Get Rid of Injuries Raking Leaves Once and For All

Pumpkin flavored everything abounds (especially microbrews that taste like Yankee candles), playoff baseball commands the attention of the sportsball world and people gear up for the most scantily clad, adult holiday of the year. Fall has dropped. That’s not the only thing that’s dropping. 

No, it's not the bass. It's...

LEAVES!

Leaves everywhere!

I see this as a prelude to the white stuff that falls out of the sky.

If leaves aren’t scattered around on the ground, it doesn’t much feel like fall does it? What’s a pumpkin patch without leaves? What’s a haunted trail without leaves? What’s a backyard without leaves?

Ugh. I don't know about you, but I cringe seeing a backyard full of leaves. Don’t lie, I know a bunch of you out there reading this dread having to rake those evil minions of autumn that fall like paratroopers invading your yard. Hours upon hours of raking, stuffing gigantic, black plastic trash bag after another and lugging them streetside.

Almost makes you feel like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption carrying out cup after cup of dirt into the exercise yard and dumping them out.

In the end you're rewarded with a shooting, piercing pain in your back later on, after what feels like working on a chain gang all day long.

Back pain so severe that your face melts off. 

Back injuries due to raking leaves are a real problem this time of year, across a majority of America. We’re heading right into the season, so let’s take a look at how to get rid of injuries raking leaves once and for all.

Don’t Let Your Back Get Raked

As you can see from the picture below, we’re hitting peak fall foliage season. This means armies of people will be outside over the coming weeks raking leaves with diligence.

We're still wearing shorts and bbqing in Texas.

This also means, a large number of those people will be injuring themselves while raking and it will most likely be their backs. Look at the infographic below. 

Over 28,000 people a year in the United States injure their backs, necks and shoulders raking leaves. That’s no small number, and it could likely include you, if you’re not taking the proper precautions.

Thousands of stick figures look like they've found money.

Before we get into the precautions you can take to avoid injury, let’s take a closer look at raking leaves and what it involves.

Raking It In

The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn raking leaves. According to Livestrong, “A 125-pound person burns about 120 calories raking for a half hour, while a 185-pound person burns 178 calories. Some calculators put the burn rate at a slightly lower rate of just 90 or 139 calories, respectively.” They continue by noting this is more calories than a basic weightlifting session.

Choose your weapon wisely.

Raking leaves works “the major muscle groups in your back, shoulders, arms, and legs, as well as improving your cardiovascular health by raising your heart rate.” Just scooping them into bags for 30 minutes meets the daily recommendation for cardiovascular exercise set by the Centers for Disease Control.

If you’ve ever raked leaves, you know what a grueling, exhausting task it can be. Here’s why.

You’re not in the gym, you’re in real life getting a full body workout, from the lower body to core to upper body, so there are multiple reasons. “One is because in a typical gym-based exercise you are performing in a single plane of motion and isolating maybe one or two muscle groups.  With raking, you are moving across multiple planes and working several muscle groups at once.  So the workload is being distributed amongst all those muscles and therefore there is less demand on just one or two.  This is what we call ‘functional exercise.’”

Even then, they knew it was better than Pilates and spin class combined.

Functional Exercise = Muscle Symphony

Not only do you have to get a lot of muscles working to rake leaves, but you have to get them working together in harmony, much like a symphony orchestra.

Raking leaves is a pulling activity, much like paddling a canoe, except you’re standing. The pulling motion calls in your upper-body pulling muscles, like your upper back muscles and biceps, both heavily used for raking.

Raking leaves also involves a lot of trunk rotation so it’s quite important to have a strong core, strong abs, and strong obliques, which assist in turning the torso.

To get all your muscles working in harmony, you have to be a bit of an orchestra conductor. How do you do this? You start by following the proper mechanics of raking leaves. Who knew?

I hope Aaron Rodgers discount double checks his raking form. 

If proper mechanics aren’t enough for you, here’s a quality, thorough, raking guide from AARP, that works well no matter how old you are.

And if that’s still not enough for you, read on, we’ve got you covered.

Strength Training for Leaf Raking

Yeah that’s right. Bet you never heard that phrase strung together before. If you want to do some resistance training to get yourself in shape for the backyard landscaping job, here’s what you need to do (Bonus- your motivation to exercise may increase too).

Taking into consideration the muscles groups that were highlighted earlier when raking leaves, you’re going to want to do pull-ups, bent over rows, pushups, dips, and planks. These movements will strengthen your core and upper body.

Here’s a good vid to start with that has your bent over rows, pushups, and planks covered. The best thing about this workout is all you need is a simple resistance band.

For your pull-ups and dips go here:

Finally, for your planks, check out this tutorial: 

Time to Turn Over a New Leaf

If you plan on picking up the rake and hitting the leaves hard soon, here’s a bunch of helpful info for you.

So I’m going to bet you didn’t know that there’s a proper leaf raking technique. There is indeed. The proper form isn’t anything complicated or difficult, however, it will go a long way to making your job easier and not tweaking your back.

Have a look at this quick vid to learn the proper technique:

If you didn’t get your technique down in that video, have a look at this one. A doctor of chiropractic not only demonstrates proper leaf raking form, but he also teaches some stretches to do beforehand to get warmed up.

Finally, to make it an absolute windfall of leaf raking wisdom here’s the best video of the bunch.

The protagonist in this video is the warm, genuine, and earnest grandfather everyone wishes they had. This video doesn’t show you stretches or form, but he lifehacks the hell out of a laborious job.

He’ll help you have your leaves raked in half the time. To steal the top comment on it, “Always trust a guy that carries 3 pens daily.” Hilarious. It’s even funnier when you see that this video has over 1.5 MILLION views in just under 2 years.

Yes, people care about raking leaves THAT much. Watch, enjoy and beleaf in a smarter way to clear your backyard.

When you're done raking, here's a high-quality and thorough guide to post-raking stretches and soreness.

Thanks for reading Fringe Nation. Hope this eases your leaf raking burden. As always, if you have any feedback or suggestions, put them in the comments below. We’d love to hear about how you turned leaf raking from a chore into something a bit more enjoyable.

 Not sure if the split second feeling of having a leafless yard or a prescription drug commercial.


Adam Miezio
Adam Miezio

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