Raking Leaves Safely and Effectively: Rake Without the Ache
Raking leaves is a seasonal task that not only tidies up your yard but can also be quite the workout, burning up to 300 calories an hour. However, without the right techniques, it can lead to back pain and other injuries. This guide offers tips on how to “Rake Without the Ache,” ensuring you keep your yard clean and your body pain-free.
When to Rake:
- Timing is Key: Wait until most leaves have fallen but before rain makes them heavy and slippery, which increases the risk of lower back injury.
Choosing the Right Tools:
- Select a Large-Headed Rake: A rake with a large head and a comfortable grip handle (enhanced with gloves) makes the job more efficient. Ergonomic designs are a personal preference but not a necessity.
- Dress Appropriately: Wear gloves for a firm grip, a lightweight jacket for variable temperatures, and slip-proof shoes.
- Butt-Lifting Technique: A practical warm-up mimicking the motion of lifting leaves. With feet wide apart and bending at the hips (not the back), practice lifting motions to prepare your muscles.
- With a wide straddled stance, move as close as you can to the load.
- Bend from the hip and stick out your butt – to keep your spinal curve. Your spine should be curved as depicted by the green line in the photo above.
- Grab as many of the leaves as you can.
- Using your large leg muscles, simply straighten your legs.
- Do 3 sets of 10.
To Turn: Turn both feet first, and your lower back will follow.
Studies by Dr. Stuart McGill have shown that maintaining the curve in your lower back is the key to decreasing the pressure in your disc and your spine.
Not warmed up yet. Go for a walk around the yard then do another 3 sets of 10 butt-lifting techniques. I’m quite sure you will be properly warmed up.
- Avoid Bending Forward: Especially if you have a disc issue, as this can exacerbate problems.
Be careful of some websites that recommend forward bending to warm-up. If you have a disc problem this is a sure way to put your disc out. Later after you finish raking you may have sciatica
- Switch Sides Frequently: To evenly distribute strain and avoid overworking one side.
- Crab-Walk Raking: Move sideways in a wide-to-narrow stance, keeping the rake in front of you to avoid bending or twisting your back.
- Use Bins Over Bags: Baskets and bins are easier to fill without bending. For smaller piles, consider the innovative “Leg-Rake Technique” to minimize bending by using your leg to assist in gathering leaves.
I like to use apple baskets and recycling bins and not bags. They are sturdy and easier to put leaves into.
Using the Butt-Lifting technique stick out your butt keeping the curve in your spine then grab a pile of leaves and just plop them into the basket or bin.
Another key technique that you can use to save your back is the Leg-Rake Technique. This technique is for people with excellent stability and not for the average person. I use the Leg-Rake Technique which I discovered for saving my own back.
Leg-Rake Bagging Technique: Small to Medium Piles of Leaves
No forward bending so saves your Lower back
- Get as close to the pile of leaves as possible or in the middle of the leaves.
- Get the basket or bin right beside the pile of leaves
- Use your leg to pinch the leaves against the rake. Lift the leg and rake and plop it in the basket/bin. It doesn’t work as well with bags of leaves.
If you have a lot of leaves you probably do need to use compost bags and recycling bags. I usually end of up using as many baskets and bins as possible before moving on bags.
Combine the Techniques: For Large Piles of Leaves
- Use the Butt lifting Technique I mentioned earlier
- When the pile is smaller use the Leg-Rake technique
- Take Breaks: Especially important for those who aren’t regularly active, to prevent overexertion and potential heart risks.
- Mindful Leaf Piling: Keep piles away from roadsides to avoid accidents with children or vehicles.
Prevent Injuries and Keep These Two Points in Mind
Overfilling will make your container heavier increasing the likelihood that you will put out your lower back.
Putting the bag over your shoulders is a bad idea You will twist and usually bend forward. If there aren’t too many sharp objects in the bag or on the ground I tend to drag the bag or use the wagon that I used to drag around my son.
Prevent A Heart Attack
People who don’t exercise regularly and are past middle age are more likely to have a heart attack. The perfect combination is if you go out raking hard after a heavy Thanksgiving meal. I recommend taking a break every 1/2 hour.
Pile The Leaves Away From The Side Of The Road
Kids love to hide in piles of leaves. People have parked on these piles of leaves by the side of the road causing serious injury and even death according to Dr. Oz. This probably only happens on roads with no curb on the side of the road.
Compost Don’t Burn
Don’t burn the leaves, compost them yourself or put them out for the city to recycle them back into useful material. It’s better than putting it out in the trash.
- Stretching after raking is crucial to prevent soreness. Focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, chest, and shoulders to ensure your muscles recover properly.
By following these guidelines, you can maintain your yard without compromising your physical health. Remember, the goal is to manage your outdoor chores efficiently while keeping your well-being in check.
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