Periodization for Firefighters: Part 4

Check out Part 1, 2 and 3 here, here and here.

Honestly, this has been a challenging series to write.  Periodization is a heavy topic to tackle.  For most people, it’s not exactly a hot topic.  It’s possibly the most important topic for long term progression but it’s far from sexy.

I try to keep program design as simple as possible.  This may come as a surprise if you have followed along through this series and this is the first time you are reading about periodization.  There is a lot of information and many differing opinions out there.

If I’m not mistaken, I believe the NSCA’s stance on periodization was that there was a metric-shit-tonne of information on it and we are nearing a whole-fuck-tonne.  So, believe me, these last three posts barely scratch the surface.

I find it easiest, and most effective, to split training days into 3 classifications.  Regardless of the methods chosen I break days down into

1) less than 10 seconds work,

2) 20-40 seconds work, and

3) greater than 3 minutes work.

This is reflective of the three energy systems loyal readers learned about when they read Energy Systems in Firefighting.

Each classification will include various training methods for strength, power and conditioning. Designing programs this way allows for conditioning to be included in a greater number of workouts without competing directly with the other work done in that session.

By focusing on a single system, the pathways for improvement in that system are opened and not hampered by another system competing for recovery demands. This is far more effective than trying to mix different systems in a single workout. Training is more targeted and focused. It’s essentially the opposite of working for Michael Scott.

michael scott

Type 1 workouts will include the following methods.

  • Max effort and sub-max loading with 5 or fewer reps
  • Any power development for short durations, such as plyometrics and Olympic lifting
  • Pure speed work (sprinting short distances, under 10 seconds)
  • Conditioning methods like high resistance intervals (10 second repeats against resistance)

These methods would tax the anaerobic-alactic system heavily so they work well together. They all require a high effort for a short duration, opening the same pathways.


Type 2 workouts will include the following methods.

  • Higher rep resistance training, also known as the repetition method or hypertrophy work
  • Any lactic conditioning lasting 20-40 seconds, or longer in some cases
  • Short circuit training or complexes

Essentially these days are going to be the methods that someone might use to get jacked and tanned.


Type 3 workouts really include everything that could develop the aerobic system using sub-maximal heart rates

  • Cardiac output
  • Tempo repeats
  • Threshold training
  • High intensity continuous training (HICT)
  • Circuit training lasting longer than 2 minutes

These training sessions would be your typical “cardio days”.  They won’t directly improve your swoleness but these days are important for many reasons – health, longevity and anaerobic system support to name a few.


Each phase will use all three days but weeks will be weighted differently, utilizing each type of workout in each phase.

For example, if your goal is to get stronger you’ll program (read: you should program) type-1 workouts twice out of your four workouts and you’ll support them with both a type-2 and 3 workout during the week.

This could be a maximal loading day, a speed or sub-max day, plus a general strength or hypertrophy day also known as accessory day in the powerlifting world.  The aerobic day is often referred to as a recovery day or “fluff and buff” among strength athletes and could be single joint work, movement circuits or might just be a long walk. The hard-core lifters might do this long walk with a weighted vest or carry dumbbells around the block.

For hypertrophy, or getting ha-uuuge, a single type-1 workout will support the two type-2 workouts that you’ll be doing by promoting a different type of hypertrophy through a lower rep range. You would still use a type-3 day for recovery but also to support your fitness level to allow you to keep pumping out reps long after you get tired and promote recovery between training sessions.

For improved endurance it is more of the same.  Use two type-3 workouts and one of each type-1 and 2, just at lower intensities.

That’s great for four training sessions per week but what if you like to work out five or six times?!?!

Just add in more of what you need.  This basic template of four workouts per week is just a jumping-off point.  Most often you’ll be adding in more type-2 and 3 sessions regardless of the goal.  More than two type-1 workouts is pretty tough to recover from and as a firefighter you’ll be needing more repetition training anyways.

On top of this, you’ll want to consider which days will be “high” and “low” days.  Generally, a high-day is going to be whatever the focus of the program is for that training phase.

This 3-category break down is based off of Cal Dietz’s triphasic training model.  I have simplified it further and applied it to a concurrent/conjugate model.  Below is a summary of Cal’s 6 physical ability breakdown for tactical athletes.



There.  Part 4 is done.  This series is done.  There’s a “basic” framework to program from and individual differences can take this conjugate-high-low-type-1,2,3 model further.  More will be said about program design and periodization in the future but for now, maybe we won’t go so deep down the rabbit hole.  For clarification on anything from parts one through four please comment or email

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: