Can Hard Physical Labor Build Huge Muscles?

Shortly after joining the muscle building circle people develop some sort of a muscle evaluation OCD. We start judging the muscles of all individuals we meet. Most of the victims that go under the scanner do not even lift. We evaluate their muscles regardless. Thoughts such as: “The delivery guy has nice arms but weak calves.”, “Good arms for a fat uncle that does not even lift.”, “Nice glutes for a 24/7 Facebook lurker.” start crossing the mind of the indoctrinated muscle constructors.

Sooner or later THE GUY appears. The guy is a mythical personage who has amazing physical development without having seen a gym from the outside. The guy is breaking all natural laws and has 18 inches arms, huge chest and monstrous gorilla like back. Of course, the guy also eats bad food and has a job considered hard physical labor by today’s standards. Like every hero the guy’s super powers are increased by a healthy hyperbole shot provided by his fans.

It’s not uncommon to increase the guy’s measurements by 1-4 inches and up the his lifts by 200-300 lbs. This is what creates those legendary uncles who are 5’2”, weigh “solid 200 lbs” and can deadlift 500 lbs without doing much besides lifting heavy toilet paper packages at the factory and drink beer after work. Real men, right? Those are some nice stories to tell the kids, but reality is much different.

The vast majority of people who work hard and physically intensive jobs don’t have great bodies. Most construction workers that I see are middle aged men who smoke, have big beer bellies, eat garbage street food such as hot dogs and swear a lot. They also know a lot about politics, or so they think. Are they stronger than the typical office insect that spends 12 hours in front of a computer and finishes the superset with 3 hours of web cam masturbation at home? Sure.

Working is stress – both physical and mental. It even resembles a workout. That’s why they call it a work + out. You go to the gym/work place, “lift weights”/work and then go home to recover. The harder the task physically the more carryover it will have to training.

Physical labor does develop strength and could even be a solid form of conditioning. Back in the day when people had to produce their own food being fat was unheard of. It was physically not possible. If anything, accumulation of fat cells is a modern Western creature and result of unhealthy foods which form 90% of what one sees in the supermarket. There is no point in denying the fact that a road worker is more likely to acquire work induced six pack abs compared to an office Solitaire and Minesweeper master with poor posture. However, blowing the actual muscle content out of proportion is not needed.

There are videos on the Internet showing small Asian men lifting refrigerators, washing machines and plasma TVs all by themselves. There is no doubt that having to load a truck and lift a washing machine by yourself all day will make you tough as nails. Does this have a good carryover in the gym? Yes. People with physical background will start their weightlifting journey with heavier lifts than someone who spent the last 5 years playing WoW and drinking sugary drinks. But it’s unlikely that they will surpass the dedicated lifters without becoming such themselves.

Intelligent training and progression will always be superior to slave work. I don’t want to discourage anyone from performing hard physical labor. Be my guest. The problem is the fetish most people develop. They think that moving cement all day will somehow produce mystical muscles and superior “dad strength”. You can become decently strong while doing construction work, but it’s more of a side effect rather than the main purpose of the activity. It’s like driving to work and expecting to transform into a good driver. You can certainly become proficient at city driving, but you will never become a refined and complete driver without dedicated practice on the track.

Hard physical labor could be considered some form of training since it’s definitely a stress factor. Problem is, there are more elements to muscle growth – recovery and nutrition. Most physically intensive jobs are also modern day slavery. Working in gold mines, cocoa plantations, factories, constructions…etc. is not the greatest experience ever. It sucks a lot. The salaries are low, the hours are long and the work is very hard on the body. It drains you completely and gives you nothing in return. It’s one of the saddest realities of this life which I personally consider a school and not the end.

When I was 17 years old I had a summer job as a walking courier. I was supposed to walk around all day and distribute commercial material in specific regions of the town. That required carrying a heavy 30-40 lbs bag full of shiny paper. I had to walk from one building entrance to another all day for about 8 hours. Then I needed another 1 hour to go back home. The good news was that on the way back the bag was empty and light. For that work I got payed about half a dollar per 1,000 papers or about 3 dollars a day. While this sort of job is not nearly as hard as the previously mentioned activities it was pretty tough for me at that time. I worked that way only for a couple of months.

Ironically, this was also the time when I started getting into training. It’s funny. I remember bringing a small bottle of honey mixed with milk on the job. The goal was to fight the catabolic effect of all that daily walking. So, did I profit in any way from this physical job? Big calves from walking? No. Getting shredded from the cardio? No. I was already a skinny fat fuck weighing 145 lbs at 6′. In the end of the day this sort of work made my ambitions as a muscle worshiper harder. I was unable to recover and do any meaningful training. Not that I knew how to do that at the time. All I got was frustration, painful Achilles tendons and some painted paper with dead “heroes” on it. This is the main problem with physical labor as a muscle simulator – it does not follow training rules, only money making rules. Work more, make more money for your masters. Eat garbage and fuck the body.

There is no denying that hard living does produce “dad strength”. When you’re poor and you don’t have money to pay someone else to repair your house, assemble the furniture, move the fridge…etc. you become stronger. I am very familiar with this stuff. Back in the day I had to move heavy furniture with my father from time to time. I only had to lift one end of the package, and yet it felt extremely hard. For him it was light, even though he is over 30 years older than me. However, I got my revenge. After I started lifting my “son strength” improved as well. Moving some stupid furniture around was no longer mission impossible. The refinement of my technique thanks to the deadlift played a big part in the whole process. This brings me to another point – most workers don’t really have proper technique when lifting.

Some time before I was born my father was asked by a group middle aged men to help him lift a stucked in the mud car. At that time people were still calling each other “comrade” and refusing was impolite. He agreed. However, they fucked him up. He was one of the few men that actually attempted to lift the car. I was not there, but I am pretty sure that he used bad technique. This is probably why God sent me in his life – to teach this clueless guy how to lift properly. Anyway, he ended up almost collapsing and pinched a nerve in his back which literally hurts to this very day – over 45 years later. There is no doubt that proper form would have helped and minimized the damage. They don’t teach you proper form on the street. To educate yourself you have to join the university of iron moving a.k.a. The Gym. Reading a book also helps.

One of the main characteristics of this world is duality. Everything that happens here has a counter element. You can’t have a day without a night, birth without death, youth without old age and laziness without somebody else working harder to compensate. This is a natural law similar to gravity. Balance is achieved at all costs and there is no alternative.

The same principle created the immobilized world today. In order for some people to stay at home and do nothing, others have to work and assemble the cars, produce the food, heal sickness…etc. Technically, this is not bad by itself because people exchange services. You can’t do everything by yourself even if you’re Rambo. Sadly, there’s a severe dark side.

The so-called Western world where people live in rich houses and have everything in abundance is not free. It comes at a price paid by the slaves overseas. In order for a “happy” child to receive the latest toy at a discount somebody has to work extra for less pay. Guess who that one is?

Among the people who are forced to work extremely hard jobs there are individuals who can handle the stress for longer periods of time. They have great genes and would do well as strength and/or endurance athletes. This is the gene pool that produces the guys with big muscles from work. However, those guys would do much better if their rights were respected and they had enough and energy time to train and actually live the life they deserve – the life of a human being that actually builds something. Remember: bankers do less meaningful work than your dog, but somehow the whole world owes the banks something. Why do you think that is?


Damn. I did it again. Instead of finishing the article as intended I went too far and started talking too much. But if I know something about this world, it’s that everything is connected, and every form of life is a script consisting of commands played on a big computer that we are trying to make sense of.


    1. joe santus

      …but the hard labor from carpentry and postal delivery only builds some mass on forearms and calves IF a person has good genetic potential for forearm and calf mass already. And, to build the maximum mass their genetic potential allows requires far more effort than carpentry and walking exert.

      I didn’t own a car until age twenty-two, so walked a couple miles per day to jobs I had then; I also had a job for three years which required me walking all over a factory floor the entire shift. Later in my life, I worked as a self-employed carpenter/builder for twenty years. I built neither calf nor forearm mass from either work; if anything, those jobs eroded my mass due to what amounted to “overtraining”.

      Only when I began doing heavy resistance training which stressed my forearms and calves did I experience any growth at all in my calves or my forearms.

      So, sure, hard physical labor might build more mass in SOME people; and physical labor might often be better for many people’s health-and-fitness than being sedentary; but for average guys and for the vast majority of people, hard physical labor will not build huge muscles, nor enable them to reach their maximum genetic potential of muscle mass and strength.

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