Home The Bottom Line: Squat vs. Stoop Lifting: Which is Safer? Ergonomics Done Right®

Written by: humantech on February 1st, 2017

Humantech ergonomist Blake McGowan shares the ground-breaking results from a 2016 study that measured the spinal loads during both squat and stoop lifting in this month’s bottom line video.

The German researchers found:

  1. Lifting an object from the ground results in significant spinal loading regardless if it was a squat or stoop lift.
  2. The spinal forces were the same for both. In fact, the forces were 4 percent greater for a squat lift.

Dreischarf M, Rohlmann A, Graichen F, Bergmann G, Schmidt H.  (2016).  In vivo loads on a vertebral body replacement during different lifting techniques.  J Biomech. 2016 Apr 11;49(6):890-5.

 van Dieën JH, Hoozemans MJ, Toussaint HM. (1999).  Stoop or squat: a review of biomechanical studies on lifting technique.  Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1999 Dec;14(10):685-96.




2 responses to “The Bottom Line: Squat vs. Stoop Lifting: Which is Safer?”

  1. Troy Bierkortte says:

    The bottom line was left without a sum.
    While forces on the spine are still large when squat lifting, there are other considerations that were not addressed. The body consists of more than a spine and skeleton.
    My questions are?
    What are true relative strain forces on muscles, tendons, and ligaments?
    Which of those points are most vulnerable in each type of lift?
    Which type of lift reduces the strain on the more vulnerable points?
    How are those strain forces transmitted and distributed throughout the musculoskeletal structure of the body for each type of lift?
    If we use a crane as an analog to the body, we can see that larger forces can be withstood by a vertical boom than by a horizontal one. Would this not also be true for the spine and skeleton?
    I agree that elevating loads by other means, reducing the weight of the load, lifting from elevated positions versus lifting off the ground, and using mechanical assist devices make lifting safer. But the question remains; how should a person position the body for lifting? You didn’t answer that one.

  2. Blake says:

    Tony – Thank you for all your questions. Research shows that spinal loading is still the most sensitive variable and the best predictor of low back disorders. So, we tend to focus on this measure to provide really good information. All other information can be measured, but is not as valuable.
    To answer your last question, designing the work to allow a person to lift in a safe position is the best approach. For example, elevate the material off the ground, if the material is heavy and lifted frequently. Or, use mechanical devices to lift heavy loads. Engineering controls are shown to be the most effective approach. Hope this helps. If by chance I misunderstood your questions, I would be happy to follow up and discuss. All the best. Blake.

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