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Five Exercises to Prevent Back Pain from Shoveling

It sure feels like winter is here. The temperature has fallen to below zero these past couple days. I hate to say it, but it just might snow soon. Gearing up for the winter should mean body preparation. If you live in a house and aren’t so lucky to have a snow-blower, you or your spouse probably spend several hours each winter shovelling snow. For those of you who don’t train, it may be a good idea to start now in order to build up your strength and stamina for this upcoming winter season. A very common area that is injured while shovelling snow is the lower back. The mechanics of shovelling and tossing heavy snow can put stress on the discs of the lumbar spine, potentially causing a herniation, what is commonly called a “slipped disc.” Proper technique and a strong core are required to get the job done without injury. Here are some great core exercises that will prep you for this chore. Here are our top 5 safe and effective exercises for building a stronger core:

1. Plank

Purpose: Static Anti-extension.

The plank can be done in many different ways. You have a high plank (on your hands), Low plank (on your elbows), and even a ½ plank (on your knees rather than your toes). The idea is to prevent your back from sagging. In order to do so, you must engage the muscles of your abdomen and lower back.

2. Stability ball/barbell roll-out

Purpose: Dynamic Anti-extension

This exercise utilizes the same concept as the plank but adds the shoulder movement component, which challenges you dynamically. While on your knees, resting your forearms on a stability ball or hands gripping a barbell on the floor, maintaining a neutral hip and spine position, slowly moves your arms out into a fully flexed shoulder position or as far as you can roll out before losing the neutral position. Then, return to the starting position.

3. Leg drops/Lying leg extensions

Purpose: Dynamic Anti-extension

By keeping your pelvis in a neutral position and preventing it from tilting forward, you engage your rectus abdominis, hip flexors and TA for stability. This exercise can be done bilaterally, meaning two legs at once, or unilaterally meaning one leg at a time (bicycle). You can progress by adding weight between both legs using a dumbbell.

4. Static Cable Hold

Purpose: Static Anti-rotation

Keep a squatting stance, hold both arms out in front of you perpendicular to the line of pull. Keeping your arms very slightly bent (near straight), engage your core to prevent your spine from twisting (rotating).The palloff press is a similar exercise. The only difference is that you alter the distance of the force lever by moving your hands into and away from your body while preventing the rotation.

5. Lunge with horizontal press

Purpose: Multi-joint, compound, functional movement to prepare the body for the specific task of shovelling snow

The lunge press is a very functional compound movement involving the lower and upper body. Perform a forward lunge while simultaneously pressing through cable resistance. This exercise engages your core, hips, chest and shoulders to facilitate a movement similar to correct shovelling technique.

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