by Bob Perry, The Trucker Trainer™
Consider for a moment the number of times a professional truck driver climbs in and out of the cab each day. It’s probably more than you think. While you are thinking about getting into and out of the cab, take notice of your movements, too. Concentrate on the muscles you are using and the way they are used during this simple action. Are you pulling yourself up? Or are you pushing yourself up by using your legs as the driving force in your body?
Injuries to the rotator cuff can come from drivers pulling themselves up into the cab. This motion is even more strenuous to drivers who are overweight. The handles found on your trucks, which we refer to as pull handles, really should be called guide handles or balance handles. Drivers should avoid relying on the handles to climb into the cab and place more effort on using the legs, where some of the strongest muscles in the body are found.
In recent coaching sessions with drivers who have weight issues, we discussed the difficulties getting into and out of the cab and how intense the shoulder pain is from pulling up into the cab. I realize that many of you suffer from knee and hip issues, so we have a lot of work to do to strengthen various stabilizer muscles to support your knees and hips and avoid further problems.
First, consider why using your legs is so important. There are four huge muscles that compose the front of your thigh: rectus femoris (the large one at the front), vastus medialis (the inner thigh), vastus lateralis (on the outer thigh) and vastus intermedius (in the middle of the thigh). Together these are referred to as the quadriceps, or “quads.”
At the back of your leg, behind your thigh, you have another muscle group, called the hamstring. The three muscles here are the semitendinous, the semimembranosus and the biceps femoris. Working together with the quadriceps, the hamstring helps in movement of the hip and knee. Hamstrings are an often overlooked muscle group. They are the biceps of the lower body, yet many people never spend time strengthening them. You need these muscles and strong calves to power yourself up, as from the ground to your cab. While walking helps, it does not provide enough strength-training to your quads, calves and hamstrings to make the movement easier.
Here are some easy strengthening and conditioning exercises for those important leg muscles. Like many of my recommended exercises, these do not take a lot of time, and you can find equipment that is easy to carry in your cab like the FIT System.
You can learn more about the FIT System at www.rollingstrong.com.
10 STEP-UPS: Move to the steps of your rig. Step up with one leg and then step back down. Repeat with the other leg. Should you need help because of bad knees, use the handle on the side of your cab to balance yourself and add support. Remember to use your legs as much as possible – not your arms and shoulders.
10 SQUATS: Move to the front of your truck and position your legs hip-width apart. Hold onto your bumper and on the count of three slowly squat down as if you were sitting on a chair. Then slowly raise yourself on the count of three. Keep your core muscles, which are your stomach muscles, tight and engaged.
Remember, seek professional medical advice if there are problems with these exercises. Staying hydrated is also very important.
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