Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Shovel Heavy Snow Like a Boss

My first article about shoveling snow described a technique I use to shovel faster with less stress on the back. That technique works great with lighter snow loads. We’ve been getting more snow in the Midwest recently so I wanted to go over another technique I use for heavier snow falls.

In the first technique, the back hand is tucked in front of the hip to better control the shovel. The other hand holds onto the shovel as close to the other end as is comfortable. On most snow shovels, this means the forward hand is still a distance away from the snow. While this is fine for lighter loads, it is less effective for heavier loads due to leverage issues.

To adjust for this, move the forward hand almost all the way to the snow end of the shovel and let the back hand go back behind your hips. This allows you to keep the load as close to your body as possible when lifting.

When you stand up and lift, keep the front arm straight so it acts like the hoist lines on a construction crane. This will reduce the work your smaller arms muscles need to do. On a crane, the lifting isn’t done by the hoist lines but rather by the motor that winds it up. The lines just transmit the forces to the load.

In this case, the “lifting motor” is your legs and your torso and arms transmit those forces. Your back hand functions to keep the shovel level and to steer it when you throw the snow away. When you pivot to dump the snow, you can use your hips and torso together. Since the load is essentially next to your body, twisting your torso won’t be as stressful on your body compared to the other technique where it is farther away.

This method should feel similar to lifting a box with proper form (using the legs, not the back). Your back and other core muscles just function to maintain your posture. They don’t do any lifting.

Finally, since your center of gravity is kept near your center of balance throughout the technique, you don’t have to reset your balance for each load. Essentially, you are just doing leg squats with weights. This allows you to perform each repetition more quickly.

Remember, if the snow is particularly heavy or high, shovel each spot in layers. Work all the way vertically down the snow pile before moving your forward. This technique is especially well suited for working vertically through snow since you don’t even need to move your feet for each repetition. Use this technique and you can plow throw piles of snow in record time!

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