Perform 3 sets of 8 repetitions with 60 seconds rest in between sets, 3 times per week. Continue using this exercise 1-2 times per week once symptoms have resolved to improve strength.
Repetitively lifting a weight from the ground with good form is a great way to train the body to handle the load of everyday tasks. It can strengthen your muscles, improve your ability to control weight, and reduce the risk of future injury.
Start with feet between hip and shoulder width apart, with the weight in between the middle of the feet. Keeping the back straight, push the hips backwards as if closing a drawer that was left open behind you. Continue hinging at the hips and bending the knees until you can reach the weight with outstretched arms.
In the bottom position, you should be holding onto the weight with straight arms and the palms facing down, a straight neck and back, hips just above knee level, and your feet flat on the floor. Make sure the back is not slumped or arched at this stage, or during the movement. The Drawing In exercise and aligning the pelvis with the rib cage can help with this.
Once the spine is set, tighten the upper back by drawing the shoulder blades together. Then, push the heels into the ground as if to drive the floor away, ensuring the knees do not buckle in towards each other. As the weight comes up past the knees, push the hips forward to meet the weight and squeeze the buttocks as you do so. At the top of the movement you should be standing upright and looking straight ahead, without leaning back or looking down.
Lower the weight in a controlled manner using the same technique: hinging at the hips and bending the knees until the weight is on the floor. The weight should travel straight up and straight down along the same path.
• Lifting with the upper body. When picking a weight up from the ground, it is common for people to engage their arms and back instead of emphasising their legs. This fails to take advantage of the body’s largest muscle groups, and can lead to injury. To avoid this, imagine that the legs and hips are doing the work of moving the weight, and the upper body is just a stable connection between the legs and the weight. Make sure the arms are taught and the back is straight before pushing the ground away with the legs.
• Bending at the lower back instead of the hips. To maintain trunk alignment while you hinge at the hips, imagine your hips form a bowl facing upwards (place your hands around your hips and imagine holding a bowl) and your ribcage is a bowl that is upside down (place your hands around your ribs and imagine holding an upside-down bowl). Keep the bowls aligned with one another throughout the movement. If you are having trouble adjusting the bottom bowl, try the Standing Pelvic Tilt and Drawing In exercises to improve control.
Use this exercise as part of your weekly physical activty routine to maintain strength in the back and legs.