I’ve been training consistently for about 3 years now while working a labor intensive job (at UPS for 6+ years) and it hasn’t been easy at all. It is not the easiest thing to build muscle if you have a labor intensive job. As I am what you would call an ectomorph it has been hard to do two things: stay in a surplus and prevent CNS fatigue.
I work assignments that require me to lift, carry, walk, step up, climb, bend, push, pull, etc in all planes of motion continuously for up 6 hours a day. That is ALOT of calories being spent. Staying in a surplus during a bulk has proved to be a challenge for me to say the least because as an ectomorph I already burn calories at a high rate without even trying. To remedy this, I track my macros/calories daily(using apps or macro calculators it does not matter, just as long as it involves numbers) in order to stay in a surplus or just to stay cognizant of my energy intake. This is the most important part hands down. Without having at least an idea of how many calories I have taken in, my training suffers. For example, if I somehow missed breakfast, I know for a fact my training is going to suffer later on if I do not take some pre-workout and intra-workout carb sources, such as Powerade or Gatorade.
At UPS, the legs and back are the most used parts of the body without a doubt, therefore I make sure I train these muscles on my days off and Mondays after work when I am the most fresh and rested from the weekend. Blue Collar workers have to be cognizant of not only muscular fatigue but mental and CNS fatigue, especially if they work overnight/early am like myself. To remedy the CNS and mental fatigue it’s important to do two things: set up your split in such a way that you train your heaviest lifts/most used muscles at work on days off, that way you are fresh and rested mentally before anything else. The second thing is to have deload weeks where you train at a percentage of the volume or take a complete week off every three weeks. Personally, I train three weeks on and take a week off or train at a portion of the volume on the fourth week. I notice at the beginning or end of the third week I start to fade from the build up of CNS and mental fatigue, this is when stimulants like caffeine and beta alanine can help.
Blue Collar workers who engage in labor intensive jobs can’t train the same way as sedentary workers do, especially if they are ectomorphs. Strength training and bodybuilding has to be approached strategically in the first place and even more so when working a physically demanding career. This is a lifestyle that if taken seriously can lead to overall better, consistent health so we can benefit by taking our time to plan routines, nutrition and habits in such a way that it blends with our obligations outside of the gym and outside of work.