Lift With Your Legs

How to Properly Lift

“Lift with your legs and not your back” is something most people have heard and virtually every athlete has been told more than once in the gym. But what exactly does that mean? What’s the proper form for lifting, and does it apply in every situation? 

In this post, we’ll answer those questions and explain why proper lifting technique is more important than you think.

Squatting Not Bending is the Secret to Proper Lifting

Whether you’re lifting weights during a strength training session or moving heavy boxes at homes, proper lifting technique is a must. The rule of thumb is to lift with your legs rather than making your back do all the work. Lifting with your legs essentially means that you are squatting to pick an object up, not bending at the waist. 

Here’s how to properly lift heavy items in nine simple steps. 

Steps to Properly Lifting

Step 1. Think it through before you lift. Determine how you want to hold the object, where you are moving it, etc. and make sure the path is clear.

Step 2. Assume a safe lifting position. Feet should be shoulder-width apart for support and close to the object being lifted. If you’re lifting a very heavy object it may be safest to start with one knee on the ground by the object and the other knee bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you. 

Step 3. Squat low keeping your back straight and head up. The knees and hips should be bent while the back is straight. Also, keep your head up so that it doesn’t bend forward. 

Step 4. Maintain good posture as you rise. While lifting the object up, keep your back straight, shoulders back and look up. Good posture will create a natural curve in the lower back and keep the upper back completely straight. 

Step 5. Lift slowly. Don’t rush the lift or you may lose your proper form. Take your time to straighten your hips and knees as you rise to a standing position.

Step 6. Breathe through the lift. Resist the urge to hold your breath. Instead, breathe out as you lift the object.

Step 7. Keep the object close at the center of your body. Heavy objects are easier to lift and control when they are close to your body between the hips and chest.

Step 8. Don’t twist your body. Always lead with your feet and hips when you need to change directions instead of twisting at the waist. The shoulders should move with the hips to stay in line. 

Step 9. Slowly squat to place the object down. Follow the same guidelines and lower the object slowly. 

There’s another aspect to proper lifting. Never lift more than you are capable of lifting. If an object is too heavy for you to lift it can still lead to an injury even if you lift properly. It’s best to get help lifting the object than trying to do it on your own.

Another thing to consider is whether or not to wear a back brace. This type of brace is designed to compress the low back muscles and improve stability while lifting. 

Reasons to Lift the Proper Way

Since we lift things every day, stressing proper technique may seem like overkill. But there are a few very good reasons to make sure you’re always lifting properly.

It Helps You Avoid Back Injuries

First and foremost, proper lifting techniques minimize the risk of a back injury. Back injuries are very serious and can lead to chronic problems. OSHA has found that back injuries are the #1 cause of disability among people of working age. Estimations are that 80% of adults will experience a low back injury at some point in life, and lifting objects is a top cause. The older you get the more likely you are to injure your back because the ligaments and muscles become less flexible. 

You’ll Strengthen the Intended Muscles

How you lift determines which muscles are engaged. Lifting properly ensures you target the muscles you intend to strengthen and that you improve overall strength. 

The trainers at Optimal Sports Performance can teach you proper lifting techniques with one-on-one instruction so that you safely maximize each rep. We specialize in student-athlete training, pro athlete training and adult training that enhances performance and fitness.