Exercises You Should Be Doing: Barbell Shovel Hold
Up here in New England we’re very familiar with shovels.
Copyright: bubutu / 123RF Stock Photo
Particularly during our long, cold, New England winters.1
The shovel I’m referring to in today’s post, however, has nothing to do with that kind of shovel. Unlike traditional shoveling which sucks – and ranks somewhere between getting a colonoscopy and listening to Donald Trump speak as things I’m not rushing to do – the “shovel” variation I’m highlighting today is (hopefully) more palatable and something you’ll find use for in the weight-room.
HINT: you totally will.
Barbell Shovel Hold
Who Did I Steal It From: Kinda, sorta myself. I wrote about a similar exercise a few years ago – the shovel lift – but came across a quick write-up by Boston-based coach, Matthew Ibrahim, describing this variation…which I felt was brilliant.2
What Does It Do: First and foremost this is a great exercise to help train rotary stability. The asymmetrical – or offset – nature of this exercise makes it a perfect fit for those struggling with chronic back pain. One must “fight” to maintain a neutral and upright torso position. Not only will this target the more superficial or global musculature – glutes (you need to actively fire these bad boys), erectors, abdominals, traps, rhomboids, obliques – but also the deep, stabilizing musculature as well. Think: the “deeper” muscles like TvA, multifidi, etc.
Note: if you perform this exercise while simultaneously performing positional breathing (inhale with FULL exhale, dialing in on rib position) you’ll hammer those deep, stabilizing muscles).
Because the drill is performed in a more or less isometric fashion, it lends itself as a very user-friendly option that pretty much anyone can do.
As a corollary, even with quote-on-quote “healthy” individuals/athletes, it serves as a welcome way to train core stability and possibly as a way to increase full-body time under tension. To that end, it could serve as a nice way for some trainees to add muscle mass to their frame.
Can you dig it?
See what I did there?
Key Coaching Cues: I feel the thrilling (<— kidding) video above makes things self-explanatory. You load a barbell with anywhere from 10-45 lbs. (start conservative, it’s harder than it looks), un-rack, and hold.
Brace your abs, squeeze your glutes, flex your quads, and think about squeezing oranges in your armpits to add even more body tension. Hold for a 5-10s count, rack the barbell, rest for 5-10s, and repeat for a total of 3-5 “reps.” Then repeat the same process with the load on the other side.
Shoot for a total of 3-5 “rounds.”
I’ve been using this as a quick “finisher” with some of my clients/athletes and they love it.