How not to hurt your back when you pick something up

Coraline walking
My granddaughter Coraline just started walking and there’s no stopping her now! She toddles along and if she loses her balance, she usually just plops down and picks herself right back up. And if she sees something interesting, she just bends over and scoops it up (and puts it in her mouth if you’re not quick enough!)

The other day, my fabulous personal trainer Andy Wight introduced me to a new movement. I had to bend over and pick up a 20-pound weight. “Bend your knees and push out your butt,” he told me. It felt awkward and I struggled a bit at first. He told me I wasn’t alone and that most adults do it wrong. To see it done correctly, he suggested that I watch a baby who just started walking. Hmmm … I wonder who could be my teacher?!

I asked Andy for some advice for people who don’t have a toddling baby around to emulate. Here’s what he had to say.

 Babies are extremely flexible and mobile. As we age, we lose this mobility throughout our body. We then will substitute poor movement mechanics in order to perform an activity.

Andy Wight, personal trainer demonstrates lifting

Position 1 is what we should strive for, however, due to limitations we usually see either position 2 or 3 when it comes to lifting an item off the floor. Due to a decrease in range of motion and lack of mobility,  we will usually subject ourselves to poor technique. This is how injuries can occur. 

How many times have we heard, “I threw my back out bending over to pick up something small off the floor?” Watch a baby pick something up off the floor. Because of their mobility, they can lower themselves down into a great position to pick what ever it may be off the floor.  

Andy Wight demonstrates hip flexor stretch
How to improve? Try a hip flexor stretch and a pigeon stretch. The hip flexor stretch will loosen the front of the hip.

Andy Wight demonstrates pigeon stretch

The pigeon stretch will loosen the cranky outside of the hip. Try to hold each position for 60-90 seconds before switching. Also, we have two sides. Make sure you hit both of them! Enjoy!

And if you want a video demonstration on the proper way to pick something up from the floor, here’s a quick one from our other pro!

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.