The average person lifts weights every single day and doesn’t even realize it. While the weights you lift may not always compare to the kind professionals train with, they can be just as demanding on the body. Back strain or injury is painfully easy to get unless you know how to protect your back. Here’s some help.
Weight lifting isn’t just for Olympians and beefed-up jocks at the neighborhood gym. Even though you don’t realize it, weight lifting is part of your routine too. Ever picked up a huge sack of groceries, or heaved a box up into your overhead loft? Or carried your not-so-little sleeping 8-year-old to bed? Then you too have been lifting weights and should – just like the pros – be careful about your technique. Knowing how to do it right is vital to protecting your back.
Get Your Technique Right
From children to shopping bags, big flower pots, heavy cartons, big suitcases, or perhaps a piece of furniture, you’re probably lifting a variety of objects every day. Awkward lifting can cause chronic back pain or put your back out of shape for weeks or longer. Here are some general tips to keep in mind to ease the load.
Posture And Stance
According to the NHS, the ideal position while lifting something is with the feet apart, with either of your legs a little ahead of the other so that you can keep your balance. If you are picking up a weight from the ground, align one leg close to the load. Shuffle your feet as needed after you lift to help keep yourself steady. Do not stoop or squat while lifting. Instead, bend the hips, knees, and back gently as you begin to pick up the heavy load.1
Use The Right Muscles
The National Institutes of Health suggest that you keep your stomach muscles tight during the lifting and lowering process. Also, use the muscles of your hips and knees well when it is time to put the weight down. If you need, get into a squatting position, but be careful that your back stays straight.2
Be A Smooth Operator
Be sure you make no sudden jerky movement while lifting weights. This sudden, choppy movement can strain the neck and back and gives you very little control and grip on whatever you are lifting.
Watch That Waist
People who lift weights without trouble generally keep whatever they are carrying close to their waist area during the lift. That’s because the closer the object is to your body, and waist height, the easier it is on your back. Specifically, the load or strain on the back is determined by the distance between the heavy weight and the segment of your spine at waist level. At any point, if you need to bend, bend at your knees rather than at the waist or back.3
During The Lift
Once you have the weight off the ground or surface and in your hands, be sure you grip it tightly. If you feel it slipping, lay it down, wipe your hands and start over. If you try and push through, it might start to slip again and you may end up awkwardly twisting your body to prevent it from falling. And that’s usually bad news for your back. Don’t lean sideways or twist your back at any point. Instead, even if you are turning a corner, be sure to keep your shoulders and hips aligned and facing the same way.
Change direction using your feet, with the whole body facing that way as you move. And remember, don’t look down once you have that load secured. You need to keep your spine and neck aligned, so it is vital you keep your head level to the ground and look ahead. This will also stop you from bumping into things on the way!4
Plan A Break Spot
If the object is very heavy, plan a pitstop before the final spot, so you can lay it down for a bit. If you have picked the object off the floor, ideally have a resting point that isn’t on the floor. This way, you don’t have to bend down and lift over and over.5
Think It Through
Don’t barrel into weightlifting without thinking. Before you lift any very large or heavy object, plan what you are going to do with it. Where exactly will you place it? Is that area and your route to it clear of obstacles? Are your hands dry? Should you get someone to help with one side? Is it better pushed than lifted?
Wear The Right Footwear
Needless to say, those stilettos are not a smart choice while lifting weights. But take care to avoid flip flops or any shoes that don’t have good grip. You could skid or take a tumble and put not just your back but your life and limb in jeopardy if the weight were to fall on you.6
Picking Up Objects From A Height
When it comes to picking up little children or infants from the floor or even from a height (like the hood of your car or even a tabletop), many say the best way is to avoid having to lift them in the first place. Instead, give them a helping hand or put a stool in place so they can step off themselves. But if picking them up is unavoidable, use things like harnesses to carry the child over distances. As the American Physical Therapy Association suggests, the rule of keeping your back and head straight and not bending at the waist applies here as well when you need to lift them off or bring them down. Get close to the child and put one foot ahead of the other, coming down on one knee into a semi-kneeling position. Then hold the child with your arms and bring them close to you. Use your legs to push off as you return to an upright position, taking care to keep that back straight throughout. While moving about, carry them as central to your body as you can, and not off to one side on your hip, which strains your back more.7
Pushing And Pulling As An Alternative
When it comes to very heavy loads like a wardrobe or bed or even a heavy chair, you may be better off avoiding lifting it altogether. Pushing or sliding it along the floor may be a more feasible alternative. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends pushing over pulling whenever you have a choice, as this puts less strain on your back.8
References [ + ]
|1, 5, 6.||↑||Safe lifting tips, NHS UK.|
|2, 3.||↑||Lifting and bending the right way, US National Library of Medicine.|
|4.||↑||How to Prevent Back Injuries, EHS Safety Training, Oklahoma State University.|
|7.||↑||Posture Tips for Parents, American Physical Therapy Association.|
|8.||↑||Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.|