Build Muscles with a Shovel + Shovel Snow Safely and Efficiently

Beautiful Vancouver covered in snow.

“It’s all downhill from here.”
– J said to me the day after I turned 30.

Well, I refuse to believe that. There’s no such thing as ‘going downhill’ after a certain age as long as I keep training and train right…..right? Cue snow.

Vancouver has received a few dumps of snow in recent weeks and I have been happily shovelling it up – for the most part 🙂 Snow makes for a beautiful sight so I am just lovin’ it (cue McDonald’s theme song here). What puts it over the top is that shovelling can be a fantastic full body workout – if done correctly. Shovelling induced injuries are HUGE during snow season. Below are a few tips and tricks to help protect you from common shovelling induced injuries but also get your muscles burning the right way.

  • Keep the core engaged. Stomach muscles are contracted, bringing that belly button in towards the spine.
  • Keep the shovel close to you. We often want to ‘reach out’ when lifting but it is much safer to be close to the load you are carrying.
  • Frequent standing breaks and dynamic stretching as necessary. Put down the shovel and move your feet (march or walk).This keeps the blood flowing so you don’t feel lightheaded. Because the weather is colder too, it maintains your body temperature, your joints loose ensures your body is ready for exertion. You might feel like a weird doing this on your driveway but you’ll thank yourself later. 🙂
  • Widen your stance to create more stability. You can also take on a lunge position to get closer to the ground for situations where you need to be closer to the ground, like chipping away at frozen snow. This helps take the stress off your back.
  • Don’t let your shoulders creep up. Keep them down and away from the ears (depressed).
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Wide stance.

 

  • Don’t lift the snow – push it. This is another way to decrease the intensity, perfect on day 4 of snowfall when the snow is more wet and thus heavy (here in Vancouver) and you’re super tired of shovelling. 🙂
Push it - don't lift.
Push it – don’t lift.
  • Use your legs for power and strength to move the snow. It may feel ‘easier’ to bend at the waist to lift the snow but it is very detrimental to your back and spine areas. When picking up the snow, bend at the knees with the shovel close to your body, and then do what I call power up where you tighten the core, then push those feet into the ground and straighten the knees to create power to toss the snow.
Snow in Vancouver
Bend at the knees.
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Power up to toss snow.
  • If you’re using shovelling to replace Leg Day, get down lower and then power up to standing position, squeezing the gluteal muscles at the top of the movement. Hold for 2s and get back down again to repeat. Ensure each movement is controlled and core is engaged throughout. My preference is to do this in a staggered lunge stance to train for function, but this can also be done in squat dance (feet hip width apart). Do ensure the shovel is close to your body throughout the entire movement.
If you're using shovelling to replace Leg Day, get down lower and then power up to standing, squeezing the gluteal muscles at the top of the movement. Hold for 2s and get back down again to repeat. Ensure each movement is controlled and core is engaged throughout.
Get low to intensify your workout.

 

Do you use shovelling as a workout? Do you have any tips to make shovelling fun and an effective workout?

 

Happy shovelling!

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This post was originally published Dec 2016 and have been updated.

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