T Nation

What Are the Physical Demands of Construction Work?


#1

A question to those who’ve worked in construction.

I’m thinking of going back to work and I wanna do something that pays well without requiring extensive education. I’m fat, but my physical endurance is at an all-time high. I would imagine that there really wouldn’t be lots of instances in such a job where they’d require you to deadlift something like 500 pounds. Am I right? I assume maximal strength wouldn’t be that important. I assume your endurance would matter more. Am I right?

I’ve never worked in construction before so I have no idea what to expect. Assuming I’m in good enough shape for it, is it a tough job? Will the supervisors gonna be issuing mentally challenging instructions? Or is it mainly the physical aspect of it that’s gonna be challenging?

Your thoughts will highly be appreciated.


#2

How old are you?

If you are a young man going for a labourer “shit kicker” job than expect to be abused. You will get all the dirty jobs, get pranked and will have the older guys giving you shit all day, especially if you have a bad attitude or think you are top shit.

This hazing period usually only lasts a few months until you get the hang of things and another new guy comes along. It’s not terrible but don’t expect it to be easy.

No you don’t have to lift ridiculous weights. You will however be expected to carry lightish weights for hours on end in the sun around awkward and potentially hazardous areas. Endurance and a good mental attitude is a must!

You must be a hard worker. You will be called out for slacking off especially in the 1st few months.

You must have a tough skin. If you get butt hurt by being called a wanker and told to redo your work than it is not the place for you.

You must be able to socialise and get on the other workers ‘level’ nobody likes a snobby new guy.

Construction is an awesome way to make a living! Good, hard working blokes making things with their hands definitely comes with a rewarding atmosphere especially near the end of the job. The comradorie is usually good and on some sites nothing is better than knocking off and cracking a beer to have a laugh at the end of a physical day.

Good luck!


#3

Thanks for this post. I’m 25 years old. I guess you can say I’m old. lol… I feel old.


#4

This will probably work in your favour. Usually the guys that get the most crap are the teenagers who come in thinking they know it all. Everyone is than on board to ‘break’ their spirit and make them a bit more humble.

If you go into the industry with a good attitude and work ethic, give everything a go and are easy to get along with, than I’m sure you will have a ball and meet great people.


#5

I’ve been at the bottom on these construction crews before and one thing to remember is you better bust your ass harder than everyone else. Show up early, bring coffee from time to time, shut your mouth and I guarantee you’ll gain the crew’s respect


#6

Thanks.


#7

That is right. Maybe not how you think, but right none the less.

The endurance part of it is in having to do a given task for a long period of time. It could be something relatively simple, and seemingly easy until time becomes a factor.

Lets say it’s putting up racks in a warehouse. You have to hammer drill 3000 holes in the concrete floor. Not bad right? A hammer drill only weighs a few lbs. Then 6 hrs. later, 2 days later etc. it’s a different story on knees, back, shoulder, elbow, etc.

So its a different kind of conditioning, sort of in its own realm. You should be fine though.


#8

I’ll add that on top of hard work and a good attitude be smart.

The foreman might ask you to move a bunch of lumber or tools to the other side of the job. He won’t tell you how.

If you carry it one piece at a time for an hour the whole crew will be like “look at this dummy” you’ll get the nickname “forest” or “radio” or some such. Use dolleys and carts where it makes sense. Construction is all about getting the job done without waste and not getting hurt.

You will get hurt eventually by the way. Do everything you can to avoid it and don’t be stupid. But you’ll get cut, abraded, fall, broken fingers. Normal stuff.


#9

Amen…the worst days in my life were grinding overhead welds for a fitter in the shipyard. I wasn’t going to let him know it though.


#10

I’ve done plenty of that! Thats one that hurts in places you didn’t even know you had.

Then there’s this-

Fitting boundary angle to the walls and floors of coal barges. In a blizzard.


#11

You should look into “Low Voltage Electrical.”

Closed circuit TV, LED lighting, point of sales terminals, networking. Basically running little wires and setting up IT. Real electricians do the real workl

My bros and I wired this place up. I mostly carried wire cutters and zip ties.


#12

That looks like a much nicer place to work.


#13

It was just a bare slab and block walls when we started. The floor stayed cold, with the roof and walls it was like a freezer in there!

I learned all about Carhartt.


#14

Physically it’s very demanding. I began working for a local asphalt paving company at age 17 just for a summer, but ended up staying for several years. I was strong, and trained very intensively, but man, did I have a rude awakening.

VERY hard work. The scorching south-east US heat didn’t help either. I remember being so physically exerted at times that I was ill. I had actually gotten heat stroke several times, and it sucked. I remember waking up at 4:30 am to get to a job site early and the boss wanted X amount of tons of asphalt down before the weekend, and we stayed out till 7 pm in a sub division paving. Still, though, I’d wake up the next morning and train events for strongman.

As far as words of advice go, better have some good common sense. Generally, there’s nice guys in the business that will help you if you talk to them before or after or during times of rest. That said, DURING busy work, if you fuck up or try to sheepishly ask for help they’ll raise hell, shove you out of the way, or just tell you you’re worthless. Try to somehow get an understanding of how it works. Being completely green as fuck is gonna get you fired honestly. We saw so many guys come and go that just didn’t go with the flow.


#15

Enduring was brutal. I was on the concrete crew for a summer. The most brutal thing I had to do was saw cut the joints of sections of curb that were marked to be “punched out”. The saw weighed maybe 30-40lbs, and I’d have to bend over for sometimes 15 minutes at a time pushing and letting up on the saw in just agony. I remember being drenched in sweat by lunch time, with a pinched nerve in my hamstring (actually from saw cutting, i shit you not, couldnt train for a week), and then having to screed and shovel concrete.

Forgot to mention I’d walk MILES all day dragging the saw around in my hands. My god, I actually attest that to making me not give a shit about hook grip, or “hard” strongman workouts. It isn’t SHIT compared to that!


#16

You should be OK with the actual ‘strength bit’. What really hits you is having to do the same thing for ages, sometimes for eight hours at a time.
One piece of advice: look after your hands. Wear gloves and use hand cream when you get home. It might sound a bit sissy, but if you neglect to do this you’ll wish you hadn’t.
Other than that, when mixing concrete make sure that the shovel of cement is the same size as the other shovels.


#17

Pretty bad gym gains for me when I did physical work, or any job that isn’t a desk job, even at a supermarket.

There is no link between demands for a 8 hours strenuous physical day and the gym. They are also mutually exclusive.

Would help with forearms maybe and that is it.

But that’s just me and there is maybe hope for others.

Unless you are taking the roidz, then you’ll make gains no matter what. Will also make you a generic faggot


#18

As someone who worked in construction every summer between the ages of 13 and 22, I can tell you right now that your physical condition doesn’t mean a fucking thing. Half the fuckers on a job site are probably either heavy smokers or heavy drinkers, or both. That’s why these fuckers work in construction.

The only thing you should be worrying about is whether or not you know anything about the kind of work you’re doing. You could be Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger, but if you can’t use a skilsaw or you don’t know what it means when someone tells you to cut an angled piece of wood at 37" to the long side, or if you don’t know the difference between a stemwall and a bearing wall, or if you can’t read the framing layout on blueprints, or you don’t know when and when not to use an A-35 clip, or if you don’t know how to square a corner on unlevel ground without a laser level, then the kind of shape you’re in doesn’t mean a fucking thing. Not one fucking thing.

And you won’t have to worry about the kind of shape you’re in if you don’t know shit about construction work, since you aren’t going to get hired anyways. If you somehow get hired on as a laborer, which I can’t see happening unless you know the owner since a laborer can get hired at Home Depot for less than what you’ll get off your ass for, the shape you’re in now is irrelevant. Construction is hard work, but it’s not THAT hard, unless you’re doing something like a lot of concrete work or something like that. Otherwise, it’s the kind of work that a lot of heavy smokers are more than capable of doing everyday for 30 years. I see guys all the time who are in horrendous shape and who work in construction, and they work their asses off, too.

Instead of worrying about what kind of shape you’re in, learn how to use a skilsaw without killing yourself, familiarize yourself with a nailgun and an air compressor, get a good sawzall and a good impact gun, buy a hardhat and a decent toolbelt, and start learning how to actually do the work. It’s going to be your knowledge and your work ethic that keeps you employed, not your physical shape.