Best Fitness Equipment for Emergency Responders

Best Fitness Equipment for Emergency Responders Editorial Team Helping Firefighters and Law Enforcement Keep Fit and Protect Communities Emergency responders serve best when their bodies are in peak condition. Thi

Firefighter on a treadmillHelping Firefighters and Law Enforcement Keep Fit and Protect Communities

Emergency responders serve best when their bodies are in peak condition. This article can help you choose fitness equipment to maximize performance and minimize the chances of work-related injury.

Making the Most of Your Firehouse Fitness Budget

When a fitness budget for first responders is well spent, everybody wins. The general public wins because emergency workers are a bit more like superheroes. Emergency workers win because they’re less likely to injure their bodies when serving the public. Read on for insights to help give your team a critical edge! For custom advice planning your first responder fitness room, send us an email.

Types of Training Equipment for Emergency Responders

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) recommends that crew members get 60 to 90 minutes of fitness training time per shift. Fitness equipment recommendations for fire crews and other first responders include cardio trainers and strength trainers that support general fitness and also help people train for specific duties (e.g., climbing a ladder or carrying a victim to safety).

Cardio Fitness Equipment

Cardiovascular endurance helps firefighters and law enforcement move swiftly through dangerous situations. Training to develop especially high lung capacity is particularly important to those who might face smoke inhalation on the job.

Treadmills have long been the cardio trainers of choice in standard gyms and those designed especially for rescue workers. We recommend choosing a commercial treadmill with a steep incline (at least 15% grade). Treadmills with inclines have benefits for general fitness and can also help people train for real-life chases and rescues.

Certain types of cardio trainers serve simultaneously as strength trainers. For example:

  • Exercise bikes are almost as popular as treadmills. Recumbent exercise bikes are especially favored by trainees recovering from injury.
  • Elliptical machines support cardio and strength at once. Like treadmills, many ellipticals are built with power inclines to maximize workout sessions.
  • Arc trainers, which are similar to ellipticals, are very efficient cardio and strength trainers for total body fitness.


To ensure that cardio training is readily available, you’ll likely want to purchase more than one treadmill or treadmill alternative. Surveying your potential fitness room users for their preferences can be valuable.

Strength Equipment

Strength training helps firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement avoid injury and protect themselves and others. It can be especially important for firefighters wearing heavy gear and carrying equipment up ladders. Strength trainers for upper body and lower body training are therefore essential parts of a workout area. We recommend choosing a cable-based gym instead of free weights. This is best from a safety standpoint because a spotter won’t always be available.

Emergency responders can use strength training equipment to prepare for specific tasks such as carrying people to safety or forcibly entering buildings. Here are two examples of firefighters’ tasks paired with relevant strength training:

  • Advance a Charged Fire Hose – Back extension, chest press, leg press, overhead press
  • Climb a Ladder – Arm pulldown, incline treadmill, leg press


Worried that everything won’t fit? Because firehouses and police stations tend to have small workout rooms, total body cardio trainers and multi-station gyms are especially popular for these settings. Also, fitness equipment vendors are happy to help potential customers make the most of floor space!

Gerkin Protocol Treadmills and Specialized Fitness Tests

Cardio trainers programmed with job-specific fitness tests are recommended for firehouse workout rooms and similar gyms. Top commercial treadmill brands include the Gerkin Protocol on their equipment.

The Gerkin fitness test estimates aerobic capacity and is especially relevant to workers who might face inhalation of dangerous gases or smoke. Scoring well on this test is essential for people who want to enter the firefighting profession or continue work in this area. The Gerkin Protocol has the user run at increasingly difficult intensity levels until a target heart rate is met. The treadmill computer can predict the peak amount of oxygen that a body uses each minute per kilogram of body weight.

Additionally military fitness tests and other work-specific assessments are included on the best commercial treadmills.

Get Customized Advice

Save time and make smart shopping decisions with help from expert input! Fill out the form below¬†for help determining your first responders’ fitness equipment needs and streamlining your police or firehouse fitness room setup.

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