Another big snowstorm just hit the Northeastern United States.

Having grown up in that area I’m  hearing all about the shoveling friends and family are doing this weekend. I’ve been watching the comments on Facebook and enjoying the beautiful snow pictures.  Unfortunately, I’ve also seen several posts regarding how people have hurt their back while shoveling, some even got hernias.

Shoveling snow isn’t something to be taken lightly.

In fact, heart attacks can happen while shoveling especially if the person doing the shoveling is out of shape.  If you haven’t been exercising regularly and aren’t heart-healthy,  hire someone to do it for you.  If that’s not an option, break up the chore into small pieces and take it really slow.

Here’s the best way to shovel snow

to save yourself from hurting your back or getting a hernia.  In fact, if you do it this way, it can also be a great workout!

Digging in:

  • Take shovel in both hands (lower hand does most of the work, upper hand is for stability)
  • As you bring the shovel down into the snow – exhale and lunge.  (A healthy lunge is one where the knee is in line with the foot and doesn’t pass the toe in front. )

Picking up:

  • Once you’ve got the snow on the shovel, you’re ready to pick it up. Exhale and pull your belly-button back towards your spine. This will contract your transverse abdominis (the body’s natural girdle).  It’ll get your abs working and protect those back muscles from overworking (or getting injured).


  • Continue to pull your abs in towards your spine while twisting and throwing. (More back protection here.)
  • If you’re going to walk with the shovel full of snow, make sure your shoulder blades are down and back so you don’t hold with your neck.  Relax the front of your neck and shoulders.  Use your biceps to hold the shovel, and keep pulling those abs in for low-back support.
  • Exhale strongly again and pull those abs in tight again while throwing.

While holding your abs in, you can still breathe, just expand your lungs, not your belly.

See if you can take an equal number of shovel lifts from the right and left side to work both sides of your body evenly.

And finally,

Stretch a little before and after.   Before you shovel, it’s best to have a limber back to avoid pulling it.  After you’re done, stretching is the best way to avoid getting stiff and sore.  At the very least, do the quadricep and hamstring stretch (click those links to be transported to a beach and do the stretches with me).  Inner and outer thigh stretches are also a plus. (Join me on a whole leg and lower back stretch here.)

Did you use my tips or find a different way to get it done? Let me know in the comments section! 


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How to do the Plank and Push Up for a Strong Core

The Bicycle Exercise for Great Abs

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