Lift With Your Legs
You’ve probably heard this one before. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean you should only be lifting with your legs. It just means you should be engaging your legs a little more than the rest of your body. They are likely the strongest part of your body after all, so they should be doing more of the work.
If you’ve ever done a proper deadlift at the gym, you’ll know what we mean by this: think of lifting something off of the ground as a push movement, and not a pull. You can think of your body as a lever. Your back should serve as the lever arm, your hips are the fulcrum, and your glutes and hamstrings are applying most of the force. You’re simply holding the weight, while your legs are “pushing the floor away from you”. Voila, the weight is up.
A good cue to use is to pretend that you have a broom stick tied to your back preventing you from altering its positioning in terms of arching or curving. By pushing your hips back and maintaining a slight bend in the knees you’ll feel a stretch in your hamstrings while keeping your back neutral (not arched or curved).
Engage Your Core
Having a hard time keeping a neutral back? It could be due to a weak core, or simply not engaging your core enough. To maximize stability and decrease curvature of your back mid-lift, make a conscious effort to inhale and brace your core on the descent (when you’re bending down and gripping the weight/object) and hold it, while still keeping your core braced on the ascent (the actual lifting portion), exhaling at the top.
It’s a common misconception that “bracing” your core means the same as flexing or sucking in your stomach. Think about it this way; bracing your core is what you would automatically do if someone was about to punch you in the gut. You would actually puff out your stomach, thereby creating intra-abdominal pressure and enough tension for your body to be stable enough to withstand the hit.
In the case of lifting something heavy you’re trying to make sure your body is stable enough to get it off the ground without putting unnecessary pressure on your spine.
Hinge At The Hips
So we’ve covered how to not overwork your back, how to keep it neutral, how to engage your core, and how to make your legs do most of the work/generate the force. The final piece of the puzzle is utilizing the proper movement pattern; the hip hinge.
The hip hinge is performed by keeping a slight and stationary bend at the knees, while pushing your hips back (think back to that lever analogy). This article offers a couple drills to master this movement, as it can be hard to visualize and perform at first.
Another drill you can perform to master and assess your hip hinge is standing in front of a door that is slightly ajar, facing away from it. The goal is essentially to push the door closed with your hips. If you turn the movement into a squat by bending at the knees, you won’t be able to touch the door.
Be Honest With Yourself
The final rule of lifting something properly? Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re helping a friend move but you hardly ever lift anything heavier than a couple bags of groceries, WHY would you try to lift her dresser on your own?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and if you have to, don’t be afraid to drop whatever you’re lifting. Your friend might be upset about her broken dresser, but trust me, replacing that is likely a lot cheaper than months of medical bills trying to rehabilitate from an injury.
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