On-duty EMS fitness: Abdominal training

Your abdominals' primary job is twofold: to create trunk stability and core/spine stiffness


One of the biggest myths in fitness and in injury prevention is how to properly train the abdominal wall.

Think of your abdominal muscles like a corset or weight belt, and with that visual in mind get rid of the notion that crunches and leg raises make your abs stronger.

Your abdominals' primary job is twofold: to create trunk stability and core/spine stiffness. The key to strong abs is possessing the ability to maintain postural control with the abdominal wall engaged for the duration of an event.

In public safety, this directly affects patient handling and lifting. The exercises in this video — plank reach, lateral plank and core press — are simple and highly effective. They allow you to get stronger while on duty and in uniform.

The keys to the exercises are simple, perfect positioning and progressive hold of the positions. As you get stronger, the duration of the exercise will increase, which will directly affect the ease at which you do your job.

Since crunches actually increase your chance for back injury, and leg raises cause postural distortions that increase your chance for back and knee injury, it only makes sense to incorporate some very safe, effective and easy on-duty exercises into your training.

Train your abs 2-3 times per week for 2-3 sets of a progressive hold. Start out with 20-30 seconds and build up from there, but remember that form always trumps function. As with all your training, it's quality over quantity.

About the author

Bryan Fass, ATC, LAT, CSCS, EMT-P (ret.), has dedicated over a decade to changing the culture of EMS from one of pain, injury, and disease to one of ergonomic excellence and provider wellness. He has leveraged his 15-year career in sports medicine, athletic training, spine rehabilitation, strength and conditioning and as a paramedic to become an expert on prehospital patient handling/equipment handling and fire-EMS fitness. His company, Fit Responder, works nationally with departments to reduce injuries and improve fitness for first responders. Contact Bryan at bryan.fass@ems1.com

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