The feeling when it hits 5pm, after 10 hours of physical labour would leave most people happy the day is over… but not for you. You know you need to get your workout in. Even though you might feel exhausted from all the forming, mixing, lifting, pushing, or digging done, you still want to get to the gym and have an awesome workout.

And it is completely understood as the person writing the article is an ex formwork carpenter who built high rises. The thirst for self-improvement is always there. The well-known fact that you need to earn a living is there as well but the thought of not going to the gym is out of the picture. This is something you love, it brings joy to your day and you feel proud after hitting that new PR.

I’ve been in your shoes, so I can empathise with you on the subject when it comes to working a physical job and weight training. Some insight into what worked for me and what didn’t. Tips and tricks that I used when bulking or cutting. Motivation that pushed me to get to the gym while doing 60+ hours a week of physically demanding work which doesn’t include the 2 hours of travel a day.

Experiment with your training volume, frequency, and intensity.

1.Reducing training volume

Depending on the length of the day (12 hours) or the intensity of the day (middle of summer) it can pay to reduce the overall volume of the workout. If you can get your head around putting more into each set and make it quality, you reduce the chance of the day effecting your workout. Dragging your workout on set after set will not benefit you at all.

2.Reducing the amount of high intensity sets

By reducing the amount of sets that you go to complete failure at the start, it will allow more effort to be used at the end of the workout. This means you only do one overload set per exercise instead of doing 3 or 4 at maximal effort.

3.Having a de-load/rest week

De-loading is an essential part of any good program. The idea is, you train hard for 8-12 weeks and after that, you have a de-load or complete week off the gym. During a de-load week, you can either reduce your training volume, intensity or both by about 50%. No taking sets to failure. No endless workouts. You go in, get it done and leave. To truly reap the benefits of such a week, your workouts need to be light. Give your body a break from the physical activities for a week.

4.Reducing training frequency

This is one I ALWAYS found hard to do, but when I eventually cut back I found my weights started increasing again.

A normal Training Schedule would look something like this:

Monday: Chest and core

Tuesday: Back and traps

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Legs

Friday: Shoulders and Abs

Saturday: Biceps, triceps and calves

Sunday: Off

When bulking, this schedule works perfectly. Eating plenty of calories to support the highly active week plus training 5 days a week. When Cutting your body is under increased stress due to the calorie restriction PLUS training 5 days a week PLUS working a physical job…you can see what is going to happen eventually.

*Remember listen to your body!*

Cut back on training volume first, followed by a reduction in the amount of high intensity sets on compound lifts and then start combining muscle groups together and cutting back 1 to 2 days a week from the normal schedule.

Example of 1 day reduction:

Monday: Chest, triceps and core

Tuesday: Back, biceps and traps

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Legs

Friday: Shoulders and Abs

Saturday: Off


And 2 day reduction:

Monday: Chest, triceps, shoulders

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Legs and core

Thursday: Off

Friday: Back, biceps and traps

Saturday: Off

Sunday: Off

Training a 3-day split works well for maintenance if work volume increases and making it to the gym can get hard. Running yourself into the ground trying to get to the gym will NOT benefit you as much as recovering and hitting the gym less frequently.

5.Consider different training times

To get a better understanding of your body, experiment with different training times and see what works best for you. Remember: give it a few weeks before drawing conclusions.

Early morning before work

The idea behind this approach is you get up, have a small pre-workout meal with at least 40-50 grams of carbs and then hit the gym. You can also train fasted. Just take 5-10 grams of BCAA’s  prior to training + add some fast acting carbs for energy.

Pros of early morning training:

– Energizes and uplifts you for the entire day to come.

– You get to have your evenings after work free to socialize and relax with family.

– You will generally feel much more energetic and sharp compared to training after work.

Cons of early morning training:

– You should have extra-long warm up sessions. A good idea is to have a hot shower upon waking, as well.

– You might have a very hard time starting your workout due to sleepiness.

– You should wake up earlier than usual to prepare for working out.

Late at night after a good meal when you finish work

This is yet another good option because you get to head home after work, eat a good meal and then workout. You’ll feel rested and ready to hit the weights. Here are just 3 tips to help you optimize training later at night:

– Don’t have a huge pre-workout meal after work. If you have 1200 calories left for the day, split them in half or 60/40 but leave some calories for a post-workout meal.

– Try not to relax for too long as you might cool down and loose motivation.

– Personally, I prefer training straight after work. I would always stay back at work and eat a full meal then go straight to the gym – which was about an hour away. I would drink Pre-Workout about 15 minutes from getting to the gym, have a quick shower when I got there and hit the weights straight away.

Pros of training late at night:

– You get to fuel your body with food for a better and more productive workout.

– You get a chance to unwind and relax for a while after work to get your head in the game.

– Generally has a better atmosphere at this time of the day + chance for a spot if needed.

Cons of training late at night:

– You might start feeling tired and unmotivated to get going after 1-2 hours at home.

– Your post-workout meal or Pre-Workout could make it harder for you to fall asleep.

6.Hardest workouts on off days

This is yet another good way to get some of your workouts in without feeling overwhelmed during the work week. If you work Monday through Friday and have the weekend off, this schedule can work great for you.

Monday: Chest and Bi’s

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Back and Tri’s

Thursday: Off

Friday: Shoulders and Core

Saturday: Legs

Sunday: Off

By training legs on a Saturday, it gives you the opportunity to:


– Get a decent meal in if you are used to training fasted

– Give yourself longer to train which can be very beneficial when it comes to legs.

– More time to recover/stretch post workout

Hopefully the above will give you some extra tips and tricks to getting the most out of training when you have a physical job! Stay tuned for part 2 of the blog which will cover EATING + RECOVERY.