What is the most ergonomic method to pull weeds?

by Victoria Hinchliffe, Ergonomics Intern

For this article, I tried three different methods of pulling weeds:

  1. No tool (hand picking weeds)
  2. Hand weeder tool
  3. Stand-up weeder

No Tool; Hand Picking Weeds

  • Bending can increase the risk of lower back injury
  • Reaching can cause discomfort in the shoulders and arms
  • Pinch grip with high amounts of force to pick weeds repetitively can lead to finger/thumb fatigue or discomfort
  • Leads to more muscle fatigue being in non-neutral postures
  • If you do not have a tool, sitting on a stool can be easier on the back than bending and reaching from standing

Hand Weeder Tool

  • Better than hand picking because it eliminates pinching; a stronger power grip can be used to hold the tool
  • Best to use a hand weeder when in a kneeling or seated position rather than standing and bending over (seated would be most optimal to reduce contact stress on knees)
  • If kneeling, try to put a mat or pillow under the knee to provide an added layer of protection

Stand-Up Weeder

  • Less bending is required because the tool can be used while standing. Weed pulling while standing eases strain for people with knee or hip pain.
  • The main efforts required are pushing down to insert the tool around the weed, and pulling back to lever it out of the ground. Some tools are designed to allow you to step on the tool to press it down, reducing back efforts substantially.

Other tips

  • Bring a bucket with you to collect the weeds after they are picked so you do not have to go around and pick them all up later.
  • Empty the bucket regularly to avoid heavy lifting, especially if the dirt is wet and heavy.
  • Soil is usually softer when wet, so a good time for weed picking is after a rain or heavy dew.
  • If you didn’t finish your chores in the cool morning, take frequent breaks from the heat in the shade,. Wear a hat and drink lots of water when doing any yard work.
  • If you wear gardening gloves, find a pair that fit you. Not sure if they fit? Stay tuned for next week’s blog.

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