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Backpacks are the best way to carry your stuff around, especially heavy books. However, many people use the best method without using it properly in a way that really utilizes the function of a backpack.

Let’s look at some of the ways in which you can carry a backpack, especially a heavy one full of books, without putting too much strain on yourself, your muscles, your back or on any nerves or vertebrae.

1. Try Not to Look Too Cool

It’s tempting to swing your backpack around like you don’t give a care, hang it loosely from one shoulder, have the straps pulled out so that it hangs low, and generally make a fool out of yourself just look cool and casual.

Looking cool can really cost you within a year in this particular case. Stick with your hip casual wear and learn to carry a backpack properly and safely.

The straps of a backpack are meant to be the full strap without the extenders. The extenders on the straps are only there for people who have a wide armhole such as big, muscley people and larger, corn-fed people. That’s it, though. If your weight and bulk are within normal range, you need to have the extenders pulled completely up and secured tightly so that you are only using the cushioned straps and nothing extra.

2. Use Both Straps All the Time

Never, ever wear your backpack over one shoulder like a duffle bag. This is a great way to pull a muscle (the guys in gym will laugh at you for pulling a muscle in such a lame way, anyway), pull yourself out of chiropractic alignment, pinch a nerve, and cause you to walk with a gimpy limp.

Always carry your backpack with the load evenly distributed on the right and left sides of the bag and with both straps on securely. Your shoulders and your overall appearance will thank you for the consideration.

3. Weight the Bottom of the Backpack First

Put the heaviest stuff in the bottom of your backpack. This allows the bag to hang correctly and properly in a nice, flat manner when it is hanging correctly from your shoulders.

Put your notebooks and larger textbooks in first. Then, shove them back and stick smaller books on their back directly on the floor of the backpack in front. This keeps the bulk and the weight of the backpack nice and flat on the floor of the bag.

4. Shorten the Straps Up Nice and Snug so that Your Backpack’s Weight is Distributed Evenly Over Your Back

Now, we can’t insist on this particular aspect enough. If your backpack straps are extended and you’re wearing it on a small or regular frame, the gravity of the back will lean back like a duffle bag instead of sitting up straight like it’s supposed to do. This will pull on your neck and on your neck muscles.

The idea is for the bag to be completely and fully upright and standing tall while it is on your back, not for it to be loosely hanging back and lying down. Keep the straps pulled as short as possible for small and regular sized bodies and only use the extenders when absolutely necessary for larger bodies. Extend one inch at a time, pick up the bag, and make sure that it is still flat against your back when both straps are on. If it is still too tight for you, loosen the extenders another inch. Try it on again and wiggle your shoulders around. As soon as the backpack is lying flat against your back and your shoulders have enough wiggle room, that is loose enough. Secure the extender tightly and don’t loosen them further.

It’s important that people understand that backpacks are already made in an incredibly ergonomic fashion. All you have to do is take advantage of this fact to get the job done correctly.

5. Engage Your Ab Muscles with Heavy Loads, Not Your Lower Back Muscles

What do you do when the load is really heavy? On school days when you have to pack a lot of really heavy books in one bag at a time with no locker room or dorm time in between to change out your books, you will have to use your lower ab muscles to get the job done.

Always make sure that you notice if your lower back muscles are pulling unnecessarily. Your backpack should sit directly flat against your back and, for the most part, the weight of the bag should be fairly evenly distributed up and down your back (as well as left and right, of course). How to carry a backpack is, of course, the point here. If you find that your lower back muscles are being engaged, then something is wrong.

Pull the straps tighter so that only your ab muscles are engaged when pulling your backpack forward. Once that is done, revel in the fact that this will give your abdominal muscles an excellent workout which will really build them up big. This will occur over time when you use them in a slow, controlled manner. Happy Workout!

6. Respect Your Body and Notice Your Balance and Any Pulling Muscles

Now, once you get the proper feeling and carriage of your backpack down pat, you will love how good it feels and how well it works out the core of your body while you walk or run around.

However, if you feel like one of your muscles are pulling or your feel a vertebra acting up or you feel a nerve anywhere in your core firing off, you will need to immediately take conscious note of how to carry a backpack. It can be as simple as taking it off, redistributing the books and papers right and left, and putting it back on. It can also be as simple as shortening the straps, making sure all of the weight is in the bottom of the bag, and make sure it is lying flat against your back with both straps on.

Whatever you do and however you do it, take note of how your body feels at all times. Backpacks are meant to be carried using the large muscles of your body, the trapezius muscles, the latissimus dorsi muscles, the abs and the obliques. If smaller muscles, like your neck muscles, are being used, they will carry too much weight and in danger of being pinched or pulled.

Always use common sense, read your textbooks, and ask your teacher lots of questions. Happy carrying and happy backpacking in the wilds!