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?