T Nation

Industrial Athletes

Hello people, I am new to the forum and wanted to pick your brain about an issue
I’m having. I am a 36 year old seasoned lifter who has competed in bodybuilding , boxing and powerlifting in my younger years and although I do not compete anymore I still lift 4 times a week religiously.

My job is physically extreme in its nature by most standards. I work for a mineral processing facility as a stacker. What I do every day is stack 1400 - 45lb bags on pallets in 8 hours (next time you lift a 45lb plate think about that). All in a biohazard suit and mask at 4500 feet above sea level. We have an 80% failure rate of new employees , all who are much younger than I.

As you can see Its extreme. Im careful to employ dynamic mobility and stretching as tools for preparation and restoration and training with weights has enabled me to endure. What I am asking you is that I cannot find any documentation on how to best cope with the rigors of my job while still employing a stable training template without burning out. I am a “Hobby” strength trainee seeking personal strength goals using an undulated periodization template.

Things like heavy squats and deadlift only aggravate my back now and must be employed sparingly. I use good mornings religiously as well as dumbbells for all upper body movement to promote better glenohumeral mobility. Changing careers is not an option as I am payed exceptionally well but im finding my age is now becoming a hurdle on its own. Any suggestions or links would be greatly appreciated. Thanks you.

That’s about 31.5 tons of work a day! I feel for you. 15 years ago, I spent a long 3 months palleting 100 lb bags of landscaping rocks to shoulder height. Everybody on shift would race for the forklift once a pallet was full just to get a break. I really overused my back and had to quit.

You might consider varying how you carry or move the bags. Do it in two hour blocks so you can become efficient, but also so you spread the stress around. A bag carried on a shoulder is a different stress than one carried out front. You may find that you don’t need to weight train at all since you basically are all day.

How far do you need to carry them? Or do you just pick and stack?

Old time strong men used to have to work for a living, but their physical jobs dealt with weights less than yours (sledgehammers, axes) or less volume (toting and carrying).

Consider choosing exercises that leave the back unloaded, (yes - leg press) Take active recovery measures such as jet spas, massage, foam rolling. Evaluate whether you are getting enough calories. That’s a LOT of work you’re doing even if you’re just pulling the things off a conveyer and dropping them on the pallet. Higher food intake gives you more tolerance for extra work.

But it may be that traditional exercise templates won’t work for you too. It may make sense for you to do something like a Steve Justa workout: 3-6 singles around 70-80% of 1RM for 5-10 movements lifted dynamically and done everyday or every other day. You need to keep any day’s volume low so it doesn’t affect your next day’s work. up the weight by 2.5 to 10lbs every week for 4 weeks and then drop back to mid month poundages again and ramp back up higher each time. It’s the slow boat, but it would be constant progress over a year without overworking. You’d build work capacity as you go.

Checkout Rock, Iron, Steel by Steve Justa. You can get it at ironmind.com, still I think. It may give you some ideas.

That is one tough gig. For the people that do hang in there, what is the rate of injuries?

I work part time in a machine shop and do almost anything there. I have to load bars of material into a saw and some of the bars of bronze weigh 250 to 320 lbs each. I have to change vises on CNC milling machines. Some material blanks that go into the lathe weigh 60 lbs. All sorts of fun stuff.

I now carry my weight belt in the car at all times and put it on before doing anything crazy.


Thanks so much guys for the info…I do 200 bags at a time and take a 10 minute break usually to keep the load spread out more…I pick the bags off spouts of a machine and stack them on a pallet a few feet away, 5 per row 10 high for 28 pallets…My strength is impressive but need to find ways to grow without compromising spinal compression…I will check out steve justa for sure…thanks :slight_smile:

Do you wear a back belt? I wish I had mine around the other night. I had to change out the vises on a big CNC mill and put up this huge tombstone fixture.

No lift table either, just a cart and my armstrong power.


i’m not over 35 but if u want to still train your legs and boost overall strength w/o putting much load on your back, i’d suggest front squats and/or bulgarian split squats.