Exercises For Truck Drivers – stay healthy, pain free, and easily continue to pass your DOT exam
Like any job, driving a truck either interstate or intrastate has high demands physically. Sitting in the same position for periods of time can cause muscle strain among other challenges. Whether you drive a large semi-truck, bus, tow truck or other, maintaining a level of physical fitness is important. On top of that, passing a DOT physical requires a baseline of the ability to perform basic movements that you would encounter on a typical shift. Can you squat down easily to inspect under your vehicle? Is your grip strength hampered in some way that may prevent manipulation of tools and/or the steering wheel? Does your shoulder pain impede reaching even above shoulder level? As a provider on the National Registry of the FMCSA, we want to help provide simple tools and advice to keep you moving each day. After all, taking care of your health is just as vital as you would your vehicle.
As a caveat, please consult your physician with any questions before starting even a basic exercise program. If you have pain during any of these activities, it is advised to make sure that is monitored/assessed by your physician prior to beginning any exercise program. The following exercises are a good starting point if you don’t know where to begin.
That’s correct. Walking is one of the most powerful exercises that we can do if nothing else. It elevates the heart rate and strengthens the lower extremities, arms and back through the movement. Consistency and duration are the key. If you feel that you are out of shape or de-conditioned, start out slowly. Walk 10 minutes per day. Do this at least 5 days per week. It is at that point over time that it becomes a habit. Before you relax at the end of the day make it a habit to walk for 10 minutes. It may be difficult at first because you are exhausted but over time this will dissipate.
You can progress to 15, then 20, then 30 minutes per session, as it becomes easier and you are more comfortable. Don’t have time for a 30 minute walk some evening/morning? That’s completely fine, if you get in some exercise to stay consistent and hit that 5 day/week minimum. Be consistent!
Walking should feel natural and if there are mild aches and pains early on, don’t get discouraged! Keep with it and don’t be afraid to shorten your stride so you are taking more steps per minute walking though the strides are shorter in length. This is just one tip that can help with foot/heal pain while walking.
Push-ups are a great exercise for upper body and shoulder strength. Movements that involve pushing require chest and shoulder muscles. The push-up also helps encourage spinal stability in having to hold the position (mid back) while moving the arms and chest through range of motion. To perform a wall push-up, all you need is…what else, a wall or a stable surface that won’t ‘give’ or collapse. The advantage of a wall push-up is that you can perform this as a beginner and learn to do multiple push-ups in succession this way. One of the greatest barriers for those in performing push-ups is that people get discouraged quickly and stop doing them.
To perform: place your hands lower than shoulder level at about the level of your sternum or slightly lower and against the wall. Your hands should be slightly wider than the width of your shoulders; however you want to keep your arms pretty close to your side in order to decrease shoulder soreness. Next, keep your head in line with your mid back down through your low back as if there is a rigid rod connecting these parts of your body. Bring your nose close to the wall by bending your elbows and moving your body as one. Make sure not to lean your head forward. Now bring your body back to the starting position by extending your elbows and pushing the wall away from you. Shoot for 4 sets of 10 reps.
As this becomes easier you can graduate to performing these on a lower angle such as a sturdy chair set against the wall. Finally, you can progress to performing these on the ground as your fitness improves.
A great starting point are what I like to call ‘chair squats’. All you need is a bench or a chair next to a wall for this. To Perform: You want to slowly squat down putting your butt in the chair, as you would sitting down. The differences in this case? Do not use your hands unless necessary for safety reasons. Your knees should not go forward over your knees, as a rule of thumb. Stick your butt back as you slowly lower to the chair in a controlled fashion. Once you either touch the chair with your butt or sit, come back up in a slow and controlled motion. This movement is different than normally sitting in a chair as you aren’t lowering quickly. You want to perform 4 sets of 10 or 4×10 just like with the wall push-ups.
If you aren’t used to doing squats of any type, you will feel this in your quads (front of thigh) muscles and/or buttocks the next day. That’s a good thing, you’re doing it right!
As this becomes easier, try doing these without touching your butt to the chair. You will get used to lowering and raising only using your buttock muscles (as well as your leg muscles). Your brain will pick up on the pattern. These movements will help you naturally when picking something up on the groups or looking low, as mentioned before.
Be sure to mention these to the provider performing your DOT or CDL physical! They should want to hear if you are doing any kind of exercise routine. It is an important piece of the puzzle as you continue to service this great country as you log miles day after day!
-Dr. John Hosten D.C., CCSP is a certified medical examiner on the National Registry of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the doctor out of our Vernon Hills location at Bannockburn Chiropractic & Sports Injury Center. If you need DOT Physical Exam in Vernon Hills click this link to learn more!