What Muscles Does Shoveling Utilize?

  • Time to read: 5 min.

Whether you are digging in dirt, gravel, sand, or snow, shoveling can be a great workout.

Shoveling often requires quick bursts of energy and involves all body muscles to complete the task.

The most important muscles for shoveling snow are those that provide the lift and motion to this task: these are located in your front spine, back, and legs.

The muscle groups include some you may not be aware of, such as abdominal muscles

Despite total-body involvement, the following muscles are the most commonly credited with playing the most prominent role when shoveling are the skeletal muscles; abs, deltoid, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and triceps, erector spinae, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Skeletal Muscles


Abs or the abdominal muscles are the glue that supports the body from the waist to the neck. 

These muscles are what give us balance to move around and keeps us stable. 

There are surface abdominal muscles and deep abdominal muscles. 

The deep muscles, flexor muscles attach to the front of the spine, protect our backbone, and hold our organs in place.

The role of the abs when shoveling is all involved.

From pushing the shovel, ensuring we don’t fall over to lifting and throwing what’s on the shovel, protecting our back.

Often when shoveling, we experience lower back pain.

This pain may be due to our abdominal muscles being weak, so a little exercise to tighten these muscles would help protect our backs.


The three deltoid muscles are in your shoulder area.

The prime function is to ensure that your arm socket stays together and your shoulder does not dislocate.

When lifting substrate from our shovel, the deltoids are there to ensure the action of lifting and throwing.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi muscle group is in your back and consists of the lower, middle, and upper parts.

The latissimus dorsi muscle group comes into play when shoveling as it stabilizes your shoulder blades so that they do not come together during repetitive movements like scooping or lifting.

Biceps and Triceps

The arm also has the muscle groupings of biceps and triceps, allowing us to bend our elbow up and down or rotate our arms left to rights.

When shoveling, we consistently bend our elbows and rotate our arms to carry, push, and lift the shovel and any load that we may be moving.

Erector Spinae

These extensor muscles attach to the back of the spine, helping to hold the spine up.

Without the rector spinae muscle, we would not stand straight or walk, which occurs when shoveling.


Officially know as Gluteus Maximus, which always reminds me of a Roman gladiator, is the largest and heaviest muscle in the body. 

Being the largest muscle, it has many roles. 

From supporting the pelvis, allowing the hip joint to extend or move side to side, and helping the body maintain an upright position.

The gluteus maximus allows us to step, climb and run.

When shoveling, we generally don’t run, but we lift our feet to step on the shovel and sometimes climb up an incline to clear the area.


These muscles run from the hip to the back of the knee and work with glutes to tilt the pelvis area allowing us to stand up straight after being bent over. 

The hamstring muscles also are what will enable us to bend our knees.

When shoveling, there is continuous bending over and straightening our bodies and bending our knees when lifting a heavy load.


Quadriceps are located in the front of your thigh, and as the name suggests, it is a combination of four muscles. 

The strength of these four muscles combine, allowing us to stand, walk, run, and it also keeps our knee stable.

Along with the hamstring muscles, this muscle provides power as you push off and walk or run up and down stairs while carrying heavy loads.

The above muscle groups show how active each part of the body is in completing shoveling. 

There are also supporting characters in any activities that are often overlooked but are worthy of mentioning.

There are three muscle types in the body skeletal, cardiac, and smooth.

We talked about the significant skeletal muscles, but what about the cardiac and smooth muscles and the impact in shoveling.

Cardiac Muscles

Cardiac muscle makes up the heart wall and allows the heart to contract to pump blood throughout our body, bathing the organs and muscles in oxygen-rich blood so that they may function.

The heart in itself is a muscle.

Shoveling often requires quick bursts of energy that require large amounts of use for some muscle groups to complete tasks such as filling bags or carrying a load a distance.

Also known as aerobic exercise, this becomes more difficult over time due to weather conditions, age, health, and the frequency of shoveling.

Shoveling being a full-body exercise requires this cardiac muscle for sure.

Sadly, shoveling is often too stressful for the cardiac muscle, and heart attacks occur.

Shoveling can also result in broken bones, lower back pain, shoulder pain, and soft tissue injuries.

It is essential to follow the correct shoveling guidelines, eat healthy and exercise to avoid injuries.

To learn more on how to prevent these injuries, read our articles:

Smooth Muscle

Smooth muscles control involuntary responses in the body’s arteries and veins, bladder, stomach, skin, intestines, respiratory tract, and reproductive systems.

These muscles maintain pressure by constricting or dilating the arteries and veins to keep the blood flowing. 

They also narrow or expand the intestines to keep things moving through.

They are the unsung hero muscle that keeps the body functioning while other muscles are working.

When shoveling, we don’t pay attention to these muscles and may think they are not involved at all in shoveling, but they are. 

As our focus is on the task at hand, the smooth muscle is our partner and focuses on maintaining a status quo state, allowing us to breathe and have the strength to shovel.