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My biceps are always sore. Am I using the wrong muscles?

The question

I work as a nurse's aide, which involves daily heavy pulling, lifting and bending activities. Afterward, my biceps are always sore. Am I using the wrong muscles? Should I be doing certain exercises to ensure I can perform my daily job requirements?

The answer

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We may not all be nurse's aides, but whether it's lifting up a toddler, doing odd jobs around the house, carrying groceries, gardening or lifting heavy boxes from the trunk of a car, we all need to learn proper lifting and moving techniques so we don't hurt our backs, knees or shoulders.

If you are feeling a lot of soreness in your biceps, you are probably lifting and pulling with your arms instead of your upper back and legs. On a short term basis this may not be so bad, but over time, lifting and moving any object with just your arms may result in injuries.

Next time you are in the gym, try these two exercises to help teach your body how to lift properly using your legs and upper back muscles:

1. Rows: For this exercise, you need to use the cable machine at your local gym. If you are exercising at home, use a theraband. Adjust the cable or band so it is roughly at chest height. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding one handle with each hand. Perform the row by pulling your elbows to either side of your waist. Initiate the pull from your upper back, and as your shoulder blades come together, imagine cracking a walnut in-between your shoulder blades. Do 10 to 15 reps.

2. Squats: Stand with your legs parallel and slightly wider then shoulder-width apart. Bend at your ankles, knees and hips so you sit your hips backward like you are sitting in a chair. Do 10 to 15 reps.

Trainer's Tip: Once you can perform both exercises correctly, do both exercises simultaneously to better mimic lifting a heavy object. Hold one handle in each hand and, as you stand up from the squat, do a row.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at . She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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