This month I thought I would share some tips on how to shovel snow properly. Shoveling can be viewed as a good workout for your core if you remember to use it! It can also be bad news for your spine if you forget to use your core!
Many people move through their daily lives trying to use the least amount of effort. Sometimes this causes us to put our weight and loads into the joints and ligaments rather than make our muscles do the work. When don’t use our muscles to hold our bones into alignment, our muscles grow weaker and our joints get worn down. This same effect can happen when we bend over. If you don’t brace your spine with your back and abdominal muscles when you bend over, you are essentially putting the load directly into your spinal vertebrae and discs. We don’t want this!
Every time you bend over, it is best to hinge from the hips and try to keep your back flat. Your seat will come out and you will be using your low back muscles to brace your spine. The movement I am explaining is the exact movement as doing a straight legged deadlift in the gym. A regular deadlift will allow for some bent knees which is fine, too. But this is the form we are going for when you shovel snow. You will notice that you immediately use your low back, gluts, and abdominal muscles to do this. Shoveling adds even more challenge because it also adds a twist to stand up. Try to twist from your upper spine more than your lower back if possible. Of course try to focus on engaging your abdominal muscles as you twist too.
When you first start shoveling this way, it might feel different at first since you are using your low back muscles more. But don’t lose hope- it is better to have worked your back muscles and be a little sore rather than having your spine discs, and bones ache.
Here are a few tips to do before hand:
- Lay on your back and twist your knees to the side in a relaxing way to gently stretch the rotation of your spine. Hold 30-60 sec each side.
- Sit on the floor and try to touch your toes to stretch your hamstrings- bonus for keeping your back flat! 30-60 Sec
- Hold a plank position to warm up your core! 30-60 sec