If you live in Wisconsin you know winters can be brutally cold, but it can also be also be bad for a persons back. It is amazing how many people hurt their backs while shoveling.
Today I am going to reveal my top safe shoveling secrets. For those of you who do not live in Wisconsin like me, you still need to know this information too. This information can be used for any type of shoveling!
Here are some tips to help keep you pain free:
1.) Perform a Proper 5-Minute Warm-up Before Shoveling
So many people do not properly warm up before exercise. This is true of snow shoveling as well. A proper warm reduces the chance of injury. Snow can get very heavy so be prepared by warming up.
I have created a great shoveling specific five-minute warm-up to get your body ready to rock. There is a special emphasis on opening up the hips and chest to save your back and shoulders, the two most commonly injured areas of broken down shovelers:
Perform each exercise in the following warm-up circuit at a slow, controlled tempo for 50 seconds with a 10 second rest and transition between exercises. This warm up is best performed indoors to help control body temperature:
Exercise#1- Stationary High Knee Run
Exercise#2- Jumping Claps (modified jumping jacks with arms moving across chest level, palms facing)
Exercise#3- Alternating Forward Lunge, Overhead Reach, and Twist
Exercise#4- Alternating Lateral Lunge with Opposite Hand to Toe Touch
Exercise#5- Prisoner Squats (hands behind head with finger interlocked)
2.) Split Your Stance When Shoveling
Back pain is probably the biggest complaint for avid shovelers. In most cases, a sore or tight back stems from restriction at the hips (see the warm-up above to best remedy this). More specifically, using a parallel stance puts your lower back at a greater risk of injury due to the greater likelihood of excessive flexion of the lumbar spine that often leads to back spasms in the short run and herniated discs in the long run. However, the simple switch to shoveling with a split stance, where one leg is forward and the other leg is back, will not only help prevent this hyper flexion while bending over and moving snow, but will also actively stretch and open up those tight hips at the same time. Be sure to keep things in balance by doing an even number of shovel strokes with both legs forward by alternating every 10 reps or so.
3.) Point Your Toes In Same Direction of Shoveling
This is a continuation of the last tip. Even when you split your stance, you can be susceptible to injury whenever you perform a rotating back extension (e.g. a shovel toss to your rear). So, to further bolster your body, be sure to always shovel snow in the direction that your toes point to minimize excessive spinal rotation that can literally wrench your back.
4.) Shovel EQUALLY to BOTH Sides
This is a further continuation on the last two tips. Another big mistake people make is that they always shovel to their strong sides causing further strength and flexibility imbalances that can put your body at greater risk for injury. So, we now know you want to split your stance and shovel in the direction your toes are pointing, but you should also be sure do an equal amount of shovel tosses to your left AND right. Do 10 shovel tosses to your left with your left leg forward and then do 10 shovel tosses to your right with your right leg forward. Repeat until your driveway or sidewalk is crystal clear.
5.) Strengthen your body
The stronger you are the less likely you are of injury. Proper strength training will reduce your chances of injury to the body. Be safe, shovel properly, and focus on strengthening your body. All of these tips will reduce your risk of injury this snow season.