Due to the physically demanding nature of their work, baggage handlers are unfortunately prone to a variety of lower-back, shoulder and wrists injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome). At first these can originate as aches and pains but can eventually lead to major injuries forcing a break from work. And even though occupational injuries are logged, research has shown that total injuries may be up to five times the official estimates.

To reduce injuries and fatigue, here are some strength and mobility exercises that airport baggage handlers can carry out in preparation for a shift and during days off. They are general guidelines - personalized recommendations should be based on pre-existing health conditions and can only properly be provided by a medical professional.

Dynamic stretches before shift

1/ Spiderman / Thoracic Rotation
If you have access to some space and a dry floor, the Spiderman combines a lunge with a torso twist to improve hip and spine mobility. Starting position: Lunge, one hand on the front foot, other reaching back. Movement: Rotate your torso to look up at the reaching hand, keeping your back leg straight. Hold, then repeat on the other side.

2/ Yogi Squat / Malasana
Squat low with heels flat, knees wide, toes turned out. Round spine and bring chest close to thighs, elbows resting inside knees. Palms press together at heart center or reach fingertips towards the floor. Keep chin lifted and gaze forward. Inhale to rise, exhale to deepen. Holds or pulses.

3/ Supine Cross Body Stretch
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat. Reach opposite arm overhead, palm facing away, and gently pull it across your body towards the floor behind the opposite shoulder. Use your other hand on your bicep to deepen the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Strength exercises for days off

Building total-body strength for lifting luggage requires good squat strength, as well as the ability to carry weight up to the shoulders and overhead. Bearing weight is also aided by good balance and a strong grip. Think of these as three areas you can work on on different days in the gym.

A good quota of workout is 3-5 rounds of 3-5 reps, lifting to 60% of maximum ability. This is a method from Pavel Tsatsouline, promoting robust strength that grows over time.

Dead Lift start position

Click on the exercises below for how-to videos.

1/ Compound exercises for building a strong foundation include Squats or Goblet Squats, Deadlifts, and Overhead Presses.
3/ Core exercises: Planks, Side Planks and Bird-dogs improve core stability for proper lifting technique and spine protection.
3/ Grip exercises: Farmer's Carry / Farmer's Walk strengthens your grip and practices balancing during a steady walk.

Need more help?