When spring calls and is telling you to grab a rake and get the yard clean, consider how easy it is to make the wrong moves and hurt yourself. Raking requires upper body strength and endurance. Warm up your yard work by exercising your primary muscles, which include biceps, deltoids, rotator cuff, forearm, and parascapular muscles. Do it before and after raking.
Simple exercises, like arm circles, pendulums, forearm and upper trap stretching will help loosen these muscle groups. Proper posture while raking is a must. Stay upright, heal up, shoulders back, and don’t hunch forward. Good postural habits will prevent rotator cuff impingement, strain on neck and back, and puts the upper body in position for the greatest mechanical advantage to create force and leverage. You’ll also use less energy.
In removing leftover winter debris – limbs, twigs, leaves – all the residue left by a tough winter – remember to use your legs while bending over. The body’s trunk and core are being tested, requiring the lumbar spine and hips to generate to move material. The strain is on your obliques, glutes and hip rotators along with the lumbar extensor muscles. That means there’s a lot of muscle groups interacting to get the debris moved. Never bend from the waist to pick up leaves or sticks. It is vital to squat and bend your knees. Keep a flat back while you lift. This takes the stress off the lower lumbar spine, eliminating the possibility of strains and sprains or worse, injuries, such as herniated discs and sciatica. Helpful, are warm up and cool down exercises such as hamstring, knee to chest, and trunk rotation stretches.
In short, summerize your body. Whether you’re planting or engaged in sports, prepare yourself with proper exercise. Knees, hamstrings, calves, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps all come into play . Yard work and sports require similar exercises. Trunk rotation stretches, hamstring stretches and lightweight workouts with dumbbells for biceps, triceps and deltoids are important in preventing serious injury. Squats with light barbells for your quads, hamstrings and glutes strengthen these important stress absorbing muscles. The spine and lower back also take a heavy shock with physical labor and activity, so warm up with knee to chest exercises, trunk rotations, and quad and hamstring stretches.
So, get out there, enjoy the spring and summer, be active, it’s good for you, but avoid injury by prepping your muscle groups and joints with a sensible set of exercises that can keep you fit while you engage in healthy outdoor activities.
Kyle Branday, MSPT, is a licensed physical therapist and partner at Amity Physical Therapy. The practice was founded by Michael Dow CEO/Director, eleven years ago and maintains offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. Kyle Branday is a graduate of Quinnipiac University with his Masters in Physical Therapy. He works with patients of all ages and ability levels, treating high level athletes with fractures and sprains to gait and balance dysfunction in the elderly. Kyle can be reached to set up evaluations at 203-389-4593.