Fitness Challenge

BLM Fire Fitness Challenge

The BLM Fire Fitness Challenge provides a common system by which BLM firefighters can measure current fitness, establish fitness goals, track fitness improvement, and receive recognition for their efforts. The Fitness Challenge is voluntary, but BLM firefighters are strongly encouraged to participate.

The BLM Fire Fitness Challenge has been available since the early 2000s. After researching similar fitness programs used by the U.S. military, municipal fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and consulting with academia and physical fitness experts, the BLM Fire Fitness Challenge was updated in 2022.

The BLM Fire Fitness Challenge measures fitness in four basic exercises: pull-ups (or bent arm hang), push-ups, planking, and a 1.5 (or 3-mile) timed run. Point scales have been updated and now include separate scales for men and women.

A smart phone application is currently in development and will be shared as soon as a testing opportunity is available.  

BLM wildland firefighters are physically fit. Photo by Matt Irving, BLM contractor.
A BLM wildland firefighting crew hikes the fireline. Photo by Matt Irving, BLM contractor.
A plank is part of a wildland firefighter's fitness routine.
A hotshot crew removes fuel during the Dixie Fire in California. Photo by Matt Irving, BLM contractor.
BLM wildland firefighters hike the fireline. Photo by BLM.
Trail running is part of a BLM wildland firefighters physical fitness routine.
Push ups are part of the fitness routine of BLM wildland firefighters.
Trail running helps keep wildland firefighters physically fit.
BLM wildland firefighters often hike in steep terrain.  Photo by Matt Irving, BLM contractor.
Mountain biking is part of a BLM wildland firefighter's fitness routine.  Photo by Matt Irving, BLM contractor.
Running is important for BLM wildland firefighters.

 

Background

Excellent physical fitness is essential to firefighter performance and health. Individual fitness has a direct effect on fireline productivity. Fatigue has also been identified as a contributing factor in many accidents, and numerous studies have proven that improving physical fitness mitigates fatigue. Physical fitness is a critical job element of wildland firefighting, tested with the Work Capacity Test (WCT). However, the WCT is limited in scope and only tests cardiovascular fitness. The BLM Fire Fitness Challenge exercises measure core strength, grip strength, endurance, and upper body strength, which directly correlate to typical wildland firefighter job tasks. These measured exercises allow participants to track individual improvement in overall fitness over time.

2022 is considered a pilot year; in the future, the BLM Division of Fire Operations will update the Fitness Challenge as necessary. Submission of participant data is voluntary but is useful to adjust scoring tables.

Recognition

BLM State Offices and BLM Districts will recognize achievement in the BLM Fire Fitness Challenge. Nationally, the Fire and Aviation Directorate will annually recognize individuals that demonstrate the most improvement and top over-all scores by gender and age group.

Pre-Fitness Challenge Requirement

Participation in the BLM Fire Fitness Challenge is voluntary. Submission of data (challenge results and scores) is also voluntary; Providing your name is optional but is required if participants wish to be considered for recognition. Reminder: before participating in the BLM Fire Fitness Challenge, you should consult your physician or other healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Participants must be cleared through the DOI Medical Standards program for light, moderate, or arduous duty, or must complete a Health Screen Questionnaire (HSQ). If the HSQ indicates the need for a medical exam, participants are responsible for consulting their physician at their own expense and obtaining permission to participate.

Fitness Challenge Test Administration

  • A current risk assessment that addresses medical response must be in place prior to administering the Fitness Challenge test.
  • Test administrators will ensure all participants are cleared for duty through the DOI Medical Standards program or HSQ.
  • Test administrators will ensure an adequate number of assistant administrators are on hand, and ensure other logistical needs (stopwatches/timers, pens, clipboards, scoresheets, etc.) are addressed.
  • Participants should be prepared with water, stretched/warmed muscles, etc.
  • Test administrators shall read a description of each exercise (see below) and demonstrate proper form prior to the test.
  • Exercises may be completed in any order. There is a 5-minute time limit between exercises.
  • A 10 minute warm up period is allowed before the run.
  • Individuals may test multiple times, but scoring is always based on the results of a four exercise test conducted as a single event, not amalgamated individual exercise scores from separate events (e.g. combining best pull-up score from last week, with best run time from this week and best plank and push-up scores from last month is not allowed).
  • Record individual scores on the scoresheet (provided below). Submit scores online here. Individuals may submit scores for themselves or for other participants. Scores may be submitted for multiple events throughout a season/year.

The individual exercises are performed as follows:

  • Push-ups: Starting position is back straight and parallel with the ground, arms straight with hands approximately shoulder width apart and elbows locked. Lower the body until the arms form a ninety-degree angle and return to the starting position with the arms fully locked. This is one repetition. The back must remain straight throughout the exercise. All resting must occur in the starting position. Count the number of repetitions successfully completed in three minutes or when the starting position can no longer be maintained (arms collapsing, body not straight, etc.).
  • Pull-ups or flexed-arm hang:
    • Pull-ups: Starting position is hanging from a bar, hands shoulder-width apart, arms fully extended with elbows locked using either an overhand grip (palms facing away from body) or underhand grip (palms facing toward body). Lift the body until the chin is above the bar and return to the starting position. On each repetition, the arms must be fully extended, and the chin must clear the bar. Count the number of pull-ups completed correctly until proper form can no longer be maintained (drops from the bar, etc.)
    • Flexed-arm hang: The participants may be assisted to the starting position or may use a step or box if necessary. Grasp the overhead bar using either an overhand grip (palms facing away from body) or underhand grip (palms facing toward body). Position the body with the arms flexed and the chin clearing the bar. The chest should be held close to bar with legs hanging straight. The body must not swing, the knees must not be bent, and the legs must not kick. The subject holds this position for as long as possible.
  • Planking: Plank position is back and body straight, resting on elbows shoulder-width apart. Begin laying in a flat surface with all body weight on the ground. Begin timing after a countdown and when the individual assumes the plank position. Stop the timer when this position cannot be maintained (sagging, moving from one elbow to the other, etc.) or at five minutes.
  • 1.5-mile or 3-mile timed run: conducted on flat smooth surface.

Download the score sheet.

Download the points chart.

Submit your BLM Fitness Challenge score here.

Scan the QR code below to submit your scores from a smart phone:

For more information, contact Mark Skudlarek, mskudlar@blm.gov.

BLM Fitness Challenge QR Code