flexibility. The goal is simply to gain adequate flexibility so your joints can do what they need without being in pain (too inflexible) or losing control (too flexible).
In the next article in this series, I’m going to show you the best stretches for firefighters to gain adequate flexibility in their hamstrings, hips and shoulders.
Click the link below to read the previous articles in this series:
Photo Courtesy Karlie Moore