Physical Aptitude Test

Resistance training

Resistance training helps to develop muscular strength and builds your capacity to lift, pull, push, and carry heavy objects both over short and long periods of time. As a career firefighter this may translate to sustaining a hose hold whilst applying water to a fire, carrying equipment upstairs, or performing a rescue. To successfully complete the PAT, as well as to complete the duties of a career firefighter, a substantial level of whole-body strength is required.

Resistance training also plays a key role in reducing the risk of physical injury while preparing for the PAT and during a career as a firefighter. Musculoskeletal injuries are a significant issue faced by firefighters every day. Repetitive lifting, pushing, pulling, dragging and carrying can place increased stress on the body, in particular the back, if you are not adequately prepared for such duties.

The intensity and volume of your resistance exercise determines which component of muscular strength you will improve – power, strength or endurance.

When training to improve these variables, the research tells us that the following guidelines are best:

Muscular Power

  • 30–60% 1RM Depending on Exercise
  • 3–5 Sets
  • 1–5 Reps
  • 2–5 mins Rest Between Sets
  • Explosive – Move Fast

Muscular Strength

  • Novice: 60–70% 1RM; Advanced: 80–100% 1RM
  • 3–6 Sets
  • 1–6 Reps
  • 2–5 mins Rest Between Sets

Muscular Endurance

  • 40–60% 1RM
  • 3–6 Sets
  • 12–25 Reps
  • 1–3 mins Rest Between Sets

If you are new to resistance training, you may have never identified your ‘one repetition max (1RM)’, and therefore using this method may not be applicable to you. Another way you can track the intensity of your resistance training is by using a subjective method such as the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale.

RPE is a way you can self-regulate your training intensity due to the subjective nature. The scale is rated from 1-10 with 1 being no effort at all and 10 being a maximum effort. Below you can see the scale.

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale

RPE 10

I can’t do any more reps

RPE 9.5

I can maybe do 1 more rep

RPE 9

I can definitely do 1 more rep

RPE 8.5

I can maybe do 2 more reps

RPE 8

I can definitely do 2 more reps

RPE 7.5

I can maybe do 3 more reps

RPE 7

I can definitely do 3 more reps

RPE 6

Weights that can be utilised for power-based exercises

RPE 5

Weights that can be utilised for speed-based exercises

RPE 4 & Below

Weights that can be utilised for warm-up sets, mobility and recovery


* It is important to note that every individual will develop their own feel of RPE and what it correlates to dependent on training age and understanding individual lifting habits. Generally speaking, a novice resistance trained individual will underestimate how many more reps they can do at the beginning but will learn how to correctly apply the RPE scale the more frequently they use it.

The following can be used as a guide when training for power, strength and endurance:

  • Power – RPE 4-6
  • Strength – RPE 7-10
  • Endurance – RPE 7-10

The prescribed RPE will be highly dependent on the goal of the exercise, the amount of reps and sets prescribed and where in the training program the session is being completed.

i.e. a Barbell Back Squat can be used for power, strength and endurance.

  • Strength – 5x5 @ RPE 8
  • Power – 3x3 @ RPE 6
  • Endurance – 3x10 @ RPE 7