Even if you’re not a professional mover, most people are occasionally tasked with lifting a heavy object,
and it’s important to know how to do so safely to prevent a painful, nagging back injury. Whether it’s
moving a son or daughter into a dorm room, hauling holiday decorations out of the attic, or rearranging
furniture in your home, a few precautionary steps are worth taking.

You’ve likely heard it before: lift with your legs, not your back. It’s good advice. But what’s the right way
to lift heavy objects?

First, if it’s early in the morning or your muscles are cold, stretch your legs and back a bit before trying to
lift anything. After that, test how heavy the item is by carefully lifting one edge of it or sliding it slightly.
If you can’t budge it, you probably need help lifting it from a friend or a dolly.

If you determine that you can lift the load, don’t be tempted to lean forward with straight legs and bend
at the waist to hoist it. This approach often leads to strained lower back muscles.

Instead, use the power of your glutes and thighs, the largest muscle group in the body, which act like a
hydraulic lift. Bend your knees, get down to the level of the item you’re about to lift, and hug it tightly to
your body. Next, tighten your abdominal muscles, keep your back straight, and inhale your breath as you
extend your legs with your weight concentrated in your heels — and stand up. By taking these steps, you
utilize your leg and arm muscles to do the lifting, rather than your back.

Some additional tips worth considering:

  • Lift slowly and smoothly without using quick, jerky movements.
  • Keep the object you’re lifting close to your body, between your shoulders and waist, to minimize
    back strain.
  • Don’t twist your torso while lifting a heavy object.
  • Make sure the weight you’re lifting is balanced, so it doesn’t shift as you’re carrying it. This is
    especially important if you didn’t pack the box yourself.
  • Keep your back straight – don’t arch it.
  • You should be able to see over the object you’re carrying, for safety.
  • If you’re lifting a series of loads, take frequent breaks to avoid back strain.

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce your risk of injuring your back while lifting heavy
items. If you’re not sure if something is too heavy for you to lift alone, follow our tried-and-true advice
that applies to any situation: “When in doubt, don’t!”