We know what you’re thinking: I already spend my day doing physical labor, either out on the jobsite or hustling around the dealership. That may be true, but repetitive physical movements can often lead to imbalances in the body that result in injuries and pain. For example, carrying heavy equipment all day taxes your biceps, chest and lower back. To counteract these effects, one can strengthen their shoulders, triceps and upper back.
We asked fitness expert Dontrel Whitfield, a certified personal trainer with a degree in exercise science and kinesiology, for advice on exercises that can contribute to a full-body conditioning routine — those which are most helpful for landscapers and equipment dealers. These various exercises and functional movements can improve biomechanics to promote strength, flexibility and endurance, making routine work easier while reducing the risk of injury.
Squats are a great exercise for building leg and glute strength, which is essential for pushing a lawn mower or snow blower. Start with bodyweight squats then progress to dumbbells and barbells. Start by standing with legs shoulder width apart, then bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds then stand back up.
Like squats, lunges also target the glutes and legs, and can help improve balance and stability. Start with bodyweight lunges then progress to dumbbells and barbells. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then take a big step with your right foot and lower your body until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for a few seconds then stand back up and repeat with your left foot.
Planks are a great exercise for building core strength, which is very important for maintaining good posture while pushing a lawn mower or snow blower. Start by getting into a push-up position, then lowering your body so that your forearm is resting on the ground. If this is too difficult, you can do a high plank on your hands, or drop your knees to the floor and push your hips forward to relieve tension on your wrists. Squeezing your glutes is the key to engaging the core during this exercise!
Push-ups are a great exercise for building upper body strength, which is important when moving equipment. Start by getting into a plank position with your arms and hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your chest touches the ground, then push yourself back to the starting position. With this exercise, you can also drop your knees to the floor and push your hips forward to alleviate stress on the wrists.
Deadlifts are a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the legs, glutes and back. They can help improve overall strength and power, which is important when doing any type of physical labor. Stand with your knees slightly bent and feet placed shoulder- width apart. Make sure to bend the hips and knees, lowering the torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Let the arms hang near your shins and the front of your knees, and keep your back in a neutral position. Don’t round out the back! Slowly lower yourself then squeeze your glutes when you straighten, pushing through the ball and heel of your foot.
Farmer’s walks involve walking with heavy weights, such as dumbbells or kettlebells, held in each hand. You can walk any length, up and down a hallway, gym floor, etc. This exercise can help improve grip strength, core stability and overall endurance. With dumbbells or kettlebells, walk forward taking small steps, embracing the core and moving the weights as little as possible. Continue doing this for 45 to 60 seconds then repeat.
Bent-over rows are a compound exercise that works the back, shoulders, and arms. They can help improve overall upper body strength. For this exercise, bend your torso forward with your knees slightly bent. Pull your weights near your waist and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Lower your weights back down by your side and repeat.
This exercise combines a squat with an overhead press using a barbell or dumbbells. It targets the legs, glutes, shoulders and core, all of which are important for equipment uphill or even on uneven terrain. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with dumbbells above your shoulders. Squat down while keeping your back flat and your knees over your toes. Push through your heels to return to standing while pressing the dumbbells overhead with arms fully extended. Return to the starting position and repeat.