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Go on most manual handling courses and you will probably hear the phrase “lift with your knees and not your back”. However, although lifting in this way is sparing on the spine, it greatly increases the load on your knees.
What you should really be told is “lift with your hips not your back”.
Watch any Olympic lifter or healthy toddler picking up a heavy toy and you will see them move in this same pattern. A successful Olympic lifter must lift this way as the high volume of training and high loads would otherwise lead to injury.
A healthy baby lifts this way as this is the movement pattern pre-programmed in our brains. No baby learns how to move, it is inbuilt. This is how we evolved to move and we continue to do so unless this program is corrupted by outside influence e.g. sedentary lifestyles, injury, repetitive movement, trauma etc.
Here you can see most of the movement occurring through the hips. The hips have deep sockets surrounded by extremely strong muscles so are well adapted to handle heavy loads. The knees should bend but stay over the foot minimising strain on the knee. The back stays flat to spare the spine.
For more guidance on proper lifting technique watch this video from Professor Stuart McGill
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This article was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more information about Steffen click here.