T Nation

Is Your Work Physical ?


For those people who are employed in the construction industry or any other manual labor related work, how do you go about your training?

Wether you are a bodybuilding/athlete etc, does your work require you to make adjustments to the way you train? For e.g. I work in the demolition industry and most of the work is done by hand, so I'm moving about and lifting light to moderate weight for most of the day. I wouldn't say its too demanding, apart from some very hot summer days.

  • Would you consider your work as a form of cardio even conditioning, (and if so do you still incorporate it into your training?)
  • What sort of set rep scheme do you use? (a rugby strength coach in the past has recommended to me before to not go over 8 reps.)
  • Do you find yourself needing to eat alot more for progressive gains and recovery?
  • How many days do you train?
  • Do you think manual related work can sometimes hamper or improve your results wether it be in the weight room or when trying to gain muscle?
  • Would pre-workout nutrition be vital?


This is in no means a place to winge or give excuses!


I guess I'll try and get the ball rolling..

In the passed this is what ive done:

  • concentrated on major lifts: DL, squat, presses etc changing every 4-6 weeks

  • for most of the time rarely went over a total of 8 reps a set. The logic for this was given to me (as stated above) from NZ Strength Coach Ashley Jones, when I asked him a similar question regarding how rugby players would train in the gym if they had physical related jobs. He gave me the following split and I've been following this ever since:

Mon: Weighted Chins (4 x 6), Incline Bench Press (6 x 4), Back Squat (4 x 6)

Wed: Front Squat (6 x 4), Bench Press (8 x 3), Bentover Row (8 x 3)

Fri: Deadlift (8 x 3), Military Press (4 x 6), Upright Row (6 x 4)

  • I train at home, so normally when I get home I have a pre-workout meal and then train 30-40mins after

  • I keep cardio to a minimum, but I enjoy the odd surf or game of tennis etc

While the following split has been good for strength gains and for the passed few months added wendler 5-3-1 methods, I'm very interested how bodybuilder's would go about their training in similar working conditions.


I need more time to recover and more food to eat. That's about it.


With time your body simply adapts... your training regiment will have to be much more flexible and realistic though.

My work requires me to be on my feet (standing, patrolling, walking, and running) for hours and hours, sometimes days at a time, seven days a week... all under difficult living conditions and in harsh unfriendly environments, all the while carrying 15KG of body armor and other job-related peripherals.

I have to train by the way I feel, some days I got it and others, well... just sweating and breathing heavy is good enough as any training, in any form, is definitely an underestimated stress reliever for CPs and MIs. Again, it just depends on the current operating environment, duties, and type/amount of chow available. I guess I would say that I am pretty warmed-up and well-stretched by the time I do my PT; haven't needed to stretch much or do too much of a cool down as I know I will be moving around quite a bit for the remainder of the day. Your body will soon find and provide more energy for your training if you keep at it long enough... I do need to eat more of course.

I have found that my line of work typically will make an individual stronger willed and less of a puss especially when it comes to physical discomfort... on the flip side we are prone to overdoing it; pushing too hard, more on the side of not allowing ourselves enough recovery (both time, sleep, and feeding) as I too don't quite believe in overtraining (does happen though; I did it running years ago) in such so much as I believe in under-recovering.


YOu would think that the body would need extra recovery time, food, and whatnot, but some of the bigger guys I've known over the years have had manual labor related jobs, and then would go straight to the gym after work. Often times, food was not the optimal choice, sometimes as 'bodybuilding friendly' as a couple of cold cuts thrown on a bagel for lunch.

Bottom line as far as I'm concerned is that some people's bodies can adapt to whatever they throw at them. I'm certain that if I were to engage in such behavior, I'd barely be able to function (I have a non-physical job now, and just the hours I put in + the gym + extra gigs I routinely take on pretty much kills me)



As someone who has had a few jobs in construction i tend to train with weights 3-4x a week as opposed to 4-6x. The intensity is the same and everything else is the same.
Cardio if desired i will add - i dont consider the work i did to be equal to the cardio, not because it wasn't hard but because it used energy systems in a different way to when i do my cardio.

Most lads on site consider the work all the exercise they need, and would be confused how i could train.. but if it really was all the work one needed to do, why is every labourer over 30 fat? lol!

I also need to make sure my diet is dialled in, eating regularly and low(ish) fat - as a diet high in dietary fats make me lethargic.

When i do work on site i find it is truly the easiest way to get a full and shredded 6 pack!


I push pencils all day long. Get at me.


Thanks for the response, alot of points that I can relate to. Your work however seems to be on the higher end of the scale when it comes to physical stress/activity. I've also had a similar experience in under-recovering while running, I didn't know alot then and I paid the price.
What sort of strategies have you used that has given you the best gains?


We've had some pretty big blokes come and go at work, they weren't bodybuilding huge though but stood out in the crowd etc. Most of them quit because they thought it was affecting the way that they trained, that and they had to deal with rugby training etc. They did however in the summer months shred fat fast.


Lol, I definetly know what you mean in regards to the workers getting all the exercise they need. They normally give me funny stares when I pull out a reasonably bodybuilding related meal as opposed to their 2 pies and a sausage roll plus a bottle of flavoured milk.
What sort of training routine do you normally follow?


One thing that Ive noticed before when I have trained in the higher rep range of about 8-12 reps (usually ramping) that I was not making great leaps as oppossed to training below the 6 rep range; that and physically and mentally I felt better. I thought that maybe it was due to the stress that the muscles are exposed to throughout the working day.

I'm still trying to understand the different levels of pain that is related to training and the pain that you can feel while at work which can be very confusing as to what sort of training strategies should be used

if this makes any sense at all<


I work a manual labor job. According to myapex.com's calcualtor, i burn 4000+ kcal a day because of my job and working out 5 times a week. Here are some things that seem to work for me:

  • I really only do "straight sets"(no "ramping" the weight every set).
  • I change my number of sets x reps every week.
  • I change my routine up every 6 weeks.
  • I have a "Stimulation Day" every 4- 6 weeks.
  • I eat around 5000kcals per day to gain weight.
  • I eat 8 times a day.
  • I don't usually go above 15 reps in any exercise except for calves and forearms.
  • I eat copious amounts of fish oil.
  • I never take scheduled breaks.
  • I hit a muscle-group twice within a 10 day period.
  • I hit dif. rep ranges categories and muscle fiber categories every week.
  • One giant Cheat meal a day works pretty good for me.


oh yeah, and 3-4 exercises per body part, except sometimes 5-6 for legs.


What does your cheat meal normally consist of?


I do package deliveries all day and climb stairs all day. I still have crappy calves. I snack throughout the day and don't miss meals. I workout three times a week, Mon,Wed,Sat. I squat, deadlift and bench every time. I work on getting stronger on those and just reverse those movements with other exercises for joint health. I stick to free weights and cables. My coworkers think lifting weights after work is insane.


I also do manual labour frequently, and very rarely notice it having an adverse affect on my lifting later on in the day, I usually go straight from work to the gym after having something small to eat after knocking off.

Just make sure you eat heaps, don't party too much (or at all :wink: ) and get a reasonable amount of sleep. Many of the bodybuilders back in the 60s/70s did manual labour, as it was stated before the body adapts to anything you throw at it.


lol! Pies and bacon sarnies with coke usually IME! :smiley: lol!

I am a bodybuilder and as such i train like that.. not sure what detail you want really -

Anything from a 2x split to a 6x split, training anywhere from 3-10x a week (averaging around 5x) and preferring a higher than 1x/wk frequency.

Lift with reps varying from ~1~100, but generally somewhere between 4-15 reps.

I do volume work (usually), so somewhere between ~6 and ~16 sets per bodypart, but of course do plenty of HIT work as an when the need arises.

If you wanted me to say WS4SB, DC or GVT then i simply cannot. I don't really do stuff like that per se, although i obviously will take their templates for loading or split rotation and apply them to my own.. as many of those programs have excellent basis in physiology and quite simply - results.

Sorry if this is too much detail! :wink: