Firefighter Gear: Is Your Helmet Any Good?

A firefighter wields an ax.

Sponsored content from Paul Conway Fire

By Jordan Ponder

Your helmet is the most iconic piece of your firefighter gear. It identifies you more than any of your other gear. The Cairns® helmet, known for its durability and performance, maintains the historical, fundamental design everyone has come to know. Not only does it protect your skull, but it prevents scolding water and embers from falling down your coat. Would you wear a helmet that didn’t have this brim? Would you wear a bad helmet? Is your helmet a good helmet or a bad one?

Jordan Ponder’s Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training (FD-PT) provides you with workshops to train health and improve safety by teaching you how to replicate the tasks of fire scenes using versatile, affordable equipment. Within these workshops, you’ll learn how to “CHECK YOUR GEAR,” the cue to establish proper positioning and prevent injury in movement. One of the elements that you learn is to check your HELMET. Checking your helmet means checking the position of your head. Proper head position is indicative of your spinal alignment. Your head needs to line your ears over your shoulders for healthy positioning. In order to do this, your head needs to be pulled back much like your helmet brim. Failure to have this can lead to…

  • Neck strains and sprains
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Tight chest muscles
  • Improper breathing patterns
  • Low back pain
  • Weak neck extensors and more!

A forward head posture

A forward head position is incredibly common. You live in an amazing and incredible technological age where you are always pushing your head forward to text, drive, eat, watch TV, sit at a computer screen, and more. This habitual position results in muscle imbalances that can get you “stuck” in this position. In short, there is a high chance you are operating with a bad helmet.

Something has to be done! In addition to a great reference blog “Firefighter Gear – Great Helmet Here!,” you can use a pike pole to help reprogram a healthy head position. Here are three ways you can use a pike pole to exchange a bad helmet for a good one.

Drawing in, position A

Drawing in, position B

1.  Drawing in Maneuver – Stand upright holding your pike pole behind you with one hand behind your head and the other behind your lower back. Pull your head back into your hand. Now, pull your pelvis up/in while pressing your stomach inwards towards the pike pole to push your lower back into your hands. In this position, keep your elbows even with the pike pole rather than allowing your elbows to collapse inward. Focus tension into your hands through your head and lower back. Be sure to maintain quality diaphragmatic breathing while still drawing your stomach in towards your spine. Hold this position for 30 seconds taking a 30-second rest in between and switching your hand position each time for a total of four times repeated. Practicing this regularly will…

  • Train your spine to align properly
  • Increase intra-abdominal pressure
  • Stretch your lower back while strengthening the muscle around it
  • Improve internal and external rotation of the shoulders

Hip hinge

2.  Hip Hinge – Assume the same position as above. Place your feet shoulder width apart with soft knees. Drive your hips backwards so that you are folding at your hips and looking to the ground. Continue pressing into your hands using the pike pole to cue spinal alignment with your head back. Feel a stretch in your hamstrings, hold it there for a few seconds then squeeze your glutes, so that you come back to standing fully upright. Do this 12 times, improving the depth as you go and maintaining soft knees. Take a short break, then switch hands again and do this again for a total of two times repeated. In addition to the benefits listed above, this will…

  • Improve lifting mechanics
  • Train you how to mobilize your lower body while stabilizing your upper body
  • Build hip flexion and strengthen hip extension

3. Lunge – CLICK HERE! to see a video on how you can perform this!

Your helmet is the most recognizable piece of firefighter gear you wear. It remains relatively unchanged over many years, with its familiar brim designed to protect you. But is it protecting you? Your helmet also serves as the perfect cue for your head position. Is your head position protecting you? You can train a healthy head position by using a pike pole to practice the drawing in maneuver, hip hinging, and lunging. Exchange your bad helmet for a GREAT ONE!

Any questions, comments, or concerns? Contact me at for personal assistance!

Jordan PonderJordan Ponder is a Captain of the Milwaukee Fire Department assigned to Engine 30. Additionally, he is the Lead Peer Fitness Trainer for the MFD where he has been training firefighter health for over 12 years. Holding NASM-CPT, ACE, PFT and multiple of modality certifications, he is also a professional bodybuilder with the WNBF. Jordan is also the Director of Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training which supplies free safety training equipment for fire departments for conducting workshops for their members. To contact Jordan Ponder, email

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