Health and fitness: Seasonal training is good for gardeners

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By Kent Pegg

This is the time of year when many of you are venturing out of the house and into your yards and gardens.

While gardening can be a fun and effective way to get some exercise, a little work in the gym will allow you to get even more out of the experience and ensure that you stay injury free all summer long.

One of the great things I hear is how people’s workouts are positively affecting their lives. And one of the most common statements this time of year is how much more yard and garden work people are able to do if they’ve been exercising.

Of course, to get the most out of this summer’s growing season it would be best if you’ve been working out all winter long. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late. Focus on strengthening exercises for the legs, back and shoulders to get ready for the summer gardening.

As always, if you’re not sure how to perform any of the exercises or have any health or physical challenges, check with a health or fitness professional to make sure you get the most out of your workout sessions and eliminate the potential for injuries.

Your legs are an important body part for gardening because you’ll most likely be using them to do things you haven’t done much of over the winter months: walking, squatting and carrying heavy items will no doubt be a part of your gardening activities.

For your leg exercises, focus on both compound and isolation exercises. Good compound exercises are squats, lunges, and leg presses. If you don’t have a lot of gym experience, perform your squats on exercise machines rather than with free weights.

Lunges should be performed from a stationary position and not done by thrusting forward and back.

As for leg presses, always use a segmented back leg press that allows you to round your back and prevent injuries to the lower back that could occur on a flat back leg press.

Isolation exercises on exercise machines will help strengthen your legs as well. Leg extensions, leg curls, hip extension, hip flexion and adduction exercises are all good choices.

Your back workout should include exercises for your trapezius, rhomboid and lat muscle, as well as specific exercises for your lower back. Rowing exercises will work your traps and rhomboids while pull-downs will work your lats.

Use special care when working out your lower back. This is a very tight area of the body and needs to be warmed up before actively engaging in exercise. Perform a minimum of two to three other exercises for the back or legs before working out your lower back to ensure the area has good blood flow and is pliable.

Remember that your lower back will respond better to high volume and high frequency training rather than high intensity. That means use higher reps and sets and keep the weights or resistance in the low to moderate range.

The best exercises for your lower back are good morning exercises with dumbbells and back hyperextensions performed on a 45-degree bench. There are also some floor exercises that your fitness professional should be able to show you that you can do at home or in the gym.

For your shoulders, focus first on shoulder raises. Use dumbbells and do these raises to the front, the side, and the rear to make sure you have strength in all ranges of motion in the shoulder. If you’ve been working out for a while, include shoulder presses in your exercise routine.

Remember to regularly include exercises for your chest, biceps and triceps to make sure you keep your body proportional. And, as always, the more ab work you do the better.

Finally, make sure you participate in a regular program for flexibility. Take a stretching or yoga class or develop your own routine. Flexibility will be a vital key to keep you injury free throughout the summer.

So get to those workouts and make this your most productive and safest year ever in your lawns and gardens.

Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center.  If you have any questions about this information, call him at 662-5232.