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When You Move 30,000 Pounds of Trash a Night, You've Gotta Know How to Lift

Men's Health logo Men's Health 9/16/2020 Andrew Heffernan, C.S.C.S.
a man wearing a uniform: Sanitation workers Ron Reali and Bobby Carini explain what you need to know about lifting and moving things to haul tons of trash every night. © Cody Pickens Sanitation workers Ron Reali and Bobby Carini explain what you need to know about lifting and moving things to haul tons of trash every night.

Ron Reali, 56, and Bobby Carini, 33, who pick up 30,000 pounds of trash every night in San Francisco. Remember how hard it was to drag that overstuffed can to the curb the other night? These guys do it over and over again, every day. Here’s what gives them the strength to do all that—and a workout move that helps get it done.

What sanitation strong looks like

Carini: The most important thing is stretching. I’ll get to work early and do that, leg stretches. As soon as you get out there, you’re working. This isn’t like a bench press where you start slow. No warmup!

Reali: And people, they overload their cans! They bust a toilet up and put a porcelain toilet in there, and you get those unexpected heavy ones.

a man standing next to a fire hydrant: reali and carini hauling a trash dumpster over the curb © Cody Pickens reali and carini hauling a trash dumpster over the curb

Carini: We do a lot of SROs, single-room-occupancy places, with entrances down a staircase. They sneak in the toilet, and we’re stuck heaving it up a bunch of stairs in the dark. Then the toter is off-balance, too. The bottom is light. Top? Nope. It’s hard to carry.

Reali: The physicality of bringing any toter upstairs, I think it’s hard! Take somebody my height and weight who was pretty strong and they’d definitely be sore the next day. Half the battle is having a good partner.

Carini: Ron’s been doing this a lot longer than me. Older guys are more injury-prone.

Reali: But I love it. People ask when I’m going to retire. But what am I going to

do for seven hours a day? Go to the gym? This is my gym.

How to deadlift like a sanitation worker

Sanitation work is all about lifting awkward objects. Master the skill by taking on the Jefferson deadlift: Straddle a loaded Olympic bar, left foot in front. Squat down, using a mixed grip on the bar (left hand over, right hand under). Flatten your back, tighten your glutes, and stand. Lower it to the ground. That’s one rep. Do 4 sets of 6 to 8, alternating your forward leg each set.

This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Men’s Health.

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