Functional Exercise For Contractors

By Robert Robillard on Remodeling

Staying Fit in the Trades – Choosing the RIGHT Functional Exercises!

Chances are you lift heavy, awkward things from time-to-time, and then you climb a ladder with them.  What you have is “on-the-job” strength, which accountants could never achieve in a cubicle. Let’s talk about how functional exercise can improve job site performance, health, and fitness.

Cobra Stretch: Great For Lower Back

Common Injuries

Because a lot of construction workers front exercise they develop strength in whatever function they do. The result is other areas of the body suffer and they have an unbalanced system. That’s why we see a lot of strong construction workers with beer bellies or with back issues.

Lower back pain seems to be the most common complaint among workers in the trades, followed closely by shoulder, neck, knee, and ankle injuries. I check “all-of-the-above” ailments.

These ailments and injuries can have a devastating impact on a person’s career, finances quality of life, and can even force some into retirement.

In this article, I want to discuss functional strength training.

Deadlift with barbell

What is Functional Fitness Training?

Functional strength training works your muscles to prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at work. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also build core stability. [that helps your back]

For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up 80lb bags of cement.

By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations

Overhead Barbell Press

Functional Exercises

First off stay away from gym machines and use barbells. The back squat, overhead press, and deadlift produce more of a training stimulus than any machine-based circuit.

I try to think about movements at work and then integrate them into my training routine.


Here are a few examples:

  • Push up / press – moving equipment in place
  • Squat –                   picking up a bag of concrete
  • Deadlift –                picking up materials
  • Row –                      picking up a toolbox or material
  • Overhead Pres –   installing materials overhead
  • Step-Ups –            climbing ladders
  • Farmers Walk –   carrying toolboxes and materials
  • Pull up –                 compound exercise to build overall upper-body strength
Functional Exercises For Contractors

Alternating Dumbell Row

Remember, muscles rarely work in isolation on the job site, so training them to work together is a more effective way to build functional strength and prevent injury.

HIIT “Thrusters” Exercise: Its a Squat and Dumbell Press-One Exercise

As a side note, I also try to mix in HIIT or high-intensity interval training. HIIT training is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.

This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time. HIIT training is how I personally keep the beer belly at bay and is a topic and video for another day.

Step-Ups With Weight

It Takes Discipline

Ok I get it you work hard all day and when you get home the last thing you want to do is work more. But you have to!

Schedule three days a week, using the weekend as one day, and work on functional fitness. Plan 45 minutes per workout and take the first 15 minutes to warm up doing the same exercise but with super lightweight.

I don’t think I need to convince any of you that exercise is important –  you just need to be disciplined and schedule the time. I bet you schedule a time to watch football on Sunday with your buddies right?  Same thing – schedule gym time.

The Farmers Walk with Barbel Plates

The Payoff

Regular functional exercise is integral to staying in shape, and staying fit can prevent injuries and make you more productive on the job site.

The benefits of the right exercise include:

  • Increase muscular endurance (the ability for the muscles to resist fatigue)
  • Increase aerobic and functional capacity to complete daily tasks
  • Reduce the likelihood of injury (i.e. lower back pain/disc)

Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups

I hope you enjoyed this video, its purpose was NOT to show you how to exercise, but impress on you that you should be thinking about how functional fitness and the job site meet.

Stretching Is Important At the End Of Workout

I promise you that as you add more functional exercises to your workout, you will see improvements in your ability to perform your everyday activities and improve your quality of life. That’s quite a return on your exercise investment.

Stay well!

Functional Fitness For the Job Site Video

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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