"The lower back and knees most often pay the price," says Rachel Hazuga, M.S., an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin–LaCrosse.
Here are the ways to properly perform the most common gardening maneuvers, plus a few exercises to strengthen your gardening muscles.
Muscles used: Abs, back, legs.
The right way to do it: Focus on tightening your leg muscles (your quadriceps and your hamstrings) as you bend forward. Keep your knees slightly bent.
Try this exercise: Bird dog
Get down on all fours, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles while simultaneously raising your right arm and straightening your left leg, keeping your back straight. Hold for 6 seconds. Return to the starting position, switch sides and repeat 10 times.
Muscles used: Core, shoulders, arms.
The right way to do it: Use short, quick motions, and keep the rake close to your body. Switch sides every 2 to 3 minutes.
Try this exercise: Countertop pushup
Stand facing a countertop, with your hands shoulder width apart on the counter. Tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight as you bend your arms into a pushup position. Straighten your arms, and repeat 15 times Use short, quick motions, and keep the rake close to your body. Switch sides every 2 to 3 minutes.
Pushing a Wheelbarrow
Muscles used: Core, quadriceps, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, arms.
The right way to do it: Load the wheelbarrow with only as much weight as you can handle without straining. First, use your leg muscles, not your back to lift the wheelbarrow; next, use your arm muscles to push the load forward.
Try this exercise: Modified plank
Lie on a mat, supporting your upper body with your forearms and your lower body with your knees; your stomach stays raised as you keep your body in a straight line without arching your back. Hold for 15 seconds, working up to 60 seconds.
Muscles used: Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings.
The right way to do it: Keeping your torso upright, lower yourself until your bottom almost touches the ground. Try to keep your weight on your heels.
Try this exercise: Chair squat
Stand in front of a chair, feet shoulder-width apart, arms in front of you. Bend your knees and slowly squat, gently touching the chair without fully sitting down, then stand up using only your legs. Repeat 10 times.