Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Snow Shovel Conditioning

It’s only a matter of time before the ground freezes and it will support the increasingly abundant snow on the ground here in the Northeast United States. Despite having snowplows and blowers, the lowly shovel always has a place in snow cleanup. It’s cheap, it doesn’t run out of fuel, and it can clean small areas that machinery can’t touch. I personally love to shovel snow in the winter. It’s a great reason to get outside on a nice winter day, get rid of some cabin fever, and get my body moving in a time of the year when I’m at my most sedentary.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the snow shovel is the operator. Many people complain about the shoveling causing back pain and generally, they shun this physical labor. Some proper physical conditioning can cure a lot of this and this explains why so few like to shovel snow. Many lack the conditioning to shovel snow without pain or difficulty.

Shoveling is really a full-body piece of physical labor. It uses the arms, back, legs, shoulders, and abs to shovel. The biggest problem that most do is that they shovel improperly. They use their back to lift the shovel when they should be using their legs. Lifting a shovel full of snow with your back bent over hundreds of times has two of the movements that can injure the lower back. You are lifting with an arched lower back and you’re lifting an object too far in front of your body. Either one can cause injury. Both together, done hundreds of times, is going to hurt.

Instead, you should be lifting the snow with your legs while keeping your back straight. So, you should practice several squats in moderate to high volume. Hindu and sissy squats are great for this but even a basic squat will help immensely. I firmly believe that done in volume if nothing more than to get your muscle memory trained to bend with your legs when you have to pick something off the ground, such as snow.

This doesn’t mean that the back doesn’t play a role here though. Your back and abdominal muscles are going to be needed to properly stabilize your body as you pick up the snow and throw it. Several different bridges will build up the spinal muscles in the lower back. You should also do some abdominal muscles that incorporate a twisting movement. To round off your snow shovel training, some close grip chinups and pullups will get your lats and traps conditioned to throw the snow.

Overall, aim for higher volume exercises to get yourself in shape for throwing snow. Your work is moderately difficult and requires you to work for longer periods of time. So, high volume calisthenics and aereobic isometrics should be the cornerstone of your conditioning.

Also, another tip for shoveling snow is to alternate between left and right hand shoveling in order to reduce fatigue on the lower back. Make sure that you get yourself a lightweight shovel. Once you lower your body to pick up the snow, immediately shift your lead hand on the shovel foreward so that you're not keeping the weight so far away from your body when shoveling. If you're just pushing the snow, and you're into boxing, then you can have some fun with pushing snow with the shovel. Throw right hands with a shovel in your hand and push the snow that way. Switch up and do some left hands after that. You can easily do this as long as there isn't a lot of snow.

No comments: