Make Your Next Shoveling Adventure a Safe Workout!

January 29, 2016

Make Your Next Shoveling Adventure a Safe Workout!

Did you know a 145lb. person can burn 400 calories during just one hour of shoveling? Shoveling can be an excellent workout, but also a quick route to injury if you are not careful and don’t use proper shoveling techniques.

Here are my tips to prevent injury and get the most out of shoveling:

  1. Warm-up and stretch! You wouldn’t skip this step at the gym, so don’t do it now!
  2. Equipment — Make sure your shovel is long enough so you don’t have to bend over too much. It’s not a good idea to borrow a kid-size shovel if you aren’t a kid! Curved or adjustable handles are great.
  3. Start off slow — Even after stretching and warming up, it is still a great idea to ease into your shoveling workout.
  4. Alternate pushing and lifting; think of them as “sets”. Do a set of 5-10 using the shovel to push the snow, and then the same lifting. Take breaks if needed.
  5. When pushing — put both hands on the handle, face your target, keep your shoulders back, and engage your chest, legs, and core.
  6. When lifting — bend at the hips (not lower back!), squat down, shoulders back, core engaged, arms slightly wider than shoulder distance apart, shovel parallel to the ground, and deadlift or row the shovel up based on your ability. The snow should be thrown behind you or walked over and emptied. Unless you have been doing similar movements in the gym with similar weight — NO TWISTING!
  7. Pace yourself — Treat your shoveling just like a workout and be sure to not take on more than you can handle. It’s okay to take breaks and even finish the next day. For heavy snow lift layers off in increments.
  8. Be sure to alternate arms!
  9. Make sure to stretch afterwards. 

You might even try EXTREME shoveling.

  1. Race a neighbor and see who can shovel their driveway first.
  2. Work on one side of your driveway and jog to other between sets. Be sure to watch out for ice!!
  3. Incorporate some fun moves – Ex. Shovel squats, shovel lunges, etc.

If you have already shoveled, there are plenty of individuals out there who are not physically able to shovel. Helping someone else will give you a great workout would be a Mitzvah (good deed)!

Post Shoveling Soreness and Stretching

What if you don’t follow all the right techniques?  Or maybe you did everything right, but you’re still feeling sore and stiff after working out in the snow? 

My colleague Alexander Steiner, PT, DPT, Clinic Director at LifeBridge Health Physical Therapy Powered by Physiotherapy Associates says, “Stretching after serious lifting and shoveling is always a great idea. You’ll want to hit major muscle groups in your shoulders, low back, and hips.” 

Something simple like hugging your knee to your chest while laying on the floor, or sitting and bending forward with your leg outstretched is a good place to start. Or check out these diagrams of other great stretches.

“Even 2-3 days after strenuous exercise it is not unusual to have muscle soreness, especially if you don’t exercise regularly. If it still hurts four or more days later, or if it’s not getting better, call your healthcare provider to get it checked out.”

Fortunately, many of us are back at the J already and stretching out the shoveling soreness. The next snow may be coming soon, however, so make sure to review these helpful hints before you head out… and be safe!

By Raychel Setless, Assistant Director of Fitness, Recreation, and JCC Maccabi

Sign up for our newsletter