Gardener Must-Have: A Strong Back!

I’m starting out the 30 days of ‘Gardener Shape Up – Being Mindful of Health,’ with a post focused on a critical item for happy gardening – a strong back.  Well actually, knowing what it’s like to have a strained back,  it’s a critical item to get the clippers from a top shelf or even put your pants on!  What I mean is, your back connects everything and when it is unhappy, odds are you’re in a disagreeable mood too.

Although I have exercised regularly for years, (even longer than I have been gardening) each year returning to the garden and the many lifting, bending, stretching activities…I notice it gets a bit harder for my body to handle.

In particular, I notice the stiff, achy feeling in the lower back and hamstrings that are present any time I put a good amount of work in.  This year I’m hoping to avoid some of the nagging aches and tightness by working beforehand, BEFORE I hit the garden, to strengthen them.   I really don’t want to be limited in the scope of projects I take on this season and that is motivation to be disciplined about strengthening them.

After quite alot of research, ranging from the MAYO clinic to MMA videos, I’ve selected  3 exercises to do 3-4x per week to develop more strength in my lower back and hamstrings. And of course, since everything is connected these will improve core strength as well. These exercises (or a form of them) are present in most any back strengthening information you come across.  They are found in physical therapy, yoga, pilates and even intense body building regimes.

Here’s a bit of an eclectic collection of video and instruction that you can check out to learn the proper way to do each exercise.  All information is brief and accurate in showing how to do the exercise properly.  Afterall, time spent here could be time spent doing the exercise!

tumblr_ln5xa4l8Gu1qfmjcoThe Superman:  This strengthens abs and lower back and gluts secondarily.   There are several versions that can be done as you will see in this 2 minute demo. (Don’t be concerned that since this comes from Popworkouts that I think celebrity workouts are the only ticket for us gardeners to become new and improved!) 🙂

Superman demo  (scroll down a little)

hamstrings-buttocks-bridge The Bridge:  This exercise strengthens your gluts, hamstrings and lower back and can be modified to become more challenging as strength improves.   Here’s a 2 minute video showing the exercise and possible options and you can choose to watch either a guy or girl.

Male demo

Female demo

bird dgo-2The Bird Dog:  Attributed often to Dr. Stuart M. McGill this exercise is very popular for improving lower back and core strength.  It works abs, back, butt and hips and can be done anywhere, but pay attention to the details of body position for best result.

Bird dog step-by-step

One other simple reference guide for improving back strength comes from Real Simple.  I like this easy guide because several of the exercises include lunging, turning and twisting (in a controlled manner) and that is so the case when it comes to gardening.  I mean seriously when do we ever have complete access to what we are working on?  There is always quite a lot of leaning, reaching and twisting involved, so some of these exercises can help with those movements.  Also, this regime is quick – 15 minutes!

Here’s to strength of the back side!  Feel free to share if you find this info helpful and have additional comments.