“Holy smokes.. These guys are strong,” I thought as we were hauling an 800 lb gun safe up a flight of stairs.

In college, I joined a moving company for a little extra cash.  I’m not exactly sure why I thought it was a good idea.. It was HARD work, but it was fun and I enjoyed helping people move into their new homes.  What sticks out most about the experience was that my fellow movers never lifted weights.  They weren’t gym-goers or on an evidence-based program, but they were STRONG!  

Lifting oddly shaped things adds an entirely different element to your training.  As a mover, I developed core and extremity strength in different ways than I ever had before.  Lifting a treadmill and twisting it in order to make a corner at the top of the stairs builds strength in a different capacity than the bench press.

Strongman competitors display this kind of strength all the time.  There are always odd carries, tire flips, or other nontraditional implements lifted in competition.  I have always enjoyed strongman training and there are aspects that transfer to daily life, sport, etc.

Today, I wanted to give a few pro tips for those of you looking to pick things up.  Lifting odd objects is both an art and a science:

Weight is Relative

First, you must select a safe object to train with.  If you are using natural items like logs or stones, beware of sharp edges or splinters.  Try to find objects that have tactile surfaces where grip won’t be an issue (unless that’s what you’re training for).  

Weight is relative to the kind of object you are lifting.  A barbell loaded with 135 lbs may seem light for some of you when squatting, deadlifting, benching, etc.  However, a 135 lb sandbag seems MUCH heavier when you attempt to lift it.  This is because the weight is dispersed differently.  A barbell distributes weight evenly and symmetrically from a central axis.  A natural rock is rarely a perfect sphere or cube.. Be ready for a challenge!  I suggest starting with smaller, lighter objects and working your way into heavier ones as you become more comfortable.

Keep It CLOSE!

This tip goes along with a common theme from us:  Protect your spine.  Unless you are deliberately training with odd objects and outstretched limbs, my recommendation is to always keep an object close to your body.  Think about when you use a barbell – you are able to keep the weight very close to your center of mass.  When lifting odd things, it can be much more difficult.  Examine the object and make a plan of attack before going up and heaving it up to your shoulders.  

Breathing is Everything

The valsalva maneuver is very common in lifting.  This is where you hold your breath while exerting maximal force in order to stabilize your core.  While this works for individual repetitions, doing so repeatedly can cause an oxygen deficit.  Breathing is important to both health and performance when lifting.  The goal is to build intra-abdominal pressure.  This is why wearing a belt can be beneficial.  It encourages you to breathe into your abdomen and create pressure against the belt.  Be sure to breathe intentionally and brace your core when lifting odd objects.

Closing Thoughts

Lifting odd objects can be a great way to mix up your training.  Just like any other form of exercise, there are inherent risks but we can minimize those risks through preparation and good training habits.

When you read the title ‘Lifting Odd Objects,’ what came to mind?  Do you have an odd object lifting story?

We’d love to hear about it in a comment below and until next time.. Stay moving!

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