Plotting out your garden space, amending your soil, digging your hands in the sun-warmed dirt, and daily rejoicing at the progress of sprouting seeds – does this sound like your kind of fun? March is in full-swing, and if you’re a fan of gardening, you can hardly wait for growing season to begin.
Gardening can be so many things – a hobby, a passion, a way to provide food for your family, and a pretty good workout. And if you’re not careful, it can also be a surefire way to leave you sore and out of commission. So before you pull the shovel, spade, and potting soil out of the shed, pay attention to these ideas for back exercises to get you ready for gardening.
- The squat. You know how you always hear “lift with your legs, not your back?” This is crucial when hefting around landscaping rocks and bags of compost. And getting stronger with squats helps you to make sure your legs are ready for the challenge. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and act like you’re about to sit down in a chair, your bottom sticking as far back as you can manage. Keep your weight in your heels, and your knees behind your toes. Aim for two to three sets of ten. Try holding some weights when you get stronger.
- The dead lift. This one is a great back-conditioner for everything from pulling weeds to picking up buckets. Hold some weights (light to start with) in your hands, and stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, keeping your upper back straight, bend at the waist to as far as you’re comfortable, and stand back up, making sure your lower back muscles are engaged. Try letting your weights slide along your legs for the entire down and up movement.
- The renegade row. This exercise works your upper back, your core, and your arms. Put two hand weights on the floor shoulder-width apart. Get in push-up position with each hand on a weight, with all your weight in your toes and your hands. Keep your back straight, and bring elbows straight up and back as high as you can, while holding the weights.
Bonus tip: to get primed for lawn-mowing, you can even throw a few push-ups in the mix in between rows. You know, since you’re already in push-up position. Just for fun.
Once your back muscles are nice and warmed up from the exercises, or after a round of gardening or yard work, it’s a good idea to do some long stretches. Stretching after working helps keep your muscles from knotting up, and keeps your back flexible and ready for the next project.
- The cat and cow. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you might be familiar with this common stretch duo. Get down on all fours, knees and hands shoulder-width apart. Start with the cow stretch, bringing your head down between your arms, bringing your belly in and up as far as you can, making an upward arch with your back. Hold this for a few breaths. Then move to the cat stretch, bringing your head up, chest open, and allow your back to gently arch. Repeat each of these a few times, allowing time to breathe during each pose.
- The forward fold. This stretch tackles the back and hamstrings. Allow yourself to fold forward as far down as you can go, resting your hands on a step or chair for stable balance. Without bouncing or over-stretching, allow the muscles in your lower back to lengthen and relax. Hold for several breaths before slowly standing up and then doing the stretch again.
Your trainer at Fitness Together will have some additional ideas for how to care for your body during the warmer months. Happy gardening season, and we wish you many happy, healthy weeks of digging and planting.