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Shoveling Guidelines

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

Shoveling can be backbreaking labor. To avoid undue injury to yourself or the shovel, follow these digging tips to learn how to use a shovel correctly.

Digging In Do

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DO place the shovel head (not the handle) perpendicular to the ground, keeping the handle well out in front and the blade close to your feet. Put the center of one foot on the step and push down. A concentrated push, even a forceful stomp, may be needed to sink the blade. This is the first step to using a shovel correctly.

Digging In Don't

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DON'T stomp too

hard or jump on the head with both feet. "If you have to jump on the shovel, you need a pick or a backhoe," says Roger.

Prying Do

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DO, with the shovel head well planted and your back straight, pull your arms toward you, pivot the shovel on the head's stout shoulders, and brace your arm on your thigh if necessary.

Prying Don't

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DON'T move your hands too far down the handle or you'll be forced

to bend over at an uncomfortable angle. Keep in mind that a shovel can dislodge small stones, but it's not a pry bar. For large or stubborn rocks use a pick or digging bar instead.

Lifting and Tossing Do

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DO bend at the knees, keeping your back straight, and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift with your legs, all to avoid straining your back. Use the momentum generated by the upward thrust of your legs to propel the shovel's contents into a wheelbarrow or onto a tarp.

Lifting and Tossing Don't

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DON'T overextend your arms—the closer the load remains to your

body, the lighter it feels—or twist your back while shoveling (backbones aren't designed to move that way).

Chopping Do

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DO flip a long-handled, round-point shovel around so the head faces you to cut roots or clean up the sides of a hole. This orients the back of the shovel parallel to the sides of the hole, allowing you to chop downward with great force.

Chopping Don't

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

DON'T try to chop with the head facing the other way or you'll have to push the handle too far away to get the head vertical. Combined, these digging tips will help you learn how to use a shovel correctly so that you can avoid injuring yourself or damaging your tools.