Healthy Bartending Habits: How To Keep Moving and Shaking 

If you’ve ever woken up the day after a marathon shift and have lost the capacity to move and the will to live, then this is an article for you. To most people, working in the bar industry may seem like fun and games (and more than a few shots). However, anyone who’s held their own behind the stick knows that it’s damn hard work and can be very taxing both mentally and physically. Is there such a thing as healthy bartending?

The purpose of this article is to give you a bit of an idea about the exercises and stretches that you can do before and after you dive into the trenches for the night. They’ll keep you in top shape and will go a long way in preventing any serious injuries that might arise down the track.

Mindful Movement 

If you’ve ever been stuck on dispense in a busy cocktail bar, you’ll know how tiring it can be shaking and stirring your way through a seemingly endless sea of drinks orders. The motions that we perform when preparing these drinks are usually quite repetitive, and when done for an extended period of time can contribute to what are called repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). These are injuries to the musculoskeletal system that occur after – you guessed it – moving in a repetitive or awkward way for a sustained period of time.

Many bartenders will find a shaking style they prefer and stick to it religiously until it runs them into the ground. I did this myself for quite a while and ended up paying the price. I’d wake up on a Sunday morning with locked up shoulders, middle back pain and a throbbing headache (which I swear wasn’t from the booze most of the time). Eventually though, I began varying my shaking technique and focusing on how I was moving and which muscles were doing most of the work at a given time. This allows you shift the burden around and make sure that you don’t strain yourself too much…

Yoga for Cocktail Gurus 

This is probably painfully (no pun intended) obvious, but really can’t be emphasised enough. You should make a regular habit of stretching and warming up before and after heading into the bar. Much like playing sports or working out, our bodies need time to get into the swing of things before we start slinging drinks like there’s no tomorrow. Not to mention the fact that it keeps your body processing those knock off drinks more efficiently.

An excellent way of making sure that your muscles all tuned up before a night at work is practicing yoga… Now I know this might conjure up images of active wear and granola for some people but let’s set that aside and focus on the physical benefits that yoga can bring to the table. For our purposes, there are a handful of fairly easy yoga poses that can be done to both stretch out any muscle tension and strengthen the areas that might be neglected. Here’s a little list of some poses that might be able to help and which area they focus on. I’d recommend doing a video search for each pose to ensure that you’re doing it correctly.

  • Cobra Pose – Abdominals and Back
  • Cow Pose – Upper Back and Shoulders
  • One Legged Downward Facing Dog Pose – Hamstrings
  • Child’s Pose (Side Stretch) – Hips and Glutes
  • Bow Pose – Middle and Lower Back
  • Standing Forward Bend Pose – Legs and Neck

It’s worth noting that if any of these exercises cause pain or don’t feel quite right, then you should probably ease off a little bit or take a break…

If you’re reading this and already thinking that most Aussie of responses “Yeah… nah mate.” then maybe think about how many shifts have left you run down, sore, even cramping. It’s not just the shots, it’s poor muscle tone and an inefficient metabolism. Put it this way, every standard drink you consume after your shift is worth at least 3 minutes of yoga before your shift if you plan on adding chill to your netflix the next day.

Massage Therapy?   

There are probably some of you out there who stretch all day and still hurt like hell the next day. While this is definitely no fun, there are still a couple more things you can try before heading to the physiotherapist. One of the most helpful of which is remedial massage…

All over Melbourne (or other cities for that matter) there are massage parlours suited to fit your needs and more importantly you price range. Many of us working in the bar trade don’t have vast quantities of disposable income, so visiting the spa for a weekly massage might sound a little excessive. This really isn’t the case though, with many operators charging less than thirty dollars for a half hour of back and shoulder work. Having this done once or twice a week will do wonders for that muscle tension and have you shaking cocktails without reaching for the Voltarin once again.

Hopefully one of the above tactics will help remedy or prevent the various muscular ailments that can come about from working behind the bar. Before your shift tonight why not combine a bit stretching with a visit to the massage therapist or some yoga poses – that will hopefully set you on the right track.


photo courtesy Kleines Phi



Rohan Fisher

Rohan is a Melbourne based mixology and coffee geek who earns his beer money working as a cocktail bartender. With a passion for great spirits, most nights inevitably lead to being perched at the bar (sometimes face down)…