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Home > EMS Products > Education
September 30, 2008
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First in Fitness
by Bryan Fass

Implementing Basic Daily Stretches

By Bryan Fass

The amount of hours we spend training and preparing for a call is staggering — countless repetitions of skills and techniques practiced until the point of perfection. After years of running calls and honing skills, something interesting occurs; as we become accustomed to our work routines, our bodies begin to regress, almost to the point of neglect.

We can sit for hours waiting for a call, then ramp up to 100 percent with no warm up period. Professional athletes spend hours training for an event and are allowed to stretch, warm up, massage and fuel their body to prepare and perform at their full capacity. Should the “sport” of public safety be any different?

We can use our down time to our advantage. Instead of sitting around all shift in front of the TV or computer, we can spend small amounts of time stretching and exercising to allow our bodies to perform at an optimal levels. There is no reason for us and our peers to become injured on the job. Employing some simple strategies by using what you have at your disposal will do wonders to help you feel better, move better, and prevent injury.

Think about it: how many hours do you spend sitting during a shift? Are you sitting with perfect posture? How many times during your shift do you stretch or exercise?

Let’s take something seemingly difficult or cumbersome, like stretching, and see how easy it is to do using your apparatus. All those grab bars, handles and steps are ideal for stretching and are simple and quick to do. If you perform the following stretches 1-2 times per shift while adding in some safe and effective exercise, you will be on your way to feeling and performing better.

The stretches I have included are but a few of the many that you should do each and every day, both on and off duty. The more consistent you become with a daily fitness routines, the more effective the activities become. Try implementing a routine stretch right after you check off the truck. You are there anyway and it only takes a few minutes.

Another very simple trick to help your maintain flexibility is hydration. Both hot, cold and dry weather/climates will dehydrate you. You should obviously already be aware of the effect it has on your body from a medical standpoint, but staying hydrated will also help to keep your muscles loose and pliable.

Exercise is just as fundamental to injury prevention as stretching. Try to incorporate “functional” movements that involve multiple joints at one time. You do not fight fires or tend to patients while lying on your back, so there is no need to do bench presses to be effective on the squad. Exercises like squats, lunges, standing rows, and using dumbbells instead of barbells will all help you stay strong, fit and flexible. Being fit and staying healthy is easy if you employ some simple tricks that can be integrated into your shift. That’s the bottom line to remember.

Hamstrings Hold: 30 - 45 seconds
Sets: 2 per side
Times Per Day: 2

Photo courtesy of Fit Responder

Preparation
Option 1: Lie on your back with feet flat. (basic)
Option 2: Stand with one foot on a raised surface. (advanced)

Movement
Opt. 1: Brace your abdominals, grab the rear of your raised leg and gently pull it towards your chest. Keep your back flat, do not allow the hips to roll up.
Opt. 2: Brace your abdominals, slowly lean forward from the hip until your feel a strong stretch in the hamstring area.
• Hold for 45 - 60 seconds.
• Return to the start position and repeat on the opposite side.

Tips
• Be sure not to round your back when leaning forward. (Opt. 2)
• A chair, a step, or the ‘Truck’ can all be used for Opt. 2

 
Gluteals / Piriformis
(countertop stretch)
Hold: 30 - 45 seconds
Sets: 2 per side
Times Per Day: 2

Preparation
• Place your leg on a table, counter, desk, or any other knee to waist high object

Movement
• Keeping your back flat and your head up, slowly lean forward until a stretch is felt in the hip and glutes.

Tips
• Step in closer if you need less of a stretch, step farther back if you need a greater stretch.
• There should never be pain in the knee with this stretch, discontinue if pain is felt in the knee.


Photo courtesy of Fit Responder
 
Photo courtesy of Fit Responder
 
Chest
(doorway stretch)
Hold: 30 - 45 seconds
Sets: 2 per side
Times Per Day: 2

Photo courtesy of Fit Responder

Preparation
• Place your hand against the door frame at shoulder height

Movement
• Brace your abdominals, retract the cervical spine. (Neutral Spine Position)
• Slowly turn your body away from the door until you feel a stretch across the chest as well as the shoulder and bicep.

Tips
• To increase the stretch raise the sternum and or increase your rotation.
• Avoid twisting the spine.
• Can also be done against a tree, wall, pillar, car door frame, etc.

 
Standing Hip Flexor/ Quad Stretch Hold: 30 - 45 seconds
Sets: 2 per side
Times Per Day: 2

Photo courtesy of Fit Responder

Preparation
• Place your foot on the edge of a table, countertop, desk or car hood.
• Stand tall with your balance leg slightly in front of you.

Movement
• Without leaning or arching your back, slowly bend the balance leg knee until a stretch is felt in front of the opposite leg.

Tips
• Never arch your back.
• The deeper you bend your balance leg, the greater the stretch.


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About the author

Bryan Fass is an expert on public safety injury prevention, patient and equipment handling ergonomics, fitness and wellness and a noted speaker and consultant. Bryan has authored four books including the Fit Responder. He works nationally with departments, corporations, state and local governments to design and run targeted injury prevention and wellness programs for public entities and private organizations. He is frequently contacted for expert opinion and content contribution for all aspects of public safety. Bryan holds a bachelor's degree in sports medicine, was a paramedic for more than eight years, and is certified as an Athletic Trainer & Strength Coach. He is the president and founder of the Fit Responder. Contact Bryan at bryan.fass@ems1.com.
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