Fitness for manual labourers is very important to decrease the risk of injury and make lifting easier! Here’s some manual labour specific fitness tips and yoga poses to help:
Prevent Injury by Strengthening your Core
It’s natural to think the stronger arm is the key to lifting but your core muscles play a much more important part that you might realise. Your core muscles are essential to keeping you balanced and weak core muscles can quickly lead to a back injury.
Good core exercises & yoga poses:
- Superman – lay face down on the floor and lift your legs and arm together. (Very good for the lower back.)
- Plank – Balance on your forearms and toes with a straight back, making sure your hips aren’t raised.
- Russian Twists – Grab something heavy for a weight. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, bend them up and lift them off the ground. With the weight in both hands, twist it from one side to the other repeatedly.
- Boat Pose – Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Keeping them straight, raise them as high as you can so that your body is in a V shape. Ensure your hands are off the ground for it is only your core muscles holding you up.
Dynamic Stretches Before Work
When your work is very physically demanding it’s going through some of the same stress as a workout puts your body through. Considering this, you should start your work with some dynamic stretches and finish with some static stretches – this will decrease risk of injury and improve your mobility. Dynamic stretches are essentially a moving stretch, while static stretching is holding the pose completely still.
Some dynamic stretches:
- Swing your leg back and forth as high as it will go.
- Twist the top half of your body from side to side while keeping your feet still.
- Raise your leg to a right angle and then out to the side as far as it will comfortably go.
- Swing your arms forwards for 10 reps, then backwards for 10 reps.
Some static stretches:
- Touch your toes.
- Hold your knee to your chest (or as high as you can go) and repeat with the other leg.
- Touch your hands behind your back, twice changing which arm is going over your shoulder.
- Hold your foot behind your bum while standing. Repeat with the other leg.
Strengthen your Legs, Arm & Shoulders
Your core muscles aren’t the only muscles working when lifting heavy objects, your legs, arms and shoulders are also putting in the work. Strengthening these will make lifting heavy objects easier and decrease your risk of injury.
Some good exercises & yoga poses to strengthen your legs, arms & shoulders:
- Tricep Dips – put your hands on something stable at waist height, facing away from it. Move your feet further out so you have enough space. Dip your body down and back up again repeatedly, using your arms to push you up and control your descent.
- Plank Tap – start in a high plank (on your hands rather than forearms) and use each hand to tap the opposite shoulder.
- Downward Dog – Keeping your legs straight, bend over and touch the floor. Walk your hands out until your body is in a V shape. Then shift the weight onto your hands, holding the position.
- Jump Squat
- Glute Bridge March – Lay on your bag with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Lift your body so that only your head, shoulders and arms are on the floor. Flex your glutes (bum muscles) to keep you up. Lift each foot keeping the leg bent, until rotated around 90 degrees, then return to the floor. Repeat with each leg.
- Balance on one leg with the other either stretched out or with your foot on the thigh of the leg balancing.
- Handstand against a wall
- Bear Crawl – Starting on all fours, lift your knees. Then crawl forwards. Move one hand forwards and follow with the opposite foot. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your back flat.
Don’t Forget About the Benefits of Cardio
Regular cardio reduces blood pressure & feelings for stress, as well as improving blood sugar & sleep. Cardio is also a great way to lose weight, which should make your job easier as it will improve your mobility.
Good ways to do cardio without joining a gym:
- Team sport
For more ways to stay healthy when working away: Healthy Eating while Working Away: 5 top tips