The other day, I was making a supersized batch of Zucchini Bread batter at work, and in so doing, I did a 117 lbs (53 kg) deadlift from floor to chest. Not a problem, I do it all the time. I found myself chuckling (yet again) “What’s that crap about skinny bakers, again?” and “THAT’S how you stay in shape working at a bakery- you WORK at a bakery!”
I’ve mentioned before that I use a 50 lbs. (22.67 kg) sandbag for exercising at home, and that the motivation for this came directly from wanting to be a baker, but I don’t believe I ever went into any real specifics about it.
So here we go: presenting, “The Black Hat Baker’s Bake Shop Workout!”
Otherwise known as, “I Pick Up Heavy Things and Put Them Down, but I can bake bread with them too when I’m done.”
That’s simple- a bag of sand! You can get a 50lbs. bag of play sand at Home Depot for about $6. Get the sand, put it in a couple garbage bags to help insure against leaks, and then either put THAT inside a large, sturdy duffel bag or wrap it up in duct tape.
The thing that makes using a sandbag different from barbells or dumbbells is the fact that the sand will slosh and shift as it moves. The bag also doesn’t have any handles- thus as you manipulate the bag, you will have to constantly use accessory muscle groups and reaffirm your grip in order to keep control of the bag.
When my brother-in-law Kevin gave me advice on how to start getting in shape, he had asked me what I wanted to do with a fit, healthy body. When I said that I just wanted to be able to function in a bake shop, he suggested exercises that mimic what I might do in a bakeshop. Makes sense, right?
All these exercises, therefore, are the actual names of lifts and movements that I have found myself needing to do in my career as a baker. I tend to do 5 reps of each of these exercises in rotation.
*ENORMOUS FREAKING BRIGHT RED DISCLAIMER!*
1. The Sandbag Carry
The reason this exercise is great is because it’s comparatively low-impact, and simply learning to move while carrying a load will help you learn to use your core muscles- that’s the ones in your lower chest and abdomen. Learning to tense and use these muscles will help support your back and spine, reducing the likelihood of injury for any of the other exercises.
2. The Sumo Deadlift
I prefer this stance/grip over a regular deadlift for the sandbag, simply because the bag is flat on the ground and must be gripped from there- as opposed to a barbell where the bar is likely off the ground a bit. For my purposes, flour is delivered to us on large wooden pallets. They need to be lifted from floor to table/shelf.
For this lift, stand with your feet a bit more than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and reach down to grip the bag. Keep your core tensed, and lift in a smooth, controlled motion- keeping your weight back on your heels. As you come up with the bag, bring your hips forward to meet the bag. Slowly reverse and bring the bag back down.
3. Sandbag Curl
Stand up straight, core tensed, feet shoulder-width apart. With a firm grip on the bag, just curl your arms and hoist the bag up to your chin. Return under control- DO NOT just relax your arms and let your elbows snap straight. You WILL injure yourself.
4. Sandbag Lunges / Squats
You want to EAT chicken legs in a kitchen, not HAVE them.
For both of these exercises, the keys are to keep your core tense, flex at the knees and hips, and never let your knees go past your toes- doing this prevents your ankles from taking the brunt of the weight.
5. The Overhead Press
With your core tensed and your feet shoulder-width apart, bring the bag up to your chest and raise over your head slowly, to your full range of motion. After a moment, bring the bag back down slowly and repeat.
Best of luck, and
Special thanks to Collin Jones, my boss at Crema Coffee + Bakery for letting me mess around with the dry goods after hours!