Workingman Workout


Workingman Workout

All the glossy fitness magazines contain workout programs that seem to be directed toward affluent lawyers with seemingly unlimited time to perform endless repetitions of exercises targeting every muscular sub-group of the body.

The models demonstrating the exercises in said magazines sport artificially consistent tans and have a near fanatical aversion to body hair.

This workout is for the guys with farmer tans, unsightly chest hair, and definite time restraints.

I have nothing against lawyers. However, this is primarily a blue-collar workout tailored for people whose work itself is often a workout. Farmers, plumbers, locksmiths, carpenters, masons, roofers, electricians, laborers, blacksmiths, carpet-layers, shipbuilders, coopers, whalers, linemen, and other such sweaty tradesmen.

The goal of the Workingman Workout is to build and maintain strength, promote mobility, and prevent work-related injury.

It is simple, bullet-proof, and efficient.

It is not sexy, ostentatious, or glamorous.

Lets get started!

The Workingman Workout is a flexible program focused on 3 movement patterns: Pull, Push, Hinge

Here are the Exercise nuts and bolts:

Pull: pullup, chinup, or row
Push: kettlebell press, handstand pushup
Hinge: barbell deadlift

Here are the Tools to bolt stuff together:

Equipment Needed: Something to do pullups on. It can be a bar, a door frame, a tree branch, gymnastics rings, whatever. Keep it simple.
Optional Gear: A rusty old barbell, a kettlebell or two.

Pullups are a non-negotiable part of the program. You will do them. They strengthen the grip, back, abdominals, and biceps. Pullups are tough, they de-sissify! Grab the bar, hanging with your arms straight and shoulders “sucked” down into your upper back. Try to pull the bar to your upper chest. If it is anchored properly, you will move instead. Don’t stop pulling until your chin is above the bar. Lower yourself under control. Use a pronated, supinated, or mixed grip.


pullup with pronated grip


Deadlifts are very important. They strengthen your back, hamstrings, and triceps. They forge your forearms and grip strength. They help prevent back injuries, a top complaint among workingmen. Learn how to do them here.


deadlift -pulling 345

Pressing, whether it be your own bodyweight or an external weight, is a fantastic full-body stabilization exercise. It builds strong, healthy shoulders, triceps, spinal muscles, and forearms. Instructions here for kettlebell presses.


double kettlebell press

Here’s how to Assemble the Workingman Workout:

1. Based on the equipment you have available, pick an exercise from one of each of the 3 categories.
2. Perform a set of each exercise in the morning, before leaving for work.
3. Perform another set of the same 3 exercises in the evening, after you get home from work.

As an example of how this works, here is an example of what a certain electrician has been doing 5 days a week for the last several months:

Morning: 16-21 bodyweight pullups, 1-5 reps of 310 lb barbell deadlift, 4-7 reps of military presses with [2] 53lb kettlebells

Evening: repeat morning routine.

It’s that simple.


If a barbell is unavailable for deadlifts, bend over and lift something else heavy. A sand bag, a vehicle axle, a boulder,  a car, etc. Be sure to engage your entire body in the effort. Pay attention to detail and take your time. Lift heavy, but never too heavy.

A perfectly viable option for pressing weight overhead is the venerable and impressive handstand pushup. Stand facing a wall, bend over and place your palms flat on the floor about 8 inches away from the wall and slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Kick up into a handstand; your heels will contact the wall. Press your hands against the floor and shrug your shoulders down towards the floor. Tense your core. Now slowly bend your elbows and lower your head toward the floor. At first, only lower an inch or two before pressing back to the handstand. As your strength and confidence increase, you can lower all the way down until the top of your head touches the floor.

If you can’t do pullups yet, try bodyweight rows. Leaning backwards at a 45 degree angle with your heels on the floor, hold onto a bar or rings and pull until your chest touches the bar. Keep working at it until you can do the real thing!


The best clothing for the Workingman Workout need not be trendy.

Carhart makes a fine 5 pocket carpenter jean. The shirt shown in the accompanying photos is a classy button-up from the Dickies collection. Grease stains from a forklift or roofing tar provide muscular panache. Steel-toed work boots can add weight for a greater challenge with pullups.

If you have a Leatherman or other multi-tool strapped to your belt, be sure to switch it to the other side of your hip every other day to equalize the effort when performing handstand pushups. If performing your overhead presses with anvils, concrete blocks or car batteries, a hardhat is a good idea!

In other words, just wear what you’re wearing!

Stick With it!

A workingman doesn’t quit. Keep at this program consistently, 4-5 days per week for 6 months. Don’t make whiny white-collar excuses like “I don’t have a barbell”, or “Kettlebells are expensive”, or “Pullups are too hard”.  Just improvise as needed and lift stuff!

The workingman workout is not terribly difficult. It’s so simple a lawyer could understand it. 😉 It doesn’t take much time. You will look and feel better. You may get a raise.  Get your tools and get to work!


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