Why the fire service needs to drop the phrase “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother”

First off, I would like to apologize if this article hurts any feelings. It is not meant to be a “shaming” article, nor does it aim to hurt ego’s of those who read it. It is also mostly focused on male firefighters due to the fact that females are genetically smaller and weigh less than men. Hopefully you feel OK being left out of an article about heavy firefighters. This is merely an article of concern of something that is adding to the epidemic of obese firefighters. So, without further adieu.

We’ve all seen the infamous quote all over social media. We’ve heard it said around the firehouse or just hanging out with the shift. 99% of the time it’s said jokingly.

He’s not heavy, he’s my brother”.

I love what the quote stands for. The fact that no matter the circumstance or the challenge, the mere fact that he is your brother can defeat any weight that may keep you from dragging him from the devil’s grasp. But this instills false confidence.

The hard truth that many of us either put to the back of our minds and ignore, or are completely oblivious to, is that HE IS HEAVY, and HE IS your brother. And your brother may kill you one day, because he is too heavy, and because you are not strong enough to drag him out. Yes, we all have the one or two avid gym rats in our firehouse, but not everyone we work with is a lover of the iron. And those are the ones that are half of the problem. The other half of the problem is the one that prefers pizza, donuts and orios over salads, chicken and fruit.

He’s not heavy”Let’s dissect this a bit. The gear loadout for a firefighter is approximately 45 pounds. That’s not counting a bailout kit those of us in New York have to use, a radio, a TIC, or any extra tools we may have in our pockets. According to a 2015 CDC study, the average weight of a man is 195 pounds. A woman weighs on average 166 pounds. How many of us can honestly say that most of the people on our group weigh 195? So, if you are good at the math thing, at the least our brother would weigh 240 pounds, and a sister just over 210 pounds.

So yes, he IS heavy.

He’s my brother”Yes, he is. You have a brother on your shift. He weighs 260, without his gear. You work with him, eat with him, sleep with him, slay the devil with him, socialize with him. You are, un-biologically, a part of his family, and you a part of his. Would you sit and watch a family member continue to eat themselves into a bottomless pit without any ambition to burn the extra calories? The answer should be no. Can you confidently look at the largest person on your shift and tell them “if you go down, I can get you out”? If the answer isn’t yes, then we know two things that need to change. I believe you know too.

Hopefully by now you are starting to see and/or agree with why the phrase needs to go. So, now you’re probably asking “Mr. Fitness Man, how can we make sure our brothers know we can get them out if we can’t say a super sweet quote?” If your brothers are really your brothers, they will already know that you are willing and ready to do it. Any day. And you should know the same of them.

How we fix the problem has an easy solution, but putting in the work, and being consistent, is hard;

Get new training dummies or update what you have. Looking online at most companies, they offer anywhere from 55 pound to 200 pound training dummies. The reason you have an extremely light “adult” training dummy is more than likely the one ordering it didn’t want to work too hard during training. This will change. Weigh these down to a REALISTIC weight by adding old turnout gear, or securing sandbags on the chest and legs. PRACTICE HOW YOU PLAY.

Workout as a group. This will give you the absolute best judgment of those you work with. If you notice them struggling to do a farmers carry with the 50 pound dumbbells, try talking with them and convincing them to get on a strict program.

Have a heart to heart. Sometimes the best way to convince a person to make lifestyle change, especially one such as changing eating and workout habits, is to have a heart to heart, brother to brother, conversation with the firefighter. Tell them how worried you are if they go down that you may not be able to rescue them. Give them the statistics listed in our previous articles about the insane numbers of medical related LODD’s and injuries. Let them know your concern for their safety, as their brother.

In conclusion,dump the phrase. When you hear someone say it, call them out on it. Challenge them. Make a game out of it and do a few dummy drags. Workout with your gear once in a while to get used to physical exhaustion. Hell, even ask the biggest guy you work with to gear up to see if you can drag him. Do it with everyone on your shift.

Your brother is heavy, he expects you to save him. Do the work in the gym and in the kitchen to make sure you can save him, and that he is savable.

For questions about a workout or fitness plan contact Thin Line Fitness today!