Eli5 How do you not lift with your back? Won’t there always be strain on your back?

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Eli5 How do you not lift with your back? Won’t there always be strain on your back?

In: Physics

When you lift, the idea is you keep your back rigid and tight, keeping your legs under you while using them to do the lifting. When lifting with your back, you are mostly bending at the hips and bringing your chest up rather than keeping it up when using your legs. I would suggest looking at a deadlifting form video and it’ll talk about that concept.

You can also look for videos showing how toddlers lift objects. I used to do safety training and would show my classes how to properly lift by showing these videos. I think they were called something like “Kid Lift”

Squat, don’t bend
Keeping it as close to your body as you can is the basic idea, keeping your back straight, so it’s pulling your back down, not forward

It’s like how you do a squat at the gym. You try to get your back vertical and push with your legs. It puts strain on you back for sure, but your back is much better equipped to handle that stress than it is to try and lift the weight on its own

The idea is for the load to be along the axis of your spine. That is, the force should compress your vertebrae together because that’s what they are designed to do. Off-axis force puts an unusual strain on the muscles in your back and will make injury far more likely.

However, please do lift with your back (as long as you do it properly). Strong back muscles are the best way to avoid injury and many people have bad backs precisely because they will not strengthen those muscles. Don’t lift with your back is some of the worst unqualified advice I have ever received and led to years of back pain before my common sense kicked in.

Your back is made from lots of bones (vertebrae) and discs between them acting as cushions.

If you lift with your back vertically the pressure on the discs is evenly distributed.

If you lift with your back at an angle the pressure on the discs is more on one side than the other. The pressure on one side of the disc can cause it to slip out of position (hence having a slipped disc) or cause the disc to bulge on the other side (think of squeezing one side of a balloon) where it can press on the nerves running down your spine.