Want to lift like a pro?
Mark Sewell has some valuable suggestions for you.
Lifting Tips: Mark Sewell
The phase "Bend your knees" is in popular usage, we have all heard it, told ourselves and others this phrase. Lifting with straight legs is generally not recommended, so lifting with bent knees is good solid advice. Is it enough to bend the knees in order to avoid a lifting injury to the lower back? Although bending the knees assists in distributing load through the lower limbs instead of the back, it is possible to lift objects more efficiently and effectively with some additional knowledge on the mechanics involved. A common lifting strategy I see is where the knee bend sees the shin bone incline forward so that the knees translate over the toes. This movement often transfers weight to the front half of the foot. The low back is often kept in a vertical orientation (to avoid over-straining) during the knee bend and lift. When the load is held in front of the body during the lift the load wants to bend the back forward and the large back muscles resist this from happening. With this lifting strategy, even though the knees are bent and the back is straight, there is still considerable load on the lower back due to the strong large muscle activation. This strategy is better than performing a lift with a bent lumbar spine, however there may be a better way.
Our first clue to a better lifting strategy can be extracted from those who consistently perform heavy lifts...professional weight lifters. Professional weight lifters have to optimal lifting strategies or there bodies would breakdown in no time even though they are super strong athletes. It must be noted that to perform all lifts with a perfect strategy is not possible due to awkward situation like lifting a suitcase out of a boot or having to lift an odd shaped object like a pane of glass. Also, a lift may be the 'final straw' in a sub optimally loaded lumbar spine through exercise or poor postures. Carrying out an optimal lifting strategy will reduce the likelihood of sustaining an injury during a lift, however an awareness of body positioning and control to get into the best position is a prerequisite, not to mention adequate hip mobility.
- Fold through the hips and allow a straight trunk (and lumbar spine) to move forward like a 'waiter's bow'. The challenge is to isolate the bend to the hips and not bend the lower back.
- During the folding of the hips and the trunk moving forwards, the bottom should translate backwards. This is like going to sit on a low stool with the trunk kept straight but inclined forward.
- Combining a knee bend with the folding at the hips brings the majority of weight onto the heels. The shin bone should remain relatively vertical during the bend.
- The position assumed with a straight forward inclined trunk, well flexed (folded) hips and knee bend with shin kept vertical gives our big strong gluteal (bottom) muscles their best chance to assist in the lift. Positioning which allows the gluteals to effectively contribute to a lift appears to be the critical component. (Hip mobility & well controlled movements are a prerequisite)
- Assuming the above position requires practice like any skill and a mirror is most valuable for feedback on performance.
Thanks for reading & have an active day!