As it turns out, the top 5 exercises that I am recommending firefighters do NOT do are all because they are potentially damaging to the spine.
This is important because, by far and away, the most common area of injury to firefighters is the back. Furthermore, these tend to be the most debilitating to firefighters, sometimes even resulting in early retirement.
The last exercise in this series that may not be the best idea is a standing hamstring stretch seen in the picture above. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is EXTREMELY important for firefighters to stretch their hamstrings in order to reduce risk of back injury. However, when you stretch your hamstrings it’s best to isolate them and leave your back out of the equation.
See, when you fold in half to stretch the hamstrings, about 60% of the stretch you are feeling is actually coming from the hammies while 40% is coming from the back. While it is a good idea to do light stretches for the back, this is not the ideal way because it involves flexion of the spine.
As I’ve discussed in my earlier posts, spinal flexion places a backward displacing force on the intervertebral discs (the squishy disc in between two vertebrae) that can promote a herniated disc over time. This is also the case when sitting and folding over the waist, but not quite as bad since standing causes gravity to place even more force on the back.
Therefore, the best way to stretch the hamstrings is by lying down and propping a leg up on the wall. You’ll need a corner or doorway so your other leg has room to remain relaxed. See the picture below. Try your hardest to relax. Hold this on each side for at least 30 seconds, preferably a minute. You will get the best results if you do this 3 times per week being sure you are warmed up first. As you become more flexible, begin to scoot closer to the wall.
Read the complete series here:
5 Exercises FFs Should NOT Do & What To Do Instead