Lifting is not just a form of exercise or something to be done at the gym. We pick up, move, and put objects in almost every aspect of daily living. When an object is light enough, we hardly even think about the mechanics of how we lift it. As the weight of an object increases, the body mechanics used to lift it get more and more important. Unfortunately, people very often forgo proper body mechanics in an effort to save time or even just as a product of laziness. If you follow these five guidelines to lifting, you will be sure to protect your joints and muscles while still remaining efficient in the task.

  1. Check the weight of the object and plan ahead.

Before body mechanics even come in to play, you need to know what you are dealing with. Knowing the weight of the object before you pick it up allows you to make a plan and make sure you are being most efficient. However, knowing the weight of the object will not help you if don’t know your limits. Make sure you know how much you can comfortably lift – and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Use other people or machinery if the object is heavier than you can lift or if you need to carry it for an extended period of time.

  1. Increase your base of support.

Widen your stance! Nothing is more difficult than trying to pick up a heavy object when you are off balance. A widened stance will help to ensure that your center of gravity is within your base, enabling more power. Lifting when you are off balance will put additional strain on muscles that wouldn’t otherwise be used, causing your body to exert more effort than necessary.

  1. Lower your center of gravity.

Instead of bending over at your hips to pick something up off the floor, lower your center of gravity (your belly button) as close as you can to the object you are lifting. Using your legs to stand up from a squat is much more efficient than using your lower back to stand up after bending over.

  1. Avoid twisting.

Before you pick up the object, figure out what you are going to do with it. Where are you putting it back down? Which direction are you moving it in? Formulate this plan in your mind before picking up the object so that you can position your feet in the direction that you will be moving with the object. This eliminates the need to twist while you are lifting. If you must turn with the object after you lift it, make sure that you are turning your entire body and not just your core.

  1. Keep the load close to your body.

Your center of gravity and the object that you are lifting should be as close together as possible the entire time you are lifting or holding the object. This relieves stress on your arms as well as protects your lower back by maintaining the natural curves in your spine.