How to Prevent Injuries on the Homestead
Through improper training and supervision 12 years ago, I tore my ACL and MCL by being dragged by a 1,200-pound mule. Up until recently, my knee still gave me problems. Consulting with my physician, she told me that I should be running, cycling, and doing strength exercises more often. Not wanting to get injured, I sought out a personal trainer to build strength and confidence.
Raising backyard poultry and livestock on a small homestead has many benefits. One of which is that you can make every activity an exercise. (Have you seen Mike Dickson — the Fit Farmer on YouTube?) I also wanted a trainer to be able to prevent future injuries. Aging in place, especially on a beautiful homestead, sounds ideal. Learning how to properly move, lift, and bend will help you achieve that goal.
Anthony Angelo earned his Master’s in Exercise, Physiology, and Nutrition and is now a personal trainer in Tampa, FL. With a Bachelors’s in Kinesiology, an Associate’s degree in Massage Therapy and Physiology, and an all-around animal lover, he is a great resource for preventing injuries on the homestead.
Angelo says that people usually become injured due to the positioning of their joints. “A lot of times, when people are lifting, they are not engaging their core, their glutes, or their back. What ends up happening is that when they begin to lift completely with their back, the spine cannot support all that weight and you get injured.”
Contrary to the expression “lift with your legs,” Angelo says that you must lift with your legs and your back.
“To lift properly,” Angelo explains, “involves a proper hip hinge and keeping the load close to your body.”
He adds that the further away the object is, the more extended your arms are, and the greater the chance of the lower back being injured. The closer the object is to you, the more likely you will be safe.
How to Lift a Feed Bag
“When lifting a heavy feed bag, I want the bag closer to my body,” Angelo says. “Whether I have straight arms or bent arms, I want to start with a hip hinge. Push the hips back, engage the core, take the legs wider, get under the bag, and then when you stand up, you lift with your hips and your back while keeping your core engaged.”
How to Lift a Bale of Hay
Angelo says that lifting a bale of hay is just like the bag of feed, except since your arms must be wider, you have to get closer to the hay. “If you have to twist to place the hay or feed into a wheelbarrow, engage (tighten) the core and glutes, hold the object close to your body, and keep the engagement in the core the entire time.”
If you can’t lift up the bale of hay, Angelo says you can roll it into the wheelbarrow but be cautious of the positioning.
How to Lift a Chicken
“If the chicken runs away from you and you must extend your back or arms, you could get injured,” Angelo says. Use a wider stance and hip hinge, just like the previous movements to avoid injury.
How to Fill a Bucket from a Rain Barrel
Exercises to Prevent Injuries
If you know your body cannot do the above exercises, practicing a hip hinge is a great way to strengthen your muscles and confidence Angelo says. “Push your hips back, come down to a low surface, ideally something that is 18 inches tall — like the height of a normal chair — and then stand back up. The biggest thing is you want to keep your lower back and pelvis in a neutral position, which means you are not overarching and you are not rounding.
A hip hinge activates all the muscles you need to lift something off of the ground. Practicing this exercise will help you lift objects. “If you truly only lift with your legs, you could injure your knees,” Angelo warns. “You could do this exercise every day but, more importantly, you should do it every time you squat down.”
By training your body correctly in your daily life, not just when you are lifting heavy objects, your body will remember the correct form. Angelo says when it is time to lift something, your body will do it automatically.
How to Walk on Uneven Surfaces
Chickens are known excavators, which could lead to injuries.
“The bulkier your shoes are, the less feedback you have with the ground,” Angelo explains. “So having a more minimal shoe or going barefoot may help you with your balance because your foot muscles can stabilize. With big, old shoes with a lot of rubber on the bottom, you lose a lot of feedback which makes it easier to lose your balance.”
Angelo says, “I love how raising backyard poultry and gardening keeps you connected to nature. It’s a great way to stay active.”
Originally published in the June/July 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.