It’s no secret that construction work comes with a risk of injury while on the job. In fact, injury rates in construction are 71% higher than the average injury rates across all industries. Injuries on the job can not only impact workers physically, it can take a toll on them financially if the injury causes them to miss work. What’s more, injuries can create serious delays in production.
One simple and cost effective way to minimize bodily injury before physically demanding construction work, is to stretch. Done correctly, stretching can improve circulation, flexibility, and improve your physical performance while on the job.
Read on or skip to our infographic as we outline 8 simple stretches for construction workers to help minimize risk of injury.
Why is Stretching Important for Construction Workers?
Just like athletes before practice, construction workers should consistently stretch before a job. Why? Many parts of a construction job require physical labor that can end up being demanding on your body over time. While there are several safety tools and protective equipment in place to minimize an employee’s risk at a construction site, stretching is quick, easy, and just as important to prevent bodily injury.
Stretching keeps muscles flexible, strong, and allows for your joints to maintain range of motion. Without it, your muscles and surrounding areas could become tight strained, or even permanently damaged during work.
Simple Stretches That You Can Do on the Job
Below are eight simple stretches that you can work into your daily routine to prevent injury or delays in production.
- Target Area: Torso and lower back
- Benefits: A side bend is a great warm up stretch to improve your range of motion along your torso and protect your lower back.
- How to Do It: Start with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms at your side. Start with raising your right arm overhead and lean. toward the left side. Repeat with your left arm overhead and lean toward the right side.
- Duration: Hold your stretch on each side for 3-5 seconds. Repeat twice.
- Target Area: Neck and vertebrae
- Benefits: Neck stretches are designed to lengthen and relax the muscle and joints around your neck and vertebrae, which can lead to improved mobility and alignment.
- How to Do It: Begin with your head facing forward. Turn your head slowly to one side so that your chin is over your shoulder. Repeat this motion while slowly turning to the opposite side.
- Duration: Repeat the stretch 5 times on each side.
- Target Area: Hamstring tendons, hips and pelvis
- Benefits: The hamstrings consist of three muscles that run down the back of your things. Routinely performing a hamstring stretch helps improve your ability to bend and extend the joints around your knees and thighs.
- How to Do It: Face forward and raise your foot on an elevated surface, at least a foot high. Slowly bend forward, stopping when you feel tension behind your thigh. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
- Duration: Hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds. Switch legs and repeat the stretch on each side twice.
- Target Area: Quadricep muscles and knees
- Benefits: Holding this stretch can help loosen the muscles above the knee, increasing mobility, and preventing knee injury.
- How to Do It: Find a sturdy surface or wall that you can hold onto for balance. Grab your left ankle with your right hand, so that your leg is bending behind you at the knee. Switch to the right side.
- Duration: Hold this stretch for 3-5 sections, then repeat on each side of your body twice.
- Target Area: Shoulders, triceps, and biceps
- Benefits: This simple stretch can help build muscle tone in your shoulders, triceps, and biceps to prevent injury.
- How to Do It: This stretch can be done pretty much anywhere. All you have to do is stand up straight, and slowly move your shoulders in a circular motion. Then move them upward, downward, and backward to make sure you’re loosening each area of your shoulders.
- Duration: Repeat these shoulder movements 5 times in each direction.
Chest and Shoulder Stretch
- Target Areas: Chest muscles and shoulders
- Benefits: A chest and shoulder stretch can help lengthen and loosen your chest muscles to improve range of motion in your upper body.
- How to Do It: Standing up straight, begin by bending both elbows at a 90 degree angle with fingertips facing upward. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold.
- Duration: Hold this stretch for 3-5 seconds, and repeat five times.
- Target Area: Wrist
- Benefits: Stretching your wrist can improve flexibility around your hands and wrist to prevent injury while lifting objects.
- How to Do It: Place your forearms horizontally, with both palms facing the floor. Bend both wrists downward so that fingertips are pointing toward the floor. Then extend both of your wrists so your fingertips now face upward.
- Duration: Repeat this motion five times.
- Target Areas: Gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles (calf muscles)
- Benefits: If you’re on a construction job, your calves are likely used daily by walking from place to place and participating in strenuous activities. A calf stretch can help prevent injury or aches around your calves, feet, and ankles.
- How to Do It: Stand close to a wall with one foot in front of the other. Keep your front knee slightly bent. Place both hands on the wall in front of you and with your back knee straight, and heel on the ground, lean forward toward the wall. You should feel tension along the back of your calf.
- Duration: Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Tips for Successful Stretching
Now that you know which stretches to do to prevent injury on the job, it’s time to go over a few best practices to make sure you get the maximum benefits of each stretch. If you’re new to stretching, below are a few tips for success.
Remember to breathe steadily while stretching. If you are depriving your muscles of oxygen this could cause lactic acid build up and pain. Studies also show that tension increases in your muscles when you inhale, and reduces when you exhale. To keep your muscles loose and relaxed, it’s important to consistently exhale.
Stretching your muscles slowly prevents them from overextending or being damaged. If you move too quickly, your muscles could be strained or seriously damaged.
Creating a consistent stretching routine is an easy and cost effective way to improve flexibility, alleviate any tension or aching sensations, and reduce your risk of injury long-term.
Listen to Your Body
The most important rule of thumb when stretching is to listen to your body. If any stretch is causing pain or discomfort, discontinue the stretch or make modifications. When in doubt, check with your primary care provider to learn what works best for your body’s specific needs.
While construction equipment like lifts and cranes can alleviate the demand of strenuous activity on the job, there is still a high risk of injury for construction workers. Doing something as simple as incorporating stretches into your daily routine can help prime your body for work activity, improve flexibility and range of motion, and ultimately prevent injury while on the job.
For other best practices to reduce injuries on a construction site, review OSHA rules and safety tips for the workplace.