In this post, we’ll discuss how to lift in a way that is easier on our bodies and, if you’re peri- or post-partum, our abdominals and pelvic floor.
Lifting can be tricky business. When you’re a sleep-deprived mama, it’s challenging enough to make sure your shirt isn’t on inside out, let alone focus on making sure you’re taking care of your glorious body by using good body mechanics. But we know that taking care of ourselves is as important as taking care of those we love.
Besides the whole walking-zombie thing due to lack of sleep, years of poor body patterns and compensations can make lifting difficult. Now that your body isn’t functioning quite like it once did, the way you used to move just isn’t cutting it anymore. Obviously, working on improving movement patterns, flexibility, and strength is ideal, but we’ve got things to do in the NOW, as well.
So what’s a girl to do? Let’s break this down into a few simple steps, outlining some of the ways we can more easily pick up our precious bundle of joy (and all the seemingly endless stuff to bring along).
Does anyone else love the phrase, “pearls of wisdom?” As a kid, I always lamented I didn’t have any real pearls to wear (was I a brat or what?) until my grandmother (called Whammy, how awesome is that?!) gave me a beautiful set of gray pearls in the form of a matching necklace and bracelet. I still wear my fake pearls pretty often, because I’ve been known to lose a thing or two… But those strands from her mean so much. I love to imagine those smooth orbs are a form of her wisdom given to me somehow.
But I digress.
Pearl 1: Move to Neutral Spine
- Neutral spine means you’re in neither an anterior or posterior pelvic tilt, your ribs are stacked over your pelvis, and your head is stacked over your ribs. Confused? Yeah, that’s a lot of jargon. You don’t want a flat back, and you don’t want an overly arched spine. Rather something like this… (If you want more insight into this, here’s a link to an ebook I wrote that address this more fully. Best of all it’s FREE)
This will help allow the abdominals and pelvic floor to work with a better advantage, as well as your neck. It’s also going to allow the muscles of your back to work more efficiently and might help prevent injury there. As you bend to lift, think about keeping this neutral spine through the movement. (However, it’s good to learn how to lift in other ways too. It’s pretty much impossible to do this all the time – variety is the spice of life, after all!)
Pearl 2: Widen your Stance
- Too often I see people step up to lift something with their feet too close together. Girl, you gotta widen those feet if you want to stay balanced! (We could also turn this into a metaphor on how you should widen your circle of influence, your gaze, etc. Just generally allow for more perspectives in your life :)) Especially if you’re currently pregnant or have recently delivered, you’re body’s center of gravity keeps changing so focusing on ways to help prevent falls is key.
Pearl 3: Get Closer
- Unless you’re picking up something (or someone) with something you don’t want to get on you (hello diaper explosion), stand as close as you can to what you’re lifting. You should be close enough to the object that if you were at a middle school dance the chaperone would come to give you the eye. This will decrease the strain on your body as you lift. I like to use the analogy of picking up a big pot of water. Holding it waaaaay out in front of you is a lot harder to lift than if you hold it closer.
Pearl 4: Maintain Vertical Shins
- Lastly, let’s work on trying to keep those knees right over those ankles. If you can keep your knees from floating forward, you’ll decrease pressure on your knees, and, bonus points, get your glutes kicking in better. From someone who’s experienced major knee issues (hello ACL reconstruction!), this tip has helped me lift more easily.
Pearl 5: Engage Through the “Core”
- I find one of the best ways to do this is to think about a gentle lift up through the pelvic floor (more on how to do this, here) and to exhale as you lift. This exhale helps turn on the core reflexively. After pregnancy, sometimes these reflexes and our connection to the core muscles are a little slow. Exhaling while performing the challenging part of the movement helps reconnect to those pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. Plus, engaging through the core is another good way to help decrease the strain on the lower back!
I realize some of this may be next to impossible right now. But keep practicing.
Day by day, I see how I am (blessedly) not the same person I was years, months, or weeks ago. I might enjoy being able to run a sub-6-minute mile again, but I wouldn’t trade knowing I am a woman on a journey with her body. Praise God I am learning to move away from living as a fearful, perfectionistic, controlling type-A (not that I am completely free from that nonsense – but it’s a work in progress, right!?)!
If you’d like to learn more about building the strength and alignment to make these movements easier, I’d love to invite you to check out the short e-book I wrote on what I call the Body Basics.
So there you have it. Pearls of lifting wisdom from me to you. I only wish they were as pretty as the ones my Whammy gave me.
What is the most challenging thing for you to lift? Or what part of this process is hardest to accomplish?
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