Building a commercial fitness center for a fire department will depend upon the budget and the size of the space allotted for the project. A typical small fitness center might range from between 500 to 1200 square feet. This size of space can generally fit several pieces of cardiovascular and weight training equipment for a good overall body workout. A few pieces of specialized equipment may also be included depending on the space available. Larger commercial fitness centers for firefighters may include space for exercise classes, pools, spas, saunas, hot tubs, basketball courts, racquetball courts, or a range of other amenities.
Throughout this article, several types of equipment will be mentioned to give the reader an idea of what to select for a commercial fitness center designed to meet the health and fitness needs of firefighters.
Cardiovascular equipment is necessary for firefighters. They must move quickly in their jobs and sprint on a moment's notice. The must climb stairs in tall buildings and must have superior oxygen capacity to deal with the smoke experienced in fires. Popular cardiovascular equipment for firefighters includes the following:
• Stair Climbers
• Exercise Bikes
• Rowing Machines
• Elliptical Machines
The equipment selected should be commercial grade and be able to withstand numerous people using the machinery throughout the day. Stair climbers and elliptical machines will mimic the stair climbing motion that firefighters exhibit in their jobs. Elliptical machines are easy on the knees and will provide a solid, aerobic cardiovascular workout. The treadmill will build the greatest lung capacity over time and endurance. Many treadmills can be adjusted to focus on running, climbing, or both.
Commercial fitness centers should have some form of weight training equipment. Weight training builds muscles that are necessary to carry individuals from burning buildings, to lift heavy objects that obstruct the firefighters' path, and to climb numerous stairs in tall buildings. Popular forms of weight training equipment are included below:
• Functional Trainers
• Multi-Station Gyms
• Cable Crossovers
• Smith Machines
• Power Racks
Free Weights and Other Exercise Equipment
Free weight workouts will more closely mimic what firefighters may experience on the job with the need to lift random objects. With free weights, the body must use multiple muscles to stabilize and lift the weights. A variety of other exercise equipment is also available to help build pushing, pulling, and climbing skills needed on the job. Some examples of free weights and other exercise tools in commercial fitness centers include:
• Jump Ropes
• Suspended Ropes for Upper Body Strength
• Pull up Bars
• Climbing Walls
• Weight Benches
This type of exercise equipment is important to work muscles that may be used when fighting a fire. Since firefighting often involves waiting around for long periods of time and then jumping to action at a moment's notice, all muscle groups must be ready and prepared to perform the job when required.
During training, knees and joints should be preserved to avoid stress related injuries that might affect a firefighter's ability to perform their job. It is recommended that firefighters exercise on a commercial fitness center floor that absorbs the shock of high impact exercise.