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What muscles does digging work (w/ shovel :slightly_smiling: )?

I also tried to get hired as a lumberjack or sumthin for the summer but I can't really find anyone who needs wood chopped.


That would depend on HOW you dig. Micheal Clark Duncan used to be a grave digger before he began working as a security guard and then becoming an actor. Then again, I am sure that lifting weights had much to do with how he looks now.

Digging alone isn't exactly the best workout and while many muscle groups may be stimulated, it isn't like they will effectively grow as well as they would with heavier weight in the weight room from direct attention.

Painting your house works several muscle groups as well, however I doubt most would take that up while losing their gym membership.

Bottom line, nearly all muscle groups are "worked" when digging...and that doesn't mean much.


Digging, or any hard labor for that manner, will work your body, but, as Professor X said, not really any part specifically. If anything, consider it more towards GPP, however, you usually aren't moving constantly to consider it cardio.

I caution you about using labor as a training replacement and/or enhancement. How much energy do you think you will have left for the gym after 8-10 hours of labor in the hot sun. When I did construction, I planned on hitting the gym after work, but almost daily, when 5:30 rolled around I was just to drained to do anything but shower, eat and sleep.


Laborers such as construction workers and the like, although most of them have muscle...they aren't built like body builders. The reason is because there's no increasing resistance and increasing weight. Muscles need to be challenged to grow and hit with different exercises.


It's certainly not bad to take a labor job. As combatmedic said, it's GPP (general physical preparedness).

As to working hard with the body... why else do we have them? It seems kind of pointless to spend a bunch of time in the gym getting strong... so we can spend more time in the gym getting... more strong.

Shoveling works the abs, low back, biceps, triceps, shoulders, upper back, hamstrings and thighs to different degrees depending on how you shovel. I remember reading something about how coal shovelers had great rippling abdominals, and you certainly have to keep your abs tight to shovel correctly, and it could help reduce body fat, as you're doing a lot of work (read, burning calories).

If you don't have a lot in the tank right after work, don't go right after work. Go before work. Or rest for a few hours and then lift. Whatever. I've found that just being off of work is a great tonic for how tired I feel.

Then again, I'm not working a construction job, so I don't know.

Anyway, good luck.

Dan "Anyone know about Shovelglove?" McVicker


? Actually, it was answered, but thanks for contributing.


When I see this question:
"What muscle(s) does __________ work?"

I suggest:
__________ intensely for 30 minutes.

You will magically know the answer upon the following daybreak.




I work at a kayak shop and from 8AM-6PM I'm more or less lifting, dragging, pulling, flipping, pushing, and throwing 40-100 pound kayaks. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. By monday, I'm tired as hell. Not to mention, bruised hips, bottoms of my feet, splinters, blisters, and cuts on my feet I have no energy to go to the gym until wednesday afternoon. I usually do a full body workout consisting of deads, squats, bench and row. with 3x5 for each of them.

Surprisingly, I havent lost much noticable muscle (I lost 5 lbs) but I can almost see my abs now (at least the top two) which is an accomplishment being a FFB.

Other than that, I cant complain about going to work in a bathing suit.


Hey, i painted my apartment, IM HYUUUGE!!



Once again you amaze!

I'm going to steal this answer several times a month. This is so dead on



I've done a lot of heavy labor and it is good as g.p.p, but it also consumes so much energy that I had to take in about 4000 calories a day just to maintain at 155. To build up to 160, about 6000, and that was at a slow rate. If you don't have much muscle, it may help to build a good base, but to take it to the next level you have to hit the weights too.

One thing I have noticed is that alot of laborers will have some specific strength that is unbelievable. I did residential tree work for years which involved a lot of climbing and rope work. This developed my grip to the point of being able to do finger pullups for endless sets of 10, and in those tough guy handshake competitions that some guys like to do,I could usualy make the other guy cry easily.

Overall, it has a lot of benefits if you can manage the energy ballance and adapt to the fatigue.
Carefull around those trees though.You wouldn't be the first guy to get squashed to a pulp.


I looked at this thread again and decided I wanted to add to what I posted.

What does digging (or manual labor) build?
Character! If you can work the summer doing hard work, 8-12 hours a day, putting up with the heat and working through the rain, it will give you a work ethic that will not only carry over into weight training, but also other aspects of your life.

Laborers, like anybody else, come in all shapes and sizes. Most are built sturdy, but not overly muscular. Many have the classic beer gut. Often, it is the scrawny guys on the work site who do the most work, while the stocky guys are lumbering around and worn out by noon.

I guess to sum it up and try to answer your question, digging and labor is a good way to condition your body to perform work, but does not replace training.

Also, check out a thread "blue collar" that was recently posted.


Many many thanks.It won't be a real job, someone needs a BIG bunch of holes dug (umm, is "pits" a better term?). After that I plan on working on a few construction sites (so shovelling, lifting, pulling, etc.)

Something interesting: a friend who never lifted a weight in his life, while not huge, has almost 16" arms, and is INCREDIBLY strong. I mean I've seen him lift logs I couldn't even budge and he says he can easily curl 60lbs. On, and I don't usually shake hands with him. Many thanks, Thorn (altough if I discover I LIKE shovelling, I might get a job :slightly_smiling: )