If you are someone currently dealing with a low back injury (disc bulge, sciatica, or degenerative disc disease), lifting by squatting down with your knees (squat lift) may be the only way to accomplish a medium-to-heavy lift without significant pain. However, for those trying to prevent a back injury from lifting an object from the ground, squatting down is definitely not the best way to lift. Instead of thinking ‘squat’ you should be thinking ‘deadlift’ when lifting medium to heavy loads from ground. Let me explain.
A deadlift is lifting a ‘dead’ weight from the floor to your waist. For example, a grocery bag or something you have dropped on the floor. The ‘deadlift’ is safest for day to day floor-to-waist lifting. Because you are moving through your hips, the ‘deadlift’ allows you to use the muscles in the legs to lift (gluts, hamstrings) rather than have all the force of the lift go through your back or knees.
Some people will use squat down to pick up objects, but the “squat” technique puts excessive force through your knees, and it is difficult to keep your spine in a neutral position. This can injure both your knees and lower back over time.
Follow these simple steps when lifting:
There are a few important things to remember when performing this lift:
If you are simply trying to lift a light object from the floor/ground, the safest technique is to use the “golfer’s lift”. We’ve all seen it – reach down for the object and kick back your opposite leg behind you. This allows for minimal pelvis/spine twisting.
Really? I should practice how I lift? Absolutely! It may seem strange, but you have likely learned (by accident) the wrong way to lift, over many repetitions and even many years. To learn to lift correctly and more safely will take time and repetitions (practice). You not only have to mentally remember to think your way through the steps of proper lifting, you must train yourself neurologically as well. Proper movement patterns, muscle activation sequences, and even proper breathing will eventually become second nature to lifting safely.
P.S. Here is a short video demonstrating the proper technique for lifting medium to heavy objects from the ground.