Lift safely, lift strong!
If you want to be strong and injury free as you age, you must lift properly. This doesn’t mean only lifting with good technique when you are doing an exercise. It means training the correct lifting patterns for everything you do. Think about how frequently you need to lift something or someone like your kids or grand kids. So many times I’ve seen people have perfect technique while doing a deadlift at the gym and have the worst technique putting the weights away. Many people are mindful about their technique when performing an exercise. However, they may not always be mindful when doing movements not part of their exercise routine. If you want to be strong and pain free as you age, you need to practice good lifting technique outside of the gym. This may mean you need to slow down and think about how to move. It can take time to create the habit of moving correctly. However, that pattern will become more automatic with practice.
You can get away with poor lifting patterns for years with no injury. However, eventually it will catch up with you. People rarely hurt their back because of doing one thing one time. Some people will associate their back pain with a specific injury while other times the back pain comes on “for no reason”. Most back pain is a result of three things that accumulate over time to eventually cause pain. These include poor movement patterns, not enough movement (including too much sitting), and stress (more on how stress affects your pain in a future article).
This article will focus on a hip hinge movement pattern commonly used with a dead lift. This movement pattern minimizes stress on your knees and keeps your spine in a strong position. It also allows you to primarily use your glute muscles to lift the load. Unfortunately, age and too much sitting causes our butt muscles to “shut down” and stop working as well as they should. The deadlift and single leg deadlift are great exercises to get your butt firing again! Even more important is using the hinge pattern anytime you lift something or pick something off the ground. This will help keep you strong and injury free! See videos below for examples of these patterns. When doing these exercises you want to maximize the movement at your hips and minimize the movement at your spine.
Dr. Terry Gebhardt is a physical therapist and sports performance coach at Colorado In Motion