Exercise for the Farrier: Part 2
There are few professions that are as physically demanding as being a farrier…to which I can certainly attest. Furthermore, the farrier has to assume an unnatural position / posture for countless hours a day when performing farriery. It is often noted, that to be a farrier…the individual must have a ‘strong back’. For example, if one considers the maintenance of a ‘strong back’…the back muscles have to have good reciprocity with the abdominal muscles to maintain posture, the core has to be strong and flexible and the position the farrier assumes has to be held in place by the muscles of the pelvic floor. Anyone who has come to my clinics or seminars has heard me describe the benefits of initiating some type of exercise program to preserve health and prevent injury from the constant daily stress of being a farrier. Exercise also plays a huge role in extending the farrier’s longevity in the profession without pain. There is a big difference between ‘physical work and physical exercise’. I am truly fortunate to know and use two highly qualified personal trainers, Colby Schreckengost and Pam Finney - both not only try to keep me in excellent physical condition but they both continually reinforce the necessity of exercise. I have asked both of them to write a few paragraphs on the benefits of an exercise program as well as a few simple exercises that would be helpful for farriers.
Picture shows a farrier (Fabio Gnoatto) with good posture shoeing the hind foot of a horse.
The response from both trainers was phenomenal…not only did they share their thoughts on the benefits of exercise; they both outlined and illustrated a simple exercise program that could easily become part of a farrier’s routine. It just takes a little commitment!
The first article from Pam Finney appears below…
Exercising for Farriers
As a personal trainer, I primarily focus on exercises that functionally translate to assist my clients with their activities of daily living, hobbies, and professions. After all, we may only spend 3-5 hours a week in the gym doing exercises but the rest of the time doing life movements. As I see it, the point of going to the gym is to make us better at all the other things we want and need to be able to do, and complete without hurting ourselves.
I knew little about the job of farriers before doing some research for this article. It appears to be an incredibly physically demanding full-body job (In the fitness industry we refer to this as “Farm Fit”). While a job such as being a farrier can have great benefit to your overall health and fitness (unlike many, you aren’t sitting at a desk all day), it can also cause many injuries, especially when done with non-optimal alignment, spending extended periods in awkward postures, and repetitive movement patterns. While you may think you get all the fitness necessary from your job (I often hear this from my husband who is a large truck mechanic), I suggest spending some time and focus on specific exercises that will aid you in being able to do your job for a long time while minimizing pain and injury.
A well-rounded exercise program includes mobility and optimal breathing, stability, and strength and doesn’t need to take a lot of time - although it needs to be time spent paying attention to and reinforcing proper movement patterns. I suggest compound exercises that emphasize posture and alignment and include building grip strength.
Learning the difference between hip hinging versus moving from your low back can be a game-changer for many people. I suggest practicing to learn the movement prior to loading it to gain strength, as in a weighted squat or deadlift.
The hip hinge is often difficult to do properly when having a limited range of motion in our hips due to extra tension or shortened muscles, especially in the gluteus and hamstring muscles. For mobility, I like to use and for a stretch, I like to use .
Once you master the hip hinge, I suggest these exercises to work on adding strength:
Properly using the muscles of the core is essential to the stability of the lumbar spine and pelvis when we are moving or holding a position for an extended period of time. The deeper muscles of the Pelvic Floor, The Transversus Abdominus, and The Diaphragm (the reason that breath is so important for core stabilization) need to work together. Often, we over-utilize our more superficial muscles such as the Rectus Abdominis (think ‘6 pack’) causing our spines to flex putting unneeded pressure on the vertebrae - or we use an aggressive bracing strategy where we hold our breath and push out with the belly. This is not a position that can last very long and can cause us to make our muscles weaker in the long term. Discovering how and when to use your core muscles can be challenging.
First, find your core like this:
Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Get your pelvis and back in a neutral position by making sure the front of your hip bones and the front of your pelvis are on the same plane. A little space should be under your low back. Put your fingers on the front of your hip bones and walk them in towards your belly an inch. Take a breath in and forcefully exhale through pursed lips as you draw the muscle under your fingers in as if you are cinching up a belt. Do not allow your back to flex or flatten, your butt to squeeze, or your pelvis to move at all. You should feel your pelvic floor muscles help. That is your Transversus Abdominus engaging. Now use that muscle engagement while building strength in the following exercises:
3. (or Pall of Press)
I recommend working with a personal trainer or physical therapist to make sure your form is correct whenever starting a new exercise program. Keep in mind, all of these exercises are meant to be done slowly, paying attention to how your muscles are working and only do as many repetitions while maintaining form. Ensure you are breathing throughout each exercise and not holding your breath.
American Council On Exercise - Certified Personal Trainer
ACE - Certified Health Coach
Nutritional Therapy Association - Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner