Truck Stop Workouts with Damir Sarcev

Truck stop workouts are turning Damir Sarcevic into an Instagram legend! He’s only got 358 Instagram followers as I write this but he’s definitely someone who deserves more of the spotlight! Like I said when I used him for Weekly Motivation last week, @dmkdacho is a truck driver who’s decided to not let that turn him into a shadow of his former, athletic self! 

Damir, I’ve got to warn you that I’m going to have a lot of questions about your truck stop workouts because most people don’t really know about the truck driver’s life. First thing is, how did you start exercising in general?

Well, basically, pretty much all my life I’ve been in sports. Since I was a kid, I was born and raised in Serbia, and in Serbia water polo is like the national sport. And it’s really popular. Serbia, I think was nine times the world champion in the Olympics so it’s really popular and I was in that maybe six, seven years.

You have to be in really good shape to play that sport! Everybody I see on the Olympic team that does water polo is in really good shape especially their upper bodies.

Yeah it’s a really hard sport. Really rough. A lot of times it’s not fair.

I forgot who said it but it’s like rugby but in the water.

Yeah, pretty much. A lot of dirty play, especially when the referee cannot see it. We use a lot of tricks; put Vaseline on your body so you can always get away. Like MMA fighters who do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu put oil or something on the body so you can’t get holds but yeah! I was, I think, seven years training that and I was in high school and I was a bad student; I almost failed so my parents told me I couldn’t do water polo anymore; I needed to study. They wanted me to put more work into school. Actually later I was one of the best students, ha! So I replaced it and fell in love with weights. I was working out through all of high school and college. Then I came to the U.S. and started working here and after a year and a half in the trucks I didn’t work out at all! I was just driving. And I saw a big difference in my body—

You started getting fat?

Yeah, I actually lost a lot of muscle mass and I got a belly. So I got skinny fat, you know that bodytype? And I was talking with a friend of mine; we’re good friends now but at that time we had just met and she was telling me how she always finds time to work out and she knew a lot of stuff about training and I knew a lot of stuff about dieting. So we started talking more and more; exchanging ideas and we created a plan for us truckers that suits us. Because we don’t have a lot of time it’s not always the same time that you can work out. Sometimes it’s night, sometimes it’s morning and you can’t really eat clean in the truck. I mean you can but it’s really, really hard. So we basically started doing our stuff. What we do is, you know the squat everyday program?

Yeah, definitely! So you’re doing squat every day?

We’re squatting every day. This is how our day starts. You wake up and start squatting for like thirty or forty minutes and when you finish you do one muscle group in like a bodybuilding style. And after that just eat. We added some deadlifts and bench press but basically what you’re doing is for one hour you’re doing powerlifting training and then maybe half an hour focus on like a bodybuilding training like maybe it’s arms or like shoulders or something like that.

Okay so you said you started doing that with your friend?

No I was doing it by myself but we talked about it researching. We did research about diets, about workout plans and stuff so we actually were exchanging ideas and stuff like that.

Now, Damir where are you training? I know that there are gyms at truck stops and some truckers apparently have workout systems in their cab but it doesn’t look like you have any of that.

The stuff they’ve got in truck stops and not all of the truck stops but they’ve got some gyms but those gyms are just like treadmills and maybe a bicycle and that’s it. So for the stuff that I do it’s useless. I have a squat rack that I bought on eBay, I think it was like $70.

You mean your squat stands or is it a rack?

It’s just stands. So I got that, I got a regular bench, I bought an Olympic set with a bar and 300lbs of weight and then I bought some 45lb bumper plates too.  I use the chains for the tire to do pullups and dips. I also put them on the bar when I’m squatting. I’ve got two pairs of chains and each pair is 25lbs.

Where do you put all of that when you’re driving?

I took out the passenger seat of my truck otherwise it wouldn’t fit. I took out the passenger seat. My truck is a Waller truck and it’s got cabinets above the driver and passenger side. So I opened those cabinets and just put the bar in those cabinets. All of my clothes and paperwork are on the top bunk, I’ve got two bunks in my sleeper and the rest of the truck is like, I can’t even turn around because I bought a fridge, I bought a grille so I can eat healthier.

I know other truck drivers might be wondering this so I’ll ask before I forget. Do you drive hazmat or doubles?

When I started, I was driving doubles but now I just drive general freight.

And how does your employer look at you taking the truck apart? Do they own the truck or do you own it?

I’m the owner of the truck so I can do whatever I want. But I was lucky, before I bought the truck I was working for my friend. So he was pretty much understanding if I needed time to workout. A lot of people are like push push, no you need to do this or that but I just told him I’m going to do my thing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be late for deliveries but you need to give me my two hours for myself and that’s it.

That’s actually probably a pretty good deal for them because it keeps you healthy. Everybody takes breaks at truck stops anyway but what you do on your break keeps you healthy! So it’s basically you and your weights just driving around America!

Yeah, like everywhere because I drive all around the country! So when I’ve got time I usually work out at the truck stops. The best places are truck stops because I can get a shower right afterwards but sometimes I go to a rest area. Wal Marts are actually pretty good, I cannot shower after it but I can buy fresh food.

Ah! So you can workout at Wal Mart and then go right inside and get something to eat!

Yeah, Wal Mart parking lots, rest areas, even when I’ve got time. Usually on a pickup or delivery you spend thirty minutes but sometimes you spend like three or four hours so I always ask how long it’s going to take to load me up. If they say three or more I just take out the squat rack even if I’ve already worked out that day; I’m just going to use the opportunity because you never know if maybe tomorrow something’s going to happen and you won’t be able to work out.

How long does your workout take?

On good days, when I feel focused, I can finish my workout in under an hour. Because I need at least ten minutes to take everything out and set it up and when I’m finished, ten minutes to put it back. But if I feel lazy and sometimes you’ve got those days when you cannot focus and then it might take more than two hours.

Now what about sleep time? Because my friend who’s the truck driver says that during the pickup is when he tries to get some rest. So how do you handle not being too sleepy to drive?

That’s the thing. I’m pretty much a hyper person so even if I have time, I don’t sleep more than six hours even when I’m home and I’ve got all of the time in the world. I always consider sleeping a waste of time. I know that I need sleep especially for the muscle recovery but I just—

Yeah, because you don’t build enough testosterone if you don’t get enough sleep.

That’s true.

truck driver at jiu jitsu class on break

I started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu this year. I just park the car and take an Uber to class.

But you’re used to being on a deadline so I guess I can understand that because I have a weird schedule too, I have to be up at different times to post on Instagram, make sure I’m interacting with people in different time zones for the sake of building my business, so I get it.

Yeah, the body will adjust!

I started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu this year. When I’m off, my day is like squatting before noon and then at night I go do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And when I’m in Illinois or Minnesota, I’ve got schools that if I’ve got time, I just go hang out with them.

So let’s say you come into town on a run, and class is about to start, you just pull in at a truck stop and go to a Jiu Jitsu class?

Yeah, I just leave the truck parked and take an Uber.

That’s outstanding.

I really go crazy not doing anything active. Eighty percent of the time when I’m driving I’m just thinking I need to be doing this, or I’m going to work out that. I’m just focused on that. Because it’s like jail.

Oh I get it; you’re basically stuck in a car all day!

Yeah and I just can’t wait. And plus, stress. People are crazy on the road! So you get stressed like crazy and you need to let it out.

So do you listen to podcasts and stuff to learn about exercise and keep from getting bored?

Yeah, I listen to Joe Rogan a lot.

I’ve heard Joe Rogan. I like the Mark Bell Powercast. That’s a good one. I usually listen to it when I’m up working on articles for the blog.

I listen to that.

Joe DeFranco has a very good podcast. You can also try BarbellShrugged, that’s directly aimed at people who train at home. I’ll text you all of those links later so you can look them up.

I don’t know who you drive for but there’s a company called Prime Incorporated, apparently they have driver fitness coaches and they’re saying do at least fifteen minutes a day at a truck stop or even the pickup. But you’re looking at an hour how does that affect your ability to meet your deadlines?

I pretty much plan my day real good. If I see that I have a lot of time, I do the full workout. If I see that I’m not going to have a lot of time, then I just do squats because squats are the base of my workout, so that’s most important for me. You know sometimes you don’t have time for anything so yeah, business comes first. Got to put food on my table!

Now you say you drive all over the U.S., how far is your typical run?

For example, right now while we’re talking I’m doing the run from Chattanooga, TN to Denver, CO.

Oh really? Which way are you going?

I-70.

Oh you didn’t go through Georgia. I was going to say you can use my gym if you come this way.

my deadlift and squat are about the same

Yeah, I’m in contact with a lot of people that are working out at home. If I have time, I park my truck and take an Uber and meet somebody and get a workout. I did it two times but I had the whole weekend. That’s only happens if you have the whole weekend. Otherwise it’s not really possible for me because I lose a lot of time. I would rather sleep.

I understand that!  With all of this exercising at truck stops have you ever gotten hurt?

Actually a few months ago I dropped the weight. I didn’t hit my head but it took some of the hair off my head. You know accidents only happen when you’re doing something sixty or seventy percent. When you’re doing your max, you’re focused. But I just casually picked it up from the stand and I was taking a step back and the weight started pushing me back. Usually what I’d do is just drop it. I don’t remember how heavy it was but I thought I could hold it up so I leaned it a little bit forward and the weight just rolled onto my head.

You mean it rolled over the front of your head? That sucks!

But I never got any serious injuries. That was the first thing I remembered when you asked me.

So obviously you don’t max out. Do you push yourself to failure?

Yeah, I don’t have a spotter. And my last set is usually when I drop the weight. My max is 405 and I have as my goal 390. Sometimes if I don’t feel good I just drop it.

So you just drop it off your back onto the ground?

Yeah, but I don’t max on the bench press. I can’t.

I get that because if you get stuck it’s over! Anyway, I know that other guys are out there with you. Truck stops are usually pretty crowded. Do other people look at you crazy or are they used to seeing you do it?

Usually people are pretty cool. They approach me, take pictures of me. Talk with me and ask me what I do and what I eat. I kind of like the attention so if I see that somebody’s really serious I want to help. I don’t mind talking. Sometimes I have people who work out, not on the road but they do three to four days on the road and then come home for the weekend and they go to the gym. So sometimes people join me and we all just workout together.

Oh that’s cool! Tell me your measurements. How much do you weigh? You look like a lean guy how big is your waist now?

Bodyweight: I weigh around 170-176. That’s my usual body weight. I don’t know my waist size, I don’t care. I just use pictures. I don’t even use the scale. On my ID it says 176 so I just use that but I like to use pictures so if I’m losing or gaining. I’m pretty lean, my average is about 10% bodyfat but I can drop it pretty fast. One year ago I stopped driving trucks. I sold my truck and opened a business. I had my own restaurant so I was in the gym. In that time I was walking around at 6-7% bodyfat so I’m really lean but it’s not easy for me to gain.

How old are you?

I’m going to be thirty soon.

You already told me your squat max is 405, what’s your max bench and deadlift?

Bench 242 or 110kg and deadlift is four plates, 405. My max squat and my max deadlift are the same for some reason. I’m probably not doing something right. I don’t know, it’s easier for me to squat than deadlift.

So let’s say another truck driver reads this, maybe at a truck stop, and he’s out of shape but he wants to get in shape. How would you advise him to get started?

The first thing is always to try something new. Like I was really into bodybuilding stuff then I discovered powerlifting.  I mean, it’s really boring to drive a truck.  In the beginning it’s really hard of course, but then when you see the results it’s just an addiction.  I feel bad if I don’t workout one day. If I eat junk food for two days I just feel bad. It’s not that anything’s changing about me in those three or four days but I just feel bad.

I’m still working on it but I want to make a workout plan for truckers just using the tires because not everybody’s going to buy a rack. You don’t need the stuff that I use. You can just use two dumbbells or just do pushups anything. But I want to do a workout routine just with the spare tire.

Click this photo to follow Damir on Instagram

Click this photo to follow Damir on Instagram

How much does the spare tire weigh? I know it’s a big tire but—

Trust me, I have no idea! It’s not that it’s too heavy it’s just like the size. It’s hard to manipulate. It’s kind of funny. I don’t even know what part of the body it works but I feel the burn so I would recommend that everybody just try something. You’re going to fall asleep easier. When I started working out it was just pushups on pickup and delivery. Just pushups, pushups, pushups.

Man this was one of the most unique interviews I’ve ever done!

Are you serious man?

I’ve never talked to anybody with your dedication who’s not making excuses but just finding a way to get it done! And I think that’s frankly awesome!

I’m really happy about myself, the decisions I’ve made in my life. When I get DMs telling me “Hey man, you inspired me to work out. When I see you I cannot have excuses, I have to go work out. I’m working out at truck stops. I kind of like it. My favorite part of the year is winter when it’s cold and freezing. That motivates me more than just going to a gym.

Well, we need to work something out if you come through Georgia! I’ll come to where you are and we can work out right there! Let me know ahead of time when you’re going to be in the Atlanta area and we can make something happen!

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.

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