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  #1  
Old 08-24-2009, 07:03 AM
Biggirl Biggirl is offline
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How much should the average 45 yr old woman be able to lift?

Over this weekend I was putting in some fall veggies in a small raised bed. Try as I might, I could not lift a 40 pound bag of garden soil. I could drag it fine but couldn't even pick it up to get it over the lip of the trunk.

My 22 year old son lifted with it with ease, my 22 year old daughter could not lift it and my 50 year old husband lifted it, although I wouldn't say he did it with ease. This got me wondering-- how much should the average person of a certain age be able to lift? Is there a chart somewhere that tells you this? Are me and my daughter feeble weaklings compared to everyone else?
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  #2  
Old 08-24-2009, 07:57 AM
groman groman is offline
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I think how much somebody is able to lift depends significantly on how convenient it is to handle, so I doubt you could find some sort of a uniform table.

Edit: In my non-scientific opinion, barring a physical disability or medical conditions, I think most people capable of walking of any age or gender should be able to lift at least some object of at least 1/2 their own body weight off the ground.

Last edited by groman; 08-24-2009 at 07:59 AM..
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:13 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Lifting technique also counts. I am also mid-40's, but I can pick something my own body weight up off the ground. I don't think I could get it higher than my waist, but it's my technique, utilizing my leg muscles, that allow me to lift it. (Well, OK, I also have some outright muscle, but technique is important)

I can easily lift 40 lbs, but since I'm working in construction and landscaping I don't think I'm a typical woman of my age. The OP, assuming no health problem, could work out and be able to lift 40 lbs if she wanted to put the effort and time into it, but I'm not surprised she can't do it right now. Few women lift heavy stuff on a daily basis, indeed, they are discouraged from doing so, therefore they don't develop the muscle and ability to do so.
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:26 AM
Mops Mops is offline
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As a practical example, 40 lbs would be about the weight of an average 5-year-old child. Would it be considered usual for a 40-ish woman to be able to lift a (compliant ) five-year-old?
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:54 AM
Biggirl Biggirl is offline
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Originally Posted by tschild View Post
As a practical example, 40 lbs would be about the weight of an average 5-year-old child. Would it be considered usual for a 40-ish woman to be able to lift a (compliant ) five-year-old?

I'd say picking up a child is much, much easier than picking up a bag of soil. (Dragging a bag of soil, however, is a ton easier than dragging a kid. Go figure.)

I should also mention that we are a family of widgets. The tallest of us (my son) is 5'7". And the bag is a little bit more than 1/3rd my daughter's total weight.
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Old 08-24-2009, 09:08 AM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
I should also mention that we are a family of widgets.
White midgets?
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Old 08-24-2009, 09:15 AM
Biggirl Biggirl is offline
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White midgets?
I guess I should have said 'blidgets'. And I also guess us girls are weaklings.
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  #8  
Old 08-24-2009, 09:37 AM
Hello Again Hello Again is online now
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
I'd say picking up a child is much, much easier than picking up a bag of soil. (Dragging a bag of soil, however, is a ton easier than dragging a kid. Go figure.)
.
In the 70s there was a court case regarding the test for firefighters in New York. The disputed aspect of the test was picking up and carrying a 150lb bag of concrete. None of the women tested were able to do it. At trial it was demonstrated that a female firefighter (from Chicago) who could easily lift and carry a 300lb human being, could not lift and carry the 150lb bag of concrete.

So apparently there is a huge difference between lifting a sack of something and a person.
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Old 08-24-2009, 10:08 AM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
In the 70s there was a court case regarding the test for firefighters in New York. The disputed aspect of the test was picking up and carrying a 150lb bag of concrete. None of the women tested were able to do it. At trial it was demonstrated that a female firefighter (from Chicago) who could easily lift and carry a 300lb human being, could not lift and carry the 150lb bag of concrete.

So apparently there is a huge difference between lifting a sack of something and a person.
I'm a pretty strong guy and I can carry a 150lb bag of concrete. I doubt I could easily carry a 300lb person (and I can perform the fireman's carry). I doubt someone who can't carry a 150lb bag could easily lift and carry a 300lb person.

On preview, I decided to Google. The case you're talking about is Berkman et al. v City of New York et al. See here.

The female Chicago firefighter could perform a fireman's carry on a 180lb man but couldn't lift a duffel bag filled with 120lbs of cement in it.
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  #10  
Old 08-24-2009, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by x-ray vision View Post
I'm a pretty strong guy and I can carry a 150lb bag of concrete. I doubt I could easily carry a 300lb person (and I can perform the fireman's carry). I doubt someone who can't carry a 150lb bag could easily lift and carry a 300lb person.

On preview, I decided to Google. The case you're talking about is Berkman et al. v City of New York et al. See here.

The female Chicago firefighter could perform a fireman's carry on a 180lb man but couldn't lift a duffel bag filled with 120lbs of cement in it.
Sorry about the details wrongness. I should have double checked. Still, the point remains. A heavier weight human can be carried than a sack of something.
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  #11  
Old 08-24-2009, 10:27 AM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
Sorry about the details wrongness. I should have double checked. Still, the point remains. A heavier weight human can be carried than a sack of something.
True, but I'm sure the biggest reason for that is the starting position. I'm betting the Chicago firefighter in the court case didn't have to pick up the lawyer while he was lying on the ground the way the duffel bag was. If he had been, she probably wouldn't have been able to lift and carry him either. Likewise, had the duffel bag been as tall as the lawyer and left standing upright, I bet she could have easily performed the fireman's carry on it.
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  #12  
Old 08-24-2009, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by x-ray vision View Post
True, but I'm sure the biggest reason for that is the starting position. I'm betting the Chicago firefighter in the court case didn't have to pick up the lawyer while he was lying on the ground the way the duffel bag was. If he had been, she probably wouldn't have been able to lift and carry him either. Likewise, had the duffel bag been as tall as the lawyer and left standing upright, I bet she could have easily performed the fireman's carry on it.
Obviously, this is far out in WAG land, but it seems to me a matter of leverage that even lying down a human would be easier to lift. As we know, lifting strength comes more from the legs than the arms - if you can't get under a thing, it's very hard to lift with arm strength alone. Humans have hard bits and soft bits inside of them - parts that give to pressure and parts that don't. Humans are also bendy in certain respects. A sack of concrete is just uniform - you can't get your shoulder under the ribs and give a heave-ho, and you can't bend it very easily, and it doesn't have anything (like an arm or leg) to take hold of.

Back to the point - a 40lb child is MUCH more easily lifted - even when actively resisting - than a 40lb bag of dirt.

Last edited by Hello Again; 08-24-2009 at 11:07 AM..
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  #13  
Old 08-24-2009, 12:20 PM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
Humans are also bendy in certain respects.
And that's a problem. The center of gravity changes when limbs don't follow the rest of the body when lifting it from a horizontal position from the ground. I'd go with the duffel bag filed with concrete.


Quote:
Back to the point - a 40lb child is MUCH more easily lifted - even when actively resisting - than a 40lb bag of dirt.
My bet is that the bag of dirt is an easier lift and a much easier carry than the resisting child. Okay, I'm done.
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  #14  
Old 08-24-2009, 12:45 PM
Dr. Righteous Dr. Righteous is offline
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I am a 40 year old female and all I can say is I can lift a case of wine with little difficulty, and that's around 40-45 lbs. I can also lift the 45 lb plastic containers of cat litter I get at Costco with no problem.

I understand that grabbing a bag of soil is way different... just another data point.
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  #15  
Old 08-24-2009, 01:01 PM
Biggirl Biggirl is offline
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Did a little research. I can pick up both of my cats at the same time with ease. I mean with great ease. They are 18 and 19 lbs (big cats, they are), plus their carriers would put their weight over 40lbs. Wrapped my arms around my over 200 lb co-worker and, with a grunt, lifted him clean off his feet and deposited him a good 5 feet from where I started.

The 40lb bag of dirt was immovable to me. The best I could do was grab a corner and get maybe a fourth of the bag lifted before the straining started. Got to the trembling muscles part before the plastic ripped in my hands. No way I could have gotten that thing up. I should mention that the soil in the bag was very, very wet. I'm thinking the bag must have weighed more than 40 pounds.
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  #16  
Old 08-24-2009, 01:05 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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I don't know how helpful this is... but employment law around here says that any job that will be required to lift more than 40 pounds needs to have that specified in the job description. So it sounds like it's safe to assume that the average person can be expected to life at least that much.

Potting soil is a real challenge, though, especially if there are no handles. Also, did you let it get wet? A dry bag of soil in the store will weigh 40 pounds as advertised. But if you happen to get it wet (even by leaving it outside overnight where it can collect dew) you'll find that it weighs more in the morning.
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  #17  
Old 08-24-2009, 01:20 PM
Biggirl Biggirl is offline
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Although the bag may have weighed more than 40 pounds, I'm certain it didn't weigh 200. The relative ease with which I lifted and carried my co-worker as compared to the bag of dirt is. . . strange.
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  #18  
Old 08-24-2009, 01:44 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
Over this weekend I was putting in some fall veggies in a small raised bed. Try as I might, I could not lift a 40 pound bag of garden soil. I could drag it fine but couldn't even pick it up to get it over the lip of the trunk.
My SO is about your age and would have no problem at all lifting a 40 lb bag of soil. I've seen her carry 40 bags of dog kibble without any problem, although she doesn't enjoy it and hates the picking up part. She just kneels on one knee to get closer to its center of gravity then hefts it on to her thigh, then onto her shoulder from there. Once it's on her shoulder, she's fine.

My cousin, who is 37, 5'4" and about 120 lbs, was able to lift my 50 lb backpack and get it on her shoulders for a portage. She couldn't carry it very far though; it bruised her. She used to work running crew for several theater seasons though, so I've seen her grab and run off with an empty 55 gallon oil drum (they're about 40 lbs). She would kneel down and tip the barrel over her knee, grab the edges as the center of the barrel was resting on her thigh, then stand back up and rush off. ETA: the ease with which she could toss around the rigid drum vs. struggling with the squishier backpack was significant.

My girlfriend also has no problem picking up and carrying our 75 lb dog. We were hiking a trail that had a lot of stiles and we had to pass him back and forth to each other. The pooch is not exactly co-operative, but he's definitely not a dead weight.

When the cat decides to go limp like a WTO protester, even I think he's tougher to pick up than the dog.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 08-24-2009 at 01:46 PM..
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  #19  
Old 08-25-2009, 12:58 AM
Oslo Ostragoth Oslo Ostragoth is offline
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High school. Strong as I could be. Working on a rack behind a hay baler. But there were lots of weeds in the hay.

I couldn't lift those bales because the weeds made the bales heavy, and the wires would just sag, instead of actually lifting the bales.

I could surely have lifted the equivalent weight in iron, but not in the dead weight that the bales presented.

So, IMHO, it ain't the weight, it's how "handleable" it is.
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  #20  
Old 08-25-2009, 01:06 AM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
And I also guess us girls are weaklings.
Maybe it's a center of gravity thing. But I do know that my mom, who is seven years older than you, didn't need help carrying bags when we put in a garden using 50 pound bags of soil. I put them in the car myself, so obviously I wasn't hindered by their awkwardness either.

We might have more practice than you, though, which could help account for the difference: duck, rabbit, and chicken food all come in 50 pound bags, and we raised those animals for years. I weighed a little over twice that (if only I still did!) when I was first assigned the task of picking up food at Agway.

Last edited by elfkin477; 08-25-2009 at 01:10 AM..
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Old 08-25-2009, 07:33 AM
Fuzzy Dunlop Fuzzy Dunlop is offline
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
Over this weekend I was putting in some fall veggies in a small raised bed. Try as I might, I could not lift a 40 pound bag of garden soil. I could drag it fine but couldn't even pick it up to get it over the lip of the trunk.

My 22 year old son lifted with it with ease, my 22 year old daughter could not lift it and my 50 year old husband lifted it, although I wouldn't say he did it with ease. This got me wondering-- how much should the average person of a certain age be able to lift? Is there a chart somewhere that tells you this? Are me and my daughter feeble weaklings compared to everyone else?
Whenever I've had a fitness assessment done, like as a bonus when joining a new gym, the "strength" assessment includes doing as many correct push ups as I can and as many stomach crunches as I can in some set period of time. I always thought it was a weird proxy for strength, particularly since it doesn`t test lower body strength at all which is what you should be using to lift a bag of dirt.

That said, I imagine a professional society for sports medicine or something of the sort might maintain guidelines for appropriate strength by age and gender. Or even better, maybe some sort of aggregated data so you could see how you compare to actual women your age. It's been years since I switched gyms but I really think I was told I was above average for flexibility, below average for strength, etc. as part of helping me develop a plan. That must've come from somewhere.
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Old 08-25-2009, 07:51 AM
Henrichek Henrichek is offline
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From being mostly untrained, it doesn't take so much effort to significantly improve one's strength up to a point, as long as one doesn't have any problematic injuries. For example increasing one's strength by 50% is not difficult if one's starting position is low. So a little weight training can be useful, without necessarily taking it too far, or using too much time. Of course, one has to keep it up.
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Old 08-25-2009, 08:05 AM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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I'm guessing that it's more technique than it is strength. Most adult humans can lift 40 lbs if they use their legs. The key is getting the weight to the place where you are using your legs, not your back and arms exclusively.
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Old 08-25-2009, 09:29 AM
Harriet the Spry Harriet the Spry is offline
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Are you sure the problem isn't with a lack of gripping strength in your hands? While most people can lift 40 pounds with their legs, I think there are probably a lot more people who can't lift that using a pinching motion of the hands.
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Old 08-25-2009, 09:44 AM
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It was definitely the arms that failed. They were the ones trembling and giving up. I did not put my back into it because I have a bad one and have learned to avoid straining it at all costs.

Putting together some of the comments and experiments-- picking up the cats-- mostly legs. And they are perhaps 25 or 30 lbs per arm. Lifting each carrier onto a high ledge took much effort but was quite doable. The 200 lbs was a whole body thing. It was easier to lift the co-worker than it was to raise the cat carrier shoulder high.

Yeah, looks like I need some strength training for the arms.
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Old 08-25-2009, 09:47 AM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Whoops! I was coincidentally talking to my cousin (we're all going kayaking this weekend) who has let me know I've misremembered. The pack she struggled with was actually 40 lbs, not fifty, and she said it was a pain in the ass because I'd "packed it squishy" and it would have been easier if I'd tightened all compression straps to make it feel more rigid.

IMCHO, she said 40 lb canoe? No problem, she can carry it herself. 40 lb sack? Pain in the ass because it's floppy and has no resistance.
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  #27  
Old 08-25-2009, 03:26 PM
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I'm a lady-type, 5'6", currently 155 lbs and losing, and I can heft a 50# bag of water softener salt. With difficulty, certainly, but I can do it.
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  #28  
Old 08-25-2009, 03:34 PM
picunurse picunurse is offline
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I'm 63, out of shape, and overweight. I can easily pick up and carry a 50 lb bag of pet food.
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  #29  
Old 08-25-2009, 04:48 PM
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This could just be a factor of poor lifting technique. I lifted (2) 90 lb bags of concrete from the ground as a teenage boy and 3 of them from waste level. I weighed 135 lbs at the time with no upper body strength.

I say this while laying in bed with a back that is halfway from going out so I couldn't lift a sock right now. If it's a function of strength then I would expect a 45 year old woman to be able to dead-lift 40 lbs with proper technique. You lift it with your legs with your arms fully extended and while it's still moving up you get your arms fully under it.
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Old 08-25-2009, 04:56 PM
lobotomyboy63 lobotomyboy63 is offline
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I helped a friend move stuff last weekend. If you're moving something rigid, like a table, it's not too bad. Big TVs are a pain...they're heavy but awkward and of course you don't want to be banging into things with them. Things in bags...you have to grip the bag pretty hard if the weight is substantial.

Next time I'd recommend squatting, getting your hands under the bottom, then lift purely with your legs: just lock your elbows and stand. Keep your back straight of course and exhale as you lift to avoid hernias.
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  #31  
Old 08-25-2009, 07:39 PM
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I'm in my 50s, male, and sadly out of shape, but I have no problem lifting and carrying a 40-pound bag of cat litter, and have easily carried them under one arm for short distances (100-200 feet). I have also lifted 2 bags at once for a total of 80 pounds, although find it very hard to carry them easily other than one on each shoulder (more due to awkwardness than weight, I think).
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  #32  
Old 08-25-2009, 11:46 PM
Kayeby Kayeby is offline
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exrx.net has a weight lifting strength standards chart. It's separated by weight rather than age and you need to use the one rep max calculator first and know how much you can lift for some of the common gym lifts (press, deadlift, bench, squat and clean). Deadlift is probably the closest motion to what you're after.

I don't know how accurate it all is, and obviously it's going to be easier to lift a barbell than it is a bag of dirt, but it might give you an idea of where you are strength-wise.
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Old 08-26-2009, 12:11 AM
Henrichek Henrichek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayeby View Post
exrx.net has a weight lifting strength standards chart. It's separated by weight rather than age and you need to use the one rep max calculator first and know how much you can lift for some of the common gym lifts (press, deadlift, bench, squat and clean). Deadlift is probably the closest motion to what you're after.

I don't know how accurate it all is, and obviously it's going to be easier to lift a barbell than it is a bag of dirt, but it might give you an idea of where you are strength-wise.
Interesting charts, I also wonder how accurate they are. Apparently I am just about on an elite level in one type of lift . I'm just an amateur who goes to the gym a few times a week, and don't feel that elite.
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  #34  
Old 08-26-2009, 02:59 PM
robcaro robcaro is offline
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I think there is some difference between dead weight and live weight. Therefor it is much easier to pick up a 40 lb kid than it is to pick up a 40 lb bag of dirt.
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