Gardening can be an enjoyable summertime activity if you know how to help your body adjust to its physical demands. Since we live in the Northeast, our long winters prevent us from working in the garden all year long. This article will focus on the specific physical stresses we encounter while enjoying this hobby and ways to address them.

Although some heavy lifting can be involved, most of what we do in the garden is considered low-intensity, long-duration lifting, carrying, lowering, bending and reaching. The most common injuries reported from gardening are due to the repetitive load on the spine and knees. A training program that emphasizes proper mechanics of movement will serve the gardening enthusiast well.

Teaching the exerciser how to properly hinge at their hips will ensure they will avoid excessive spinal flexion in the sagital plane (i.e. forward bending) as well as excessive compressive forces on the knee. The traditional bent leg deadlift and forward reaching lunge are ideal exercises that train the participant to raise and lower their center of mass safely. Various torso rotation exercises will ensure the exerciser learns how to rotate their trunk as one unit, thus avoiding rotational stress on the spine.

Because these exercises are performed in neutral posture, the exerciser will receive all the core work they need specific to the demands of gardening. We must train our core specifically for the anticipated demands. It will do us little good to lie on our backs and do crunches to strengthen our core muscles. I’ve never seen a gardener working on their back!

Most gardening requires flexion or bending of the body forward and reaching. It is important to “reset” the body with extension exercises. If you’ve got a full day of gardening ahead of you, be sure to plan periodic “extension” breaks. A simple standing extension or prone press-up will do the trick.

At One on One, we feel strongly that you should always train with purpose. Rest assured, if you are properly prepared, you will enjoy your gardening experience more and feel significantly better afterward.

Click here for all of the exercise descriptions and photos.

If you have any questions about these gardening tips or sport/activity specific training in general, feel free to contact Kym Burke at