By Colin Hillson

Like an elite athlete getting ready for the start of the competition season, you too should be thinking about getting ready for the fall yard work season. After the easy breezy summer full of push-assist lawn mowers and light electric trimmers, we are about to enter the toughest part of the yard work cycle. Mother nature eases us in with raking the never ending leaves that fall from Calgary’s mirad of poplar trees, but before too long we will have a fall snowstorm that leaves us with a soggy mess in our yard. Before you go out there and dive into raking or shoveling and throw something out, let’s think about one of the major muscle groups involved during the shoulder season, your shoulders.

While shoveling and raking, our shoulders take a considerable amount of strain. The muscles hurt most often in the shoulder are the four muscles of the rotator cuff. To reduce rotator cuff injuries, the muscles around our shoulder should be strengthened so that they can hold the shoulder in a safe position during exercise. When our shoulder is held in a safe position, the rotator cuff is left to do its job of moving the shoulder, and not have to take the load of lifting a wet pile of leaves. The most secure position for the shoulder to rest “back and down” (called retraction and depression of the shoulder blades), when the shoulders are lowered away from your ears, and your shoulder blades moved together as if puffing out your chest. Muscles such as the lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and rear deltoid will do the bulk of this work.

Exercises such as face pulls with a band, rowing movements, and lat pull downs are great for teaching our shoulders to be held in a secure position. To strengthen the rotator cuff muscles themselves, working through your shoulder’s rotation against a light resistance band would be a great quick warm up to do before heading out to keep your yard as beautiful as you’ve kept it all summer.

If you have any questions or concerns about current shoulder issues, please contact the clinic to book with one of our SE Calgary or SW Calgary physiotherapists!