How to Lift Heavy Objects by Yourself

man with back pain from lifting heavy object

Every now and then, life puts us in a situation where we must lift heavy objects that weigh more than our body could endure.

This leads to an endless list of potential injuries. Luckily, a correct way to handle weighty items exists, so we could harmlessly do our job or at least reduce the risk of trauma to a minimum. By following this proper lifting technique you can rearrange, clean or move house without any trouble.

How to Lift Heavy Objects by Yourself

With Fantastic Removals London’s easy guide you’ll know the proper way to lift heavy objects even when alone.

  • Examine the item you’re about to move. Size doesn’t mean everything. Take some time to check if the load is too heavy and look for comfortable pick up spots. The latter will significantly decrease the chance of you getting hurt. Is the object well balanced? If you’re lifting boxes, is there a risk of something falling off due to cracks or other weak spots? Don’t forget – there’s no shame in asking for help.
  • Check your surroundings and choose a safe route. Clear any obstacles that stand in your way to avoid tripping and be mindful of stairs and uneven floors.
  • Get into position. The key lies in preparation and, in our case – a proper stance. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, tighten your abdominal muscles, bend your knees, squat down to the floor and look straight ahead. If needed, put one knee on the floor and your other knee in front of you bent at a right angle (like a knight). Get a good grasp of the load with both hands and get ready for lifting.
  • Lift & Carry. Keep the item close to your body and use your leg muscles to stand up and lift the load off the floor. Your back should remain straight throughout the process. Use slow and smooth moves and do not twist your body when moving the object. Use your feet to change direction and take small steps. Lead with your hips as you change direction. As you move, keep your shoulders in line with your hips.
  • Drop the load. Once you have reached your destination and it’s time to put the object down, return to the squatting position, using only your leg muscles (not back). Keep your back straight, hold the item close to your body and set it down gently as you reach the ground (or another surface).

Note: Do not attempt to move a piano or objects of similar size alone. Items this big require at least 2 or 3 people. Often, only professional movers from a reliable removal company are able to move objects as heavy as this.

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How to Lift Heavy Objects with Pulleys

Pulleys are the best form of help you can get when it comes to lifting heavy objects. They’re a system of one or more wheels with a looped rope around them that uses the laws of physics to distribute weight and make it easier to lift and are widely used when people move out and change the address.

  • Gather the materials for your system. To make your own pulleys system, you need, at least one pulley, lifting slings, rope, working gloves, barricades.
  • Estimate the load of your heavy object. As a safety precaution, you need to get lifting straps needed for more than twice the object’s weight. Doesn’t matter if you’re moving home or there’s an object that has to be lifted for a different purpose.
  • Attach the lifting straps to the object. Make sure it’s well rigged and won’t slip off.
  • Calculate the number of pulleys required. The more pulleys, the easier for you (just more attachments needed). The velocity decreases and the mechanical advantage increases with each new pulley.
  • Place the top pulley above the object’s final destination. This way, it will swing there by itself. Make sure there’s nice open space around the trajectory just in case.
  • Test the load. If one pulley is not enough for you to push the system into gear, you might need a few more.

How to Lift Heavy Objects Upstairs (and down)

As we’ve shared in other moving tips blog articles, pulleys are the best way to lift heavy objects upstairs, but if you don’t have the equipment, and instead have a hand truck, here’s what to do.

  • Slide the downside under your heavy object.
  • Strap the object securely to the side of the hand truck, and test just in case it’s well stabilized.
  • Tilt the hand truck and balance the weight on the wheels.
  • Walk backwards when going upstairs.
  • Walk forward when going downstairs.

Proper Posture When Lifting Weights

proper posture for lifting a heavy object

Image Source: Wikimedia/ License: Public Domain

  • Position the heavy object in front of your feet.
  • Keep a wide base of support, having a distance of at least 50 cm between your feet. The closer they are to one another, the harder it gets to keep balance.
  • Squat properly to reach the object below. Keep your back straight by pushing your chest forward. Bend the knees but don’t extend them too forward.
  • Grip the heavy item firmly, without applying excessive amounts of force as it may cause slippery.
  • Keep your posture straight by looking forward, not below.
  • Keep your elbows as close as possible to your body
  • Do not twist your waist when lifting an object.
  • Push with the legs, while keeping arms straight, only slightly bend in the elbows.
  • Do not bend your back, keep your chest up while lifting.
  • Constantly hold the heavy object as close to your body as possible.
  • Move slowly without bending backwards. If the weight is heavier it may cause you to fall backward.
  • When you are about to drop off the weight, start with the legs until you get into a squatting position, then slowly loosen your grip so the object touches the ground slowly at each end.
    Do not drop it off from a distance or throw it down from a standing position.

Ron S. Miller, PT

Ron Miller

Ron S. Miller - physical therapist at the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin, bachelor's degree in physical therapy

"When the chest is kept forward and the body is bent at the hips, the back is kept straight and back injury can be avoided. The back muscles will then be used most effectively for maintaining good posture, as they are designed to do. The knees will bend automatically so the muscles of the legs and hips will produce the power for lifting correctly. Twisting is another dangerous mistake that can lead to back injury. The shoulders should be kept in line with the hips to avoid this movement. For changing directions, move the hips first so the shoulders will move in unison. When moving the shoulders first, the hips tend to lag behind creating the dangerous twisting that can cause back injury, especially to the joints in the back and pelvis."

Read more tips about lifting properly

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General Heavy Lifting Advice

These tips will help you to achieve a smooth relocation process to close or distant places. Mind that preparing for international moving takes more time and the risk of getting an injury from the improper lifting of heavy items is higher.

  • Never lift an item by bending over.
  • Never lift an object above shoulder level.
  • Stretching your legs and back helps your body warm-up for the task.
  • Do not lift super heavy items by yourself, call for help.
  • Find and use a dolly.
  • Use working gloves all the time.
  • Do not rely entirely on back belts for protection, it’s not guaranteed.

FAQ About Lifting Heavy Objects in a Domestic Environment and at Work

lifting a heavy object alone

Image license:CC BY-SA 4.0 / Image Owner: Fantastic Removals

Is it Safe to Keep Your Knees Straight When Lifting?

It’s certainly not safe to attempt reaching down to the heavy object with your knees straight before attempting to lift it. Once you push with your legs from a squatting position and weight if lifted from the ground completely, your legs will get in a straight position. Don’t keep them too straight as the whole weight will be transferred onto the knees. Instead, always keep your knees slightly bend, just as they are when you’re stepping with your leg when walking.

Why Should You Bend Your Knees When Lifting?

When lifting a heavy object you have to squat first so you can grab it from the ground. You can’t actually squat properly without bending your knees.

Is it Better to Push or Pull a Heavy Object?

Friction plays a great role when pushing an object. The friction is higher than when pulling the same object under the same conditions. That’s what makes pushing harder than pulling most of the time.

When pulling an object, though, the vertical force is against the weight of the body, which causes you to reduce the friction between the object and the surface it’s put on. With a lower friction, you will need a bit less force to pull the object.

What Causes Most Back Injuries?

  • Twisting your upper body while holding a heavier weight
  • Using an improper technique for lifting, pushing or pulling a heavy object
  • Incorrect lifting posture. Back is not straight, knees are too bent or not bent at all etc.
  • Continuously holding a heavy object in your hands without taking rest.
  • Previous back injuries that have not fully healed
  • Lifting a heavy object after taking being calm for too long. You need to warm a little first.
  • Lifting a heavier weight than the recommended minimum, depending on your gender, weight, height, age and other factors.

What leads to an easier back injury:

Anyone can get a back injury when lifting a heavy object but some people are more likely to get the negative impacts of this physical action. These are some of the most common reasons why you might be more vulnerable to back injuries:

  • Age. For those who have not maintained a regular exercise over age, having back pain is a commonly seen issue that starts to appear as a symptom, usually after getting 30 years old.
  • Diseases. Arthritis is one of the most diseases that cause back pain. Scoliosis is also a possible reason for pains in the back, both affect the bones and are commonly observed among older individuals. Other diseases may be osteoporosis, slipped disc or even cancer.
  • Lack of training. Your body needs movement and everyday activity to function properly. When you’re not supplying it with the minimum amount of physical activity, don’t be surprised to experience pain at different spots on your body. When the back muscles and the abdomen are weak, the pain usually appears as the body becomes hard to support. Do not attempt to lift heavy objects if you have no training at all.
  • Smoking. While smoking doesn’t directly increase the risk of back injuries, it’s a fact that smoking reduces the blood flow to the lower spine. This may prevent the body from supplying the spine with the required amount of nutrients that your disks need for proper functioning. Since smoking keeps your body back in a more vulnerable state, it can be a reason for easier injury.

What Can You Do to Reduce a Heavy Load?

reducing a heavy load

Image license:CC BY-SA 4.0 / Image Owner: Fantastic Removals

When manually lifting:

  • Reduce body twisting as much as possible.
  • Ask someone else to grab the heavy object on the other side
  • Remain in a stable position until you drop off the weight.
  • Lift the weight not higher than your waist.
  • The higher you lift the object, the risk for injury increases. Holding heavy objects above your head is most dangerous.
  • Plan your route in advance so you take the shortest cut while loaded.

How Can Lifting of Small Loads Cause Injury?

Usually, the human body is most prone to injuries when a person is lifting heavier weights. What is a heavyweight, though? For some, an object weighing 20 kg might be a very lightweight thing, while for others, it would seem like something super heavy to lift from the ground.

An object’s weight is either light or compared to the weight of the person who’s lifting it. For a 50 kg woman, a 30kg box, filled with training equipment is a heavy and dangerous load, while a grown-up, moderately trained man should deal with it easily.

What is important is that you can get injured even with small loads when you’re not properly evaluating your physical health, training, lifting skills and preparation.

Some of the reasons for injuries when lifting small loads are:

  • Not warming up
  • Lifting the weight in an exposed position
  • Lifting a decent percentage of your own personal weight
  • Health issues
  • Previous injuries that have not healed properly
  • Excessively lifting small weights with no rest at all

Avoid the things, listed above when you have to deal with heavy or not-so-heavy objects. You’re always in a risk of injury when you’re not following some basic lifting techniques.

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What Is Kinetic Lifting?

It’s more popular as “manual handling”. This is the practice of lifting heavier weights on your own while at work. It is a method of handling weight properly without causing injury by using your whole body. It sums up what we’ve explained earlier in the post about avoiding injury, having proper posture and things to avoid. All this but in practice at the workplace is known as “kinetic lifting”.

What Are the Most Common Workplace Injuries Caused By Heavy Lifting?

  • Back sprains
  • Elbow injuries
  • Muscle
  • Tendinitis
  • Knee injuries
  • Muscle pull and strain
  • Spinal injuries

Slipped Disc Recovery Time

Without any surgical treatments, a person usually needs 4 to 6 weeks to recover from a slipped disc injury. In this period, the injured should avoid intense physical activity, heat/cold therapies, and non-prescribed medications. Maintaining balanced nutrition, rich in protein and antioxidants will increase the rate of tissue regeneration, which will help the injured to recover from the slipped disc injury.

Regular physical activity also speeds up the process of recuperation from such injury. Just don’t do any excessive amounts of exercise. If you’ve gone through fusion surgery, do not smoke at any cost! It may result in a slower healing process or pseudarthrosis.

Always talk to your doctor about your diet during the recovery and don’t forget to mention if you are allergic to any food, this is of great importance for the proper healing process.

What is the Guideline Maximum Lifting Weights for Men & Women That You Should Lift on Your Own?

The maximum weight, lifted per person depends on several factors:

  • Gender.
  • Physical characteristics such as height, weight etc.
  • How high the weight is being lifted.
  • How low the weight is being lifted.

The maximum weight a male person should lift at work is 25kg. This is valid if he’s holding it close to the body at waist height. It also means tasks such as moving a fridge freezer is not a job for a single person but a more complex activity that should be completed by at least 2 men.

The maximum recommended weight for women under the same circumstances is 16kg.

This is only the suggested amount of weight. It’s the maximum for people who’re in good health condition. If you’re having health issues, you should not lift such weight.

Image source: Antonio Guillem/

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Check also:

Council Tax When Moving House

Moving Costs

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