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BODY MECHANICS FOR THE FALL CLEAN-UP

A photo of a man raking leaves in a garden
Raking leaves

Fall is approaching!  With that in mind, it is important for us to take into consideration all of the lawn and yardwork people will be completing in the upcoming months.  Performing this work can be physically taxing and knowing how to work smarter and more safely can be extremely beneficial for our bodies.  Some of the positions that are especially important to take into account are those that involve lifting, squatting down, and using pushing/pulling tools, such as rakes or push mowers.  Performing these movements and positions with improper form can lead to injuries.  The most common injury that occurs with improper form is a back injury.  Here are some tips for performing these movements correctly so that we protect our backs while preparing our yards so they look great for the fall season!

Squat:

Squatting occurs more than we think when working on outdoor lawn and yard care. Anytime someone is moving from a low-to-high or-high to-low position, a squat should be utilized. Some common activities you will need to squat for are weeding, lifting items, gathering tools, or placing leaves into bags.  The list could go on and on!

A photo of a woman performing a squat exercise.

Proper squat form is:

  • Feet placed shoulder width apart and pointing forward.
  • Back in neutral spine position – not be excessively bent forwards or backwards.
  • Lower down as if sitting into a chair, bending at the knees and the hips
  • Ensure that the knees do not collapse inward – they must stay in line with your feet.

Lift:

Lifting is an important function of the squatting motion outlined above. Moving tools, landscaping materials, heavy bags, or pumpkins occurs throughout the fall season and in order to protect the back, proper form needs to be used.  If someone is lifting from the ground or a lower height, such as at the waist, it is important to use the same technique in order to remain safe.

A photo of a woman lifting a box with proper form.

Proper Lifting form is:

  • Utilize the same tips from above in order to squat down to pick up the item(s)
  • Bring the load as close to your body as is comfortable – this helps reduce the stress on the lower back.
  • Abdominal muscles should be engaged throughout the movement.
  • Prior to lifting up, make sure to tighten the buttocks muscles.
  • Lift by pushing up through the legs with the back remaining flat/neutral.
  • DO NOT: lift and twist or lift from a side position, make sure you are square to (facing) the load.
  • DO NOT: Lift in an unbalanced position

Push/Pull (Raking):

Leaves will soon be filling the yards around the state. In order to clear out the yards, many of us resort to raking.  After a long day of raking, there is often soreness present due to improper form used.  In order to have the most effective and safe technique for clearing out all of those leaves, follow these guidelines.

  • Use a wide base of support with feet staggered slightly one in front of the other.
  • Use the arms and legs while maintaining a rigid core with your back in neutral position.
  • Bend from the legs to get lower to the ground.
  • The closer you keep the rake to your body, the less stress and strain will be placed on the body.
  • Avoid twisting the body or sweeping to the side –  this will increase strain placed on the back.
  • Alternate the side you work on if possible.

In all of these physical activities, make sure to stay hydrated, take breaks when possible, and warm up prior to initiating more challenging activities. Use these tips to protect your back and maintain your yard! Fall is on the way!