When Should I Start Preparing for CPAT?

I receive dozens of phone calls every month from firefighter hopefuls, mostly young men and women training for the upcoming FDNY physical (CPAT). Invariably, there is one question that never goes unasked. When should I start preparing for CPAT?

If it were possible, my answer would be "yesterday". If you're on FDNY list #2000, you've been given a rare opportunity to join the most elite fire department on earth. I am proud to have had been given this opportunity myself, serving 22 years with the FDNY, and I personally trained for over 2 years for my physical exam.

Today, CPAT, the national standard in firefighter physicals, comes with a 70 percent failure rate nationally. Seven of ten people who show up to take the test, FAIL. But consider this, CPAT is considered the minimum standard an individual must possess, just to train to become a firefighter at the infamous FDNY's, fire academy. This is serious stuff, and an example of survival of the fittest. If you did well on the written exam, I urge you to not hesitate and start training NOW.

But the question looms, how should you begin?

Your training should consist of the following:

1. Be CPAT Specific
Specific CPAT event work is mandatory. You need to incorporate this with a weighted vest. The test includes a stint on the graded stepmill with 75 pounds, and most people aren't even close to ready for this.

2. Include Full Body Functional Training
Some full body, functional, cardio and resistance training should be included. Avoid isolating muscles, or muscle groups. This is not bodybuilding. For example, our training includes push up and squat ladders for a lower body, upper body, and core, functionally efficient, cardio and strength drill.

3. Build Explosive Power
There needs to be an element of power training, where you learn to generate explosive force for an extended time period. Think forcible entry (swing a mall), ladder raise, ceiling breech, dummy drag. This is where our very specific kettlebell programming comes in, developing the candidate's ability to repeatedly generate explosive force.

4. Build Strength-Endurance
Begin to think of this as one quality versus strength or endurance. To pass CPAT and do well in the fire academy, you need strength that endures. CPAT comes with a predetermined time limit of 10 minutes and 20 seconds, but the fire academy or actual firefighting calls for bursts of extreme physical intensity that can go one much longer than that.  Short, heavy sets should not be the emphasis of your training. Timed, sequenced resistance training that has an element of task specificity is the answer here.

5. Include Cardiovascular Endurance Training
Foundational cardio work, where the breath is the greatest challenge, should be woven into every aspect of your training, but a simple running program is also a must. Once you hit the fire academy, you'll be running every day, start now. A gradual approach, one which avoids injury, is the only way to go. At the fire academy the approach is not gradual, and you are expected to run five miles the first week. Start now.

6. Allow You to Master the Push Up (and lots of them)
Specific push up and plank training should be a regular part of your regimen. The fire academy is all about thousands of push ups - literally! The better you can handle this simple movement, the easier your training will seem.

If you're not doing everything on the short list above, you risk losing the greatest job on earth. Do what it takes now, and make whatever sacrifice is necessary. At AKC Fitness LI, we're a firefighter and candidate fitness center. We have all 8 CPAT events recreated in the gym, as well as the experience and expertise to prepare you to pass CPAT, the fire department medical exam, and the long five months of the FDNY academy. For more information on how to pass: CLICK HERE