Correlations Between Manual Handling Training and Sports Training

I found the first image on the wall at the Queensland Academy of Sport’s Strength and Conditioning staff room, and the second image was part of a safe lifting course materials provided by a well known WHS service provider. I’d like to discuss why they are relevant … or not!

In my workplace injury prevention role over the past three years I have used wearable technology and video analysis to conduct movement analysis of workers performing manual handling (MH) tasks in over 15 different industries. I’ve found that when adults are required to conduct a MH task similar to the boys in the images, very rarely do they use the same technique, and vary rarely does the technique reflect the recommended MH training technique.


My (heavily physio and sports science influenced) thoughts are:

  • After puberty, genetics and behaviour determines our strengths and weaknesses. Therefore as adults we tend to conduct MH tasks in a way that utilises our different strengths.
  • As we get older, our connective tissue loses elasticity. Therefore, the older we get, the harder it is to move into certain positions.
  • Injuries that we accumulate over the years change our movement patterns. Therefore adults conduct HM tasks in a way that protects or compensates for past injuries.
  • Psych factors that tend to influence our behaviour as adults, such as complacency, laziness, stress, motivation etc.

Now, getting back to the images. Is it appropriate for Strength and Conditioning experts use to use the first image to help athletes with technique? One huge difference between workers conducting MH tasks and athletes training in the gym is the purpose of the task; athletes are generating maximal force to improve strength, workers and completing the MH task to get their job done. Therefore, it is a great image to demonstrate a position for athletes to use when they are required to generate maximal force.

So, is the second image appropriate for manual handling training, or should we focus more on providing workers with the tools to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to modify their manual handling techniques accordingly?

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