Trained weight lifters lift heavy loads without a concomitant degree of acute low-back injuries. To study the process by which large loads are lifted with minimal injury, integrated electromyographic signals were recorded from four large muscle groups: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, latissimus dorsi, and erector spinae in 4 weight lifters and 11 asymptomatic control subjects. These signals were recorded during a floor-to-knuckle-height isokinetic lift (dead lift) at 30.5 and 45.7 cm/sec. The signals were normalized for the height of the lift and the maximal isokinetic integrated electromyographic activity. The weight lifters achieved maximal force at 50% of maximal lift height, whereas the control subjects achieved it at 67%. Although not statistically significant, the weight lifters used the gluteus maximus more during the early stages of the lift, perhaps contributing to earlier development of force. This process would stabilize the pelvis and permit the erector spinae to extend the trunk more efficiently. The weight lifter then completed the lift with prolonged and increasing activity in the quadriceps. This technique may minimize the required force in the erector spinae and the forces on the low-back structures. Clinical implications include more effective strength training of lifting muscle groups other than spinal extensors and the teaching of lifting strategies employed by weight lifters in low-back rehabilitation and work-hardening programs.