Lifting Floor to Waist 101

proper lifting

Stop ‘Lifting’ with Your Knees

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.

What Is A deadlift?

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.

How To Lift Using The ‘Deadlift’ Technique

Follow these simple steps when lifting:

  1. Start by slightly bending/unlocking your knees
  2. Bend at the trunk while keeping your low back in a neutral position (no rounding) and keep your head straight (or tilt chin up slightly)
  1. Push your butt out like you are going to sit in a chair (keep neutral spine – you should start to feel the muscles (hamstrings) engage as you reach down for the object)
  2. Keep your ‘abs’ tight throughout the movement
  3. Keep your shoulder backs (retracted – squeeze your shoulder blades together)
  4. When starting the lift object back up, push through your heels while straightening your knees
  5. Squeeze/engage your hamstrings (back of thighs) and gluts through the lift
  6. Return to starting position in a controlled manner (no sudden jerking)

There are a few important things to remember when performing this lift:

  • Bend at your hips/trunk so that you feel tension in the back of your thighs
  • Keep the object as close to your body as possible
  • Never twist/turn during the lifting motion
  • Your hips and shoulders should rise up at the same time
  • Never do a ‘lazy’ lift, always engage your muscles even for light objects

What About a ‘Light’ Object

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.

Practice Your Lifting Technique

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.

Lift on!

Newmarket chiropractor

P.S. Here is a short video demonstrating the proper technique for lifting medium to heavy objects from the ground.

Chiropractic on Eagle

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