Shoveling is an ancient method of digging that hasn't evolved very far in the last few thousand years of civilization. Regular hand shovels today are still a basic, primitive but effective design. Since shoveling typically involves repeated movement and the transfer of materials, such as snow, gravel, or dirt, from one place to another, it is important to learn how to shovel correctly in order to avoid injury or strain.
When learning how to shovel properly, one important factor is the weight of the shovel. Many people will take the heaviest shovel available, assuming that it will have more power when digging. In fact, a lighter shovel reduces strain on the muscles and often has the same carrying capacity as a regular shovel. The weight of the material being shoveled should also factor in; if the shovel is used for light material, such as snow, it can be lighter than a shovel used to move rocks or packed dirt.
Understanding how to shovel without injury or muscle strain involves knowing that the body must be prepared for this kind of activity. Many health experts recommend performing stretching exercises before beginning a bout of shoveling. Pay particular attention to the neck, shoulders and back while stretching, as these areas will likely receive the most stress during the work.
In addition to stretching beforehand, how to shovel correctly and efficiently depends on posture and the type of movement used. When scooping with the shovel, bend the legs rather than the back. The legs are built to handle more weight and strain, and help balance the movement across the body. Try to avoid bending from the waist, as this cuts the power of the body in half and puts tremendous strain on the lower back. Some suggest placing hands apart on the shovel handle to create additional leverage, if necessary.
Obtaining proper equipment is part of the process of learning how to shovel correctly. Consider wearing thick gloves to protect hands from sores and blisters. Some safety experts recommend wearing protective eye gear to prevent dirt, rock, snow, or other shoveled substances from reaching the eyes. Sturdy shoes should also be worn, to help brace but also to protect the feet in case a swing is misjudged and the shovel hits the legs.
Shoveling in the snow brings its own challenges, as weather and increased exertion levels add additional challenges. Be certain to dress warmly, covering the whole body to ward off chances of frostbite. Snow shoveling is believed to put a lot of strain on the heart, thanks to the combination of the weather and the exertion. Some health experts recommend that people with heart conditions or a history of heart attacks do not shovel snow or do so only for extremely limited periods of time.