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Trying to Pass CPAT Test

Hello to all here. I'm new to this forum. I am going through the hiring process to become a professional firefighter. I have passed the written test, but went for my CPAT a few days ago and was unable to pass it. I retake in 2 months. The part I couldn't get through is the stair climbing exercise with the 75 lb. vest on. I sort of knew I'd have a problem, but not as bad as I had thought. I'm a small woman, but I do workout religiously 5 days a week and pump iron several times a week. I've only been to two of the practices for the CPAT, which are not mandatory, but they encourage you take them. In any event, does anybody have any suggestions, ideas, etc. on how to get through the CPAT especially the stair climbing exercise? Any comments on this would be really great. I really appreciate it. Michelle ;)

I'd recommend finding a nearby stadium (high school/JC), filling up a backpack full of weights and walk up/down the stairs. Perhaps start with a light load and work your way up each week. Once you feel a lot more comfortable with that perhaps incorporate push ups/situps once you get to the top/bottom. If you belong to a gym there's almost always a stairmaster machine and so you can put on a weight vest and practice on there.

Go to and buy a vest. Start out small and get on the stairmaster. Get your body used to the weight and you will breeze through the test. At my gym people atcually got off the stairmaster for me because they knew I training for the test.

I put a bag of weights on my back and head off to a parking structure. I climb to the 5th floor...walk across the lot to a different corner and go down. Repeat that as many times as I can and then do a few push-ups. It's building my cardio and my stamina too.

I would not use a backpack with weights, or anything that loads your spine unevenly/asymmetrically. I would check out the weight vest at
and Take a look at this article.

No matter how hard you train for the stair climb, your legs will feel like rubber when you're through. The time it takes to recover from this depends on your fitness level and your V02 Max. VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process in order to feed your muscles to do work. In tests like the CPAT, if your VO2 Max is not high enough, you simply fail. Your legs may give out, or worse, you may become injured.

To avoid these pitfalls, you must train properly!

Gradually pushing up your limits over time can allow your body to compensate a little bit each time. This allows your heart and lungs to get stronger each time, thus preparing you for more, harder work the next time.

This is an event that is really easy to train for. You simply need a road-map of how much weight to use when, and a plan of how to safely increase resistance and duration. You really do need a weight vest for this. They are sold at

Remember that training on the step mill is only part of the training process necessary for training for the CPat. Your legs need to be trained with medium to heavy weights. This step mill training plan is only a very small part of the bigger picture. If all you do for your legs is this training plan, you will probably fail the CPat.

Warning! Many people train with a back pack full of sand, or by carrying a weight plate. Don't do this! It changes the biomechanics, and puts your spine at risk! It causes small amounts of injury each time you do it. This adds up, and will cause you problems in the future. As you age, you are much more likely to hurt your back. These sorts of injury are often career changing, if not career ending! Use a weight vest!

Another Warning! See your physician before beginning any exercise program! If at any time, you feel dizzy, sick, or sore for more than 48 hours in one particular area, stop doing the offending exercise! Ask your doctor?s opinion! Remember that no everyone?s body is intended for these uses!

Watch your Achilles tendons!

Make sure when you step up onto that next step each time, that your feet hit the step in this order: heel-ball-toe, then push-off. Do not do this training on the balls of your feet, or with your heels hanging of the stairs as you step. This will lead to injury of your Achilles tendon(s).

Special Cases: Big feet or no Step Mill

Remember, there are cases when some people cannot train on a step mill, but must use something to simulate it. These limitations might be: your feet are too big for the mill?s steps or lack of equipment.

In either case, I recommend a step used for aerobics or a stair at home. The step should be should be 8-9 inches high. This means you will have to step up, up, then back down off the back: down, down. Get your whole foot on the step (or on the floor) with each up and down. No heels should hang off. Going up, it will go heel-ball-toe and coming down it will go toe-ball-heel. Change your lead leg each 30 seconds of step training to avoid Achilles stress. Remember, you would count an up-up, then down-down, as one step. You must do 60 of those per minute.

Tall Buildings:

I do not recommend using a tall building unless it?s tall enough to keep walking steadily up stairs for 6 minutes without stopping. In other words, don?t choose a place where you have to walk up 2 flights, then walk back down again before you can walk back up. This will do 2 things: 1. it will give your heart rate a chance to slow, thus not training you well. 2. Walking down stairs is not good for your knees. Even if they are young and healthy, why do it? Especially training? You should save those knees for coming down the stairs of a burning building once you have a job- with a person in your arms!

Step Depth and foot size on test day:

If your feet are too large for the step mill used in the test, that?s a tough one. You should still not train on the step mill. Use the up and back down off the back method mentioned above. Two days a week after your step training, do some calf raises: start off with 2 sets and work up to 5 sets of 8. Stretch the calf, and the Achilles tendon. That is, do a calf stretch with your knee locked for 30 seconds, then with it slightly bent, foot still flat to the floor for 30 more seconds. This should prep your calves for the actual test without hurting you.

So what?s the Plan?

I can't put the rest of the article here because it's a chart, and when I cut and pasted it, it got mangled. So, Click on this link:
And scroll down to "Step Mill Training"

Dr. jen

Dr. Jen Milus, DC
This message was edited by DrJen on 3-18-08 @ 2:31 PM

Step up the intensity of your training, lives depend on your strength and conditioning.

I think Doc Jen has some great advice..especially from her physiologically perspective on using a backpack in relation to your back/spine.

Doc mentioned doing are on the step mill for at least 3 minutes, I recommend you do stepups for at least 10 minutes...and start an intense circuit will need to work your entire body....pick 1 or 2 exercises from each event and combine into a circuit.

Event 2 Hose Drag (recommended exercises)
-attach a long rope to a weighted sleigh and pull
-resistance bands
-dumbbell rows
-pullups under a smith bar
-some lower body exercise..squats, lunges, etc.

Event 3 Equipment Carry
-farmers walk (hold two heavy dumbbells and walk)

Event 4 Ladder Raise and Extension
-firm grip...squeeze a tennis ball/gripper
-shoulder press or arnold's

Event 5 Forcible Entry
-Medicine Ball slams or sledgehammer swings on a tire
-medicine ball rotations

Event 6 Search
-practice the exact movement
-bear crawls, pushup crawls

Event 7 Rescue
-sandbag carry backwards
-lower body exercise...squats, lunges, etc.

Event 8 Ceiling Breach and Pull
-hard to train...upper body exercise and lower body exercise....pushups with feet raised (hands on 2 chairs..optional), pulling exercise..rows, lower body exercise..

Train anaerobically, circuits! said 5 days a week and you lift weights? Sounds like you are doing the traditional isolation exercises plus cardio....i.e. upper body day plus 20 minute cardio.

good of my fav. exercise is absolutely basically squat down, squat thrust your legs out, do a pushup, bring your body together and do a jump.
This message was edited by Mose_Humphreys on 3-19-08 @ 6:43 AM

Actually, I said 6 minutes in the chart of training on a step mill or doing step ups. This advice is merely to help one pass the step mill part of the CPAT. Alot more needs to be done in order to prepare for the CPAT and even more for the job.

YOu are right, interval, circuit and specific training is very valuable! Great ideas!
Dr. Jen Milus, DC

Get on the stairmaster at your local gym and NEVER touch the side rails. In the test you go 3 min @ 60steps so train untill you get to the point that 60 steps is a slow cool down. It's not going to happen overnight but try and work your way up to 20+ minutes @ 90-100 steps a minute with no weight, the last thing you need is a back injury. If you get to that point you'll be fine then concentrate on shoulders, forearms, and back.

Do woodchops with the cable machine (simulates forcible entry), use bars with fat grips to work your forearms while you do front/lateral dumbell raises (helps with ladder halyard, pike, and crawl, if your gym doesnt have them then wrap a towel around the bar to make it alot bigger.

Good luck just remember to get your heart rate up and NEVER go below 60steps or touch the sides.

Please be advised, the CPAT is not even a fraction of the abuse one's body will endure during a "good" firefight. If you cannot pass the CPAT and plan on getting hired w/a department that has a full bl*wn academy, you will definiteley suffer and not pass.

The CPAT meets "minimum" requirements of strength and agility required to do this job. YOU NEED TO WORK TWICE AS HARD as your male counterparts. Good Luck.
Remember FDNY's Fallen

Based on the work injuries I have seen in my practice of firefighters on duty, The above statement is true. Very few women want this job. In my opinion, very few of those are strong enough to do it. And.. few of those are able to do it long term without injuries. Working twice as hard for several years before getting hired and the entire time your in the academy and on line... yep.

Back injuries, and shoulder injuries from ladders are what I see mostly. Throwing a ladder once or twice is one thing, throwing it 20-30 times, then again the next day the same number of times can. lead to inflammation in the joint.This inflammation softens tissues, and leaves the rotator cuff tendons, the ligaments in the area and the glenoid labrum more vulnerable to injury.

Dr. Jen

Dr. Jen Milus, DC
This message was edited by DrJen on 4-2-08 @ 7:45 AM

Did some dumbbell swings the other day, the exercise looks very simple and basic.(grab a dumbbell, grasp it and position yourself like a center hiking to the quarterback, straighten your legs and swing the dumbbell to shoulder level)

The burn you get is very good, almost the same as in the stepmill. Good alternative if you do not have a gym with a stepmill, or a weighted vest.

Grab some 3lb. weights in each hand, the vest atop your torso, and
Sir yes sir

Check out

All the post on this discussion are great! Intensity, Intensity, Intensity!

The only easy day was yesterday!!