The physical testing is one of the toughest portions of becoming a firefighter. In the past many departments created and ran their physical tests. However, over time departments realized that creating their own test was time consuming and opened them up to liability issues. Today the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) is the most widely used standard physical tests for fire departments with over 900 jurisdictions using the test.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) created the CPAT in 1999 as a tool to be used as a pre-entrance physical exam for the job of a firefighter. The test consists of eight stations bringing together some of the most common physical tasks a firefighter must perform.

Preparing for the CPAT can seem overwhelming but there are some basic things you can do to prepare yourself for this test. First, make sure your cardio is strong and you’re working on strength as well. You will be required to wear a 50 pound weighted vest throughout the test to simulate the weight you would have on from your turnouts and SCBA. I would encourage you to borrow a 50 pound weight vest to practice with, or consider purchasing a 50LBS Adjustable Weighted Vest to practice with.

The following is a list of each event and tips to help you prepare for each one.

Stair Climb

For this event you will be on a stair climber machine at a rate of 60 steps per minute for 3 minutes. This event is also done with an additional 25 pounds of weight added to you, for a total of 75 lbs,  to simulate the weight of carrying a high-rise pack.

The best way to prepare for this is to either use a step box or stair climber machine with the weight vest. The rate may not seem that that fast but once you have 75 lbs on your torso you can tire out pretty quickly.

Ladder Raise and Extension

This event has you raising a ladder from the floor and fully extending it using the halyard. The ladder is a 24 foot extension ladder that you must raise from the floor using only the rungs and also raise and lower the fly in a controlled manner.

Strengthening your upper body is key for this event. Preparing by doing pull ups and shoulder presses is the best way to train for the motions you’ll be using.

Hose Drag

The hose drag event is multi-part station. You start by picking up and walking, briskly, with a 1 3/4″ line and drag it at least 50 feet. You will make a turn, usually around a barrel and go an additional 25 feet. Then you drop down to one knee and drag an additional 50 feet of hose to you.

This event will work your entire body. Train by working on your cardio, Squats for leg strength and working on your upper body as mentioned above.

Equipment Carry

At this station you have two saws, typically a chainsaw and a K12 circular saw. You will remove each saw from a shelf or cabinet and place them on the ground one at a time. You will then pick them and carry them 75 feet and return replacing the saws back on to the shelf or cabinet.

Make sure to work on proper lifting technique, using your legs and grip strength exercises.

Forcible Entry

For this event, you will use a 10 pound sledge hammer to strike a target until a buzzer activates. The most important thing to remember at this station is to take short compact swings and keep hitting.

Practice rotating your hips and using your legs as well as your upper body to swing the sledge hammer. The Ab twist is also a good exercise to prepare your core for the event.


At this station you crawl through a 3′ by 4′ tunnel that is approximately 60 feet in length. The tunnel is very dark and you must maneuver over and under obstacles as well as going through a low profile section near the end of tunnel.

The best way to prepare for this event is to work on your mindset. If you are claustrophobic or afraid of tight spaces see if you can practice this event at a local fire station. Keep calm and remember there is plenty of room for you to get through.

Rescue Drag

For this event you will drag a 165 lb rescue mannequin a total of 70 feet. You must drag it 35 feet, then around a drum and 35 feet back to where you began.

Strong legs are important for this station. Train by doing Squats, either weighted or air squats. A good tip for this event is to lean back when holding the mannequin and get as much of the body off the ground as possible. This will reduce the drag.

Ceiling Pull

This station requires that you push and pull with a ceiling hook or pike pole. For the push portion you will push a 60 lb door in the ceiling and for the pull portion you will pull 80 lbs.

Strong legs are important for this event. Continue to work on your squats and remember to use your legs on both the pull and push portions.