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Pushing and pulling movements occur at work, in sports and during your household chores. The safety and efficiency of these movements depend partially on your strength, but your postural alignment and body mechanics play an even more important role. Assessing the right amount of required force and adopting the safest course of movement will prevent pushing and pulling injuries.
Many people remember to bend their knees when they lift a heavy object, but forget to do so during pushing and pulling movements. Bending your knees and drawing your belly in to engage your deep core muscles protects your lower back from pain and injury. When you have a choice between pushing and pulling, pushing provides a safer alternative for your lower back, because it allows you to use your own body weight while maintaining a neutral postural alignment. For maximum safety, lean slightly toward the object you're pushing.
If pulling the object is your only choice, bend your knees and place one foot in front of the other, maintaining a wide base of support. If you keep the object close to you, you'll have better leverage from your legs, and less stress on your lower back. Maintain a straight spine, with your arms close to your body, and protect your wrists by keeping them straight. When you need to turn, change directions with your feet. Never twist your spine.
General Safety Considerations
Before you decide to push or pull an object, assess whether it's safe to do so, or whether you need to ask for help. Consider the weight of the object as compared to your own weight and muscular strength, the object's height and the presence of a comfortable, ergonomic hand grip. If the load is potentially unstable, determine what you need to do to stabilize it before you attempt to do so. Clean the moving surface before you start. Dust or dirt might impede the object's movement fluidity.
Imbalances between your pushing and pulling muscles wreak havoc on your body mechanics. If your workout emphasizes pushups, bench presses and leg-presses, but you will rarely perform pull-ups, seated rows, lat pull-downs or hamstring curls, you create a muscle imbalance that sets you up for injury. These imbalances show up in your posture and overall appearance. An over-developed chest and an under-developed back, for example, creates a slouch. Slouch makes it difficult to engage your core. Lack of core support puts you at risk during pulling and pushing activities.