Proper Snow Shoveling Technique

Like most of New England, I spent the morning shoveling snow. Wet, heavy, sloppy snow. My muscles, joints, and lower back weren't too happy about it. So I wanted to share a quick refresher on ways you (and I!) can minimize the chances for a snow-shoveling injury this winter season.

First of all, invest in a good snow shovel with a curved ergonomic handle. They significantly reduce the amount of strain on your lower back. Look for a model with a full metal blade and an extremely secure attachment to the handle. (I've had numerous blade-handle attachments become sloppy and loose, which causes the blade to shift about in maddening fashion as you shovel.) In my experience, shovels with plastic blades don't hold up to a season of regular use and abuse, nor do they effectively deal with icy surfaces. In particular, the thin metal strip attached to the front of the blade seems to always get worn out from repeated scrapings.

Next, focus on proper shoveling technique. If possible, always push snow to the side rather than lift it. If you must lift it, face the loaded shovel blade with your shoulders and hips square towards it. Bend with your knees and not your lower back. Keep your back straight (think about pushing your chest forward) and then lift the shovel using your leg muscles.

Now it's time to deposit your shovel-load somewhere else. If possible, walk it over rather than throw it. If you need to toss it, avoid twisting your back as you do so. Instead, turn your body to face the direction you're going to throw. When you toss it, try and keep the blade close to your body and your center of gravity. Avoid extending your arms in the process, which increases stress on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

Proper technique is more time-consuming than just hurling the snow willy-nilly, but the amount of time it takes pales in comparison to the pain, hassle, and inconvenience of a back injury. Shovel on!

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.