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  • Writer's pictureMarc Lalonde

One small hand adjustment can make all the difference when shovelling

Winter is dark and cold, but at least shovelling doesn't have to hurt

When snow comes – as it does every winter – and in copious amounts, it’s natural to want to clear walkways and driveways.

After all, no one wants to be snowbound, but, moreover, no one wants to injure themselves, either.

The traditional method of shovelling – with the bottom hand on the shovel palm side up – has been a great way for generations of people who live in the snow three months a year to hurt their backs.

We often say ‘lift with your legs,’ when talking about shovelling snow. But what does that mean, exactly?

It means bending at the knees – and not at the hips -- when picking up snow.

There’s one weightlifting technique I’ve been using for years to clear my driveway. I’m very happy to say that I have never in my life hired a snow-clearing service in 19 years of home ownership, and I’d like that streak to continue.

The way I clear the really heavy, plow-left-a-ridge-of-heavy-snow-at-the-end-of-the-driveway snow is to dig my shovel into the snow, bend my knees and wedge that shovel in.

Then comes the good part. I change my bottom hand position on the shovel from a forehand (or supinated grip) to a backhand grip (or a neutral grip). That takes your back out of the equation and requires the shoveller to bend their knees in order to lift the snow and move it out of the way.

Using a deadlift grip – one very, small, simple adjustment – can save you a winter’s worth of back problems and allow you to even get a little bit of a fun workout while going out to clear the snow.

On the other hand, getting out and clearing the snow after a storm can be a demanding bit of business for those people who maybe haven’t been regularly active.

Last week, a public-safety official I interviewed offered another great idea for those who maybe have concerns about their own ability to move the snow. He presented the notion that dividing the job in half is a good way to save yourself some trauma, backaches and potential heart problems.

That’s a fantastic way of going about it. Even if the snow hasn’t stopped falling yet, doing a bit of shovelling before the storm is over can save the shoveller a world of headaches.

And if you consider using the backhand grip while shovelling the snow that is still on the ground at the end, you might well avoid the backaches that go with it.

With eight more weeks of winter on the way, maybe it’s worth a try.

This text was originally published in Iori:wase January 25, 2024

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