How To Lift Properly

I’ve adapted this from a list included in Isa Herrera’s book ‘Ending Pain in Pregnancy’ (a must read if you’re expecting!) even if you’re not pregnant you can be sure that following advice given to a demographic with arguably the most compromised core system out there has to result in the gold standard in lifting advice!!

  • Bring the load/Object Close: Bring your body as close to the load/object you are about to lift as possible. This will prevent you reaching too far forward to grab the object, placing increased stress on the low back. You want the object almost directly underneath your body before you lift it.
  • Wide base of support: You want a wide base of support when you lift objects to improve your balance & allow you to reach the object without straining the back or legs. Widen your stance & try to keep your toes out, as if you are about to straddle the object.
  • Squat down & bend your knees: To reach the object, you will need to squat down by bending your knees. The most important aspect of squatting down is maintaining a flat back with a slight lumbar curve or arch. This is what helps the jelly in the vertebra stay centred, placing less stress on the intervertebral discs.
  • Keep the load close: When you grasp the object, bring the load as close into your body & stand up with your back remaining straight up & down.
  • Take steps, do not rotate: Do not rotate, or twist your trunk to place the object on a different surface. Instead, take small steps with your legs to reposition your body. Set the object down using the same principles.

Remember, proper body mechanics take time but by mastering these steps you’ll prevent aggravating existing problems & reduce risk of future injury.

5 Core Exercises To Practice

Regular conditioning of your core with proper muscle activation is key to maintaining good alignment & preventing back, neck & shoulder pain. This post will be a reminder for some of the exercises I teach in the classes as well as add a bit of variety for home practice.

post2First make sure you create space & time to focus on your technique – you will need to use your brain to find the right muscles (!) – predominately the co-contraction between transversus abdominis (TVA), pelvic floor & multifidus AS YOU EXHALE!

Try this technique to engage with your TVA:

Lie on your back with your spine in a neutral posture (slight curve in lower back). Take a breath in & as you exhale think about lifting your lower tummy up (not sucking in) & *gently* drawing your tummy button toward your spine – you should not feel any movement of your hips, pelvis or spine & you can feel the TVA activate by placing your fingers on the inside of your hip bones. It should feel like a deep tension not so much that it pushes your fingers away.

Try holding this contraction for 3-5 seconds & then release – breathe throughout this exercise! Repeat & hold for 3 sets of 10 repetitions 3-4 x a day.

Once you’ve mastered this you can apply it to all movements/exercises that involve any level of effort. Just remember to go with the breath pattern always exhaling on exertion to benefit from the intrinsic TVA contraction, tensioning your abdominals & lower back muscles.

So here are 5 exercises to practice whilst integrating TVA & pelvic floor activation through different planes of movement:

1. Single leg extensions: Lying with your spine in neutral (slight curve in lower back) ‘bolt’ your tailbone down as you lift knees up to 90 degree. Moving with the breath exhale as you drop one toe to the floor. Repeat, alternating legs for 10-20 x as along as you have good control with no bulging/doming abs.

2. Ball roll outs: From kneeling with shoulder ‘set’ roll forward until you feel the hips open at the front. Make sure you engage your core (as above) to keep the spine in neutral. Repeat 10-20 reps as along as you have good control with no bulging/doming abs.

3. Squats: Inhale as you go down & exhale to go up, move with the breath. Try to keep your spine neutral by untucking your pelvis an& make sure your knees don’t extend over your toes. Repeat…all day long!!

4. Knee lifts: From all 4’s with shoulder set exhale as you engage core & hover the knees. Repeat 10-20 x

5. Side Lift: Assume the position in last pic, inhale & prep core then exhale to lift the top hip up. Try to keep the supporting elbow under your shoulder (mine’s sliiiiiiiightly forward!) Repeat 10-20 x both sides.

Remember you don’t need to do specific ‘ab’ exercises – rather learn to & actually use your core muscles throughout your daily activities. Crunches will merely retard the body’s correct muscle balance.

 

Pelvic Floor Exercise Progressions

You may need to strengthen your pelvic floor as part of some injury rehab, as part of your post partum recovery or for continence problems – one of the best ways to begin the road to recovery & full core restoration is by doing Kegels but how do we progress from there?

First let’s look at why the pelvic floor plays such an important role in our core restoration. Strengthening your pelvic floor will underpin any fitness goals you have, be they running, fat loss or just daily life. It’s worth noting that 48% of primiparous women & 85% of multiparous women experience some degree of incontinence also worth noting is that incontinence is the second most common reason after dementia for admission into assisted living. So pelvic floor exercise is crucial!

Initially & in fact after any injury the first place to start rehabbing a muscle is by being able to isolate the area in the first place. If your brain can’t access the neural pathway then moving on to a more complex movement will retard healing. So this is where a traditional Kegel (think, stopping flow of urine) is very helpful, a basic switching on & switching off of the muscle. Doing this will also help promote blood flow to the healing tissues & therefore aid the restoration process. If you find you can’t feel anything or you’re at all concerned get a proper exam by a women’s health physio who will be able to tell what’s going on.

This protocol will work well for that initial 6 week period post partum – you should feel the muscles getting stronger & easier to contract. Make sure you fully relax the pelvic floor between contractions as having a hypertonic or too tight muscle isn’t helpful either! Use your breath & visualisations to help you maximise the connection – so as you exhale, squeeze, as you inhale, relax. You can see from the diagram above how the pelvic floor muscles lie across the bottom of the pelvic cavities & this should give you an idea of what you are trying to access & also how important it is to have some muscle tension supporting the bladder, vagina & bowel.

Progress it by using pelvic floor activation as you lift & move, this is a key part of your on-going restoration. If you can protect the pelvic organs using the pelvic floor muscles as you add load (baby, laundry, you, buggies etc) you will prevent that added intra-abdominal pressure causing further stress on the pelvic floor leaving yourself vulnerable to pelvic organ prolapse or stress incontinence. This in turn will further strengthen the muscle’s function.

Note: Whilst I’m fully aware that men have pelvic floors too (!) this article is geared more toward women – hence the references to wombs & vaginas etc!