Physically Demanding Jobs And Bodybuilding

Physically Demanding Jobs And Bodybuilding

A physically demanding job can really limit your ability to get stronger and gain muscle mass, but it doesn’t have to.  A desk job is ideal for a bodybuilder or powerlifter so they can be resting up for their workouts be you can’t always choose your job.  I would consider a job physically demanding if:

  • You must stand more than 50% of the day
  • You must be walking more than 50% of the day
  • Part of your job requires lifting
  • Your job requires explosive bursts of energy

Here are some of the most physically demanding jobs around:

  • Construction (heavy lifting, constantly on feet)
  • Military and fire/police (explosive bursts, heavy lifting, constantly on feet)
  • Landscaping (constantly on feet, heavy lifting, constant bending)
  • Freight handlers and delivery people (heavy lifting, constantly on feet, running)
  • Commercial fisherman (heavy lifting, bending, constantly on feet)
  • Retail sales person (constantly on feet)

I know the list above is only partial and there are many very demanding professions that I have missed but most of them are similar to ones above.  You laugh at retail sales being physically demanding, granted its easy when compared to landscaping or construction but have you ever tried standing for eight hours?  I can’t do it, it not only hurts my back and feet but leaves me incredibly lethargic and tired.

So, if you have one of these professions how can you still make progress as a powerlifter or bodybuilder?  My best suggestion is to lift weights before going to work!  The problem is one of energy.  Doing eight hours of any of the above occupations will leave you drained enough that even the most motivated bodybuilder won’t be able to give 100% to the workout and if you can’t give it 100% then your gains will be diminished.   The best solution is to do your weight workout first thing in the morning before work even if this means getting up early.    Many construction people start at 7am or earlier which means leaving for work at 6am, which means to get a good workout in you might need to get up at 4am.  Can’t get up that early?  If gaining strength and adding muscle mass is important enough to you its possible but you *must* make it a priority.  How do you get up at 4am? By going to bed at 8pm!  Sleep is as much a priority as lifting so you can’t cut back on that.  Cut back on TV time, Facebook time, texting time, gaming time, phonecall time to make those extra hours in your day so you can go to bed at 8pm.

Most of the above occupations although very demanding physically, will not interfere with your bodies ability to recover from workouts.  To the body, they are more like long duration, low intensity cardio and this wont hurt your bodies ability to add muscle or gain strength.  As long as you get your workout in before your 8 hours of slogging thru the job drains you of energy, your gains are assured.

The one thing to be factored in is any repetitive motion required by your job.  For example, if you work in a warehouse and are constantly doing overhead lifting, you might want to skip military press on your shoulder day.  In fact, you might want to skip shoulder isolation exercises all together except for the shoulder rehab type exercises (inner rotations, outer rotations, reverse flys).

Cardio can be the toughest thing to do for someone in a physically demanding job.  Of course, for most of the above jobs you should skip cardio completely because the job itself is good cardio.  Some physically demanding jobs like retail sales don’t give sufficient cardio.  If you job leaves you drained but doesn’t give you enough cardio I would recommend a 20 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout.

OK, what can you do if there is no way possible to do your weight lifting before you go to work?  Here are some other options:

  • nap immediately after work, then lift weights
  • use caffeine based energy products before your evening workout

The second is especially problematic and can lead to a very unhealthy vicious circle.  It works well on day 1, you come home exhausted from work, take your “5 hour energy”, and have a great workout.  Trouble is, you can’t come down and you sleep horribly.  The next day you do the same thing except you find that the “5 hour energy” doesn’t have the same kick because you are sleep deprived and your workout lags.  Again, you sleep in fits and starts because of the late night caffeine and workout.  This vicious cycle is certainly better than not lifting weights at all but the only way it really works is by having such chronic sleep deprivation that you can sleep despite the high levels of caffeine and post-workout hormones in your system.  Please read about the importance of sleep and bodybuilding.

Any other suggestions?



37 thoughts on “Physically Demanding Jobs And Bodybuilding”

  1. I work a very physically demanding labour job receiving all kinds of items, ranging from bags of clothes and books to furniture to boxes of any kind of household item. It also involves lifting and moving all of said items, stacking them into carts, tossing them around or into bins. Also, some days I’ll be dragging or carrying bins of garbage ranging from 30 to 120 pounds. Since I’ve got this job I’ve had to work so much harder to make time for working out and eating. It’s doable, but you really have to consume a ton of food to maintain and be extremely disciplined with sleep and free time. Also, I’ve found lots of massage therapy, stretching and if necessary ice baths are great for preventing injury and dealing with aches from work. All that being said, ensuring you get at least one day off of exercising or anything physically demanding is critical when working a job like that and working out, otherwise you’ll just fall apart.

    1. We did pt every morning I’m the army the entire time I was there, we did mornings lifting and practice during all of highschool football.. after a warm up your body and cns are ready. You train your body to get used to being ready at a moment’s notice. If you’re deployed and sleeping and wake to gun fire you don’t have a few hours to slowly wake and warm up. You can workout anytime during the day.

  2. we were not designed to be sitting on a chair all day… we were designed/evolved to be up and moving around alot and often all day long… NOT SITTING ON OUR ASSES ALL DAY LONG!!! I think unless you competing in something like mma/wrestling or a sport like that where you need every tiny bit of an advantage then MAYBE… but even still sitting would give you many problems. for example sitting for long times shuts off your glutes, and then they don’t wake up and activate properly like they should during physical activity and you have to spend heaps of time trying to activiate them/warm em up. plus the hip issues. Besides the musculoskeletal stuff, you still get alot of other bad health issues from sitting and not moving all day. Even standing all day, altho alot better than sitting all day, still isnt enough and still has its own problems. Do some research on the health effects of sitting all day. There have been experiments and studies that have found that even those who do an hour or so of intense strenuous exercise and gym everyday but their sitting day jobs STILL give them these bad health issues. Google sitting is the new smoking or do your own research. However I agree that over repetitive lifting of single movements like doing a lot of shoulder lifts all day is not ideal, but a job where you up and moving around/walking in my opinion is the best. I know ronda rousey lost to holly but you guys should read her book she’ll give you guys a very good perspective on these things.

  3. I’m a bin man and I’m walkin at a really fast pace basically power walking between 6 to 8 hours a daypulling and pushing wheelie bins and it is making my gym time a living hell I eat plenty of protein n carbs every three hourand I find it impossible to progress with each workout even trying to maintain is a struggle I seem to be getting a larger stomach with all the calories however I need them for my workouts also I gain more muscle and lose stomach fat when I take a few weeks holiday than I could in 6 months my Muscles feel drained of their fullness and size its a horrible feeling I looked much better and was stronger four years ago before I had this job and I was only 18 any advice would be much appreciated thanks

  4. any advice??
    have a job as a cashier at a store, i was in great shaper 2 years ago till i got this job and started gaining weight and stoped lifting weights, im on my feet for 8 hours no sitting, my lunch hour looks like this i go to work at 1:30 pm my lunch begins at 2:30pm (1hr lunch shooping center) from 3:30pm i dont eat till i get home about 11:30pm, im very tired by then mentaly by dealing with so many frustrating buyers and im in starvation mode from not eating for 8 hours, they wont allow us to eat at normal times, am thinking of leaving my job because every month passes i keep getting bigger around the weist, i think its because im not eating for 8 hours, should i leave my job for the love of being in shape???? im always tired, have no social life, getting bigger, and always starving. i own my home already so am thinking of leaving the job in order to be happy. i will be turning 40 in 3 months and want to be happy any advice? thank you.

  5. Hi everyone, im a tarmac operative and work about 60 hours a week, a lot of time shovelling and lifting heavy wheelbarrows. unfortuneatly we don`t live in an ideal world so the running and workouts have to fit around work and energy levels, i have a set routine but if i find that on that day i am totally wasted i don`t beat myself up i just skip to another day or miss it totally if i really have to. i am 44 now and to be honest its not very often i don`t have the motivation to train and once i am training the drive to train well comes naturally, you have to come to terms with the fact that your gains won`t be as impressive as others due to work commitments.

  6. I work in retail on nightshift primarly restocking shelfs on a heavy aisle that stocks water and juice cartons and cordial bottles and im lifting at least 400 cases every night that weigh around 2-10 kilos a case and i sweat constantly espcially in summer, would that acount as my everyday sufficiant cardio ,or is it still essential to do around 30-40 mins of hard cardio on a crosstrainer/skipping rope or something

  7. SomethingHumanoid

    Thanks for putting this post up. I have been wondering what to do as a modern dance major tackling 18 hours of academic and technique classes, a couple;ate night job shifts (12-3 am), and 6-12 hours of rehearsals each week. It’s active but not necessarily challenging the upper body into an adonis look that i feel is necessary to be seen as a legitimate male dancer. It’s difficult to find workout programs that engage me mentally as dance does and strengthen flexibility as well as add on muscle. Any suggestions?

  8. Retail jobs are physically demanding, I can assure you! I work in an upscale department store. In addition to spending the whole day on my feet, I do a lot of stock work (hauling boxes, pushing large trolleys, stacking displays, etc). I might add that I work in the electronics dept – so I am moving objects of considerable size/weight (TVs, audio equipment, computers and such), often alone. And I need to do this in heels + skirt, while keeping myself and my makeup immaculate : )

  9. Related issue: it’s spring time and I’ve probably spent 24 hours in the past two weeks getting my vegetable and flower gardens ready. Lots of hard work with sore muscles, but not exactly my work-out routine. Unfortunately, my work-out routine has had to take a temporary break while I’ve been spending my time on yard-work. Definitely hoping to get back to routine soon!

  10. i’m a steelworker i work long days with heavy loads my boss shows no mercy
    he want’s the job done yesterday. so i recomend working out like this
    friday night chest and triceps
    saturday legs
    sunday back and biceps
    monday shoulders and abs
    tuesday, wednesday, thursday, rest

  11. if your a bricklayer or landscaper or construction worker, I believe you get plenty of muscular exercise at work already and should focus on cardio more. plenty of overweight people have those professions. they are plenty strong but not very healthy. my father is a skinny guy but he’s also one of the strongest people I know. He has a physically demanding job yet never once have I seen him lift weights since I was born 28 years ago.

  12. I work in security service, 12-14h/day sometimes 10-14days a raw.
    Most at night from 9pm to 9am – so i have to sleep most day when the Sun seems.
    It will also limit gains. Once I’m asleep at the training with dumbbell in the hands lying on the floor, as i want to do flys :D

  13. I am a single dad with two kids work full time in a body shop so i cant go before or after work because i have the kids so i go on my one hour lunch break the gym is close to the shop only leaves 50 min to workout but its enough to get a good lift in. i go 5 days a week so i can work fewer muscles each day makes for a faster workout without sacrificing intensity.

  14. Very much appreciated for this post Scoob.

    I’m a food server at a popular restaurant in Las Vegas. We are always super busy and I’m basically power/speed walking 8 hours a day, lifting heavy trays full of drinks, carrying plates of food, and handling large trays to serve food on. The only downtime I get is when I’m doing paperwork to end my shift.

    Would anyone consider a waiter/server job physically demanding?

  15. I’m a scaffold builder and i work from 6 to 4:30. Luckily i live close to work and that gives me time to do my workout. At first it was killing me, but now i’m used to it. I think the most important thing is sleeping well and the strict diet is also very important. Thanks again to scooby….

  16. I’m a mechanic and the best gains i ever got were during a few months of unemployment. On the bright side though, the physical jobs keep you from losing the muscle mass you’ve gained so far

  17. My problem is that my job is somehow demanding, yes, (I’m a TV news reporter, always driving from one side of the city to another, carrying heavy equipment, sometimes waiting standing for hours in places…) but what means a real pain in the ass for me is the constant changes on shifts. We rotate shifts monthly, and not only that, you can receive a phone call at evening changing your whole schedule for the next day. That makes it almost impossible to follow a routine with workouts, meals and bedtime, and it drives me mad sometimes. But I keep on working out hard five days a week, and yet I’m happy with my gains, althoug I finish my working weeks exhausted. On friday evenings I’m no longer a human being!

    Great article Scooby!

  18. bodybuilder_C3PO working out 6 days a week is not necesary, unless you are doing the bulgarian method in which people workout 2 times a day every day but they eat a lot and rest a lot, I dont that is your case. I´d recomend you to look for a good routine like stronglifts, starting strengh there are many popular and good routine which make your workout 3 times a week.

  19. I drive cattle to the slaughterhouse and sometimes (too often) I must literally drag the animals into the truck by using a rope and my own bodyweight and strength.. And sometimes on better farms we simply “chase” the cattle into the truck = walking/running behind them so they run into the truck.. I bet this destroy my progress daily.. I work 6 days a week. Eating 6-7 meals a day(every 3rd hour) and work out 5 days a week..

    But I’m 184,5cm tall 83kg and 13% bodyfat, it is acceptable for a truckdriver isn’t it? :p

  20. I’m about to join the military and I know they have weight equipment there. Im not sure how it works the scheudles in my Country, but if it will be possible to do as said above by Scooby, should I do it? What do military guys say? Any of you out there?

  21. I am a taxi driver and i loose my strength in my nerves driving all day. when i leave my job and go home i fall nearly assleep on the train when the tension goes down and before i do my training i have to get myself awake and s a bit difficult…..but i try anyway…..

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