In lifting, the abdominal muscles are thought to be activated to stabilize the spine. As a detrimental effect, they contribute to spinal compression. The existing literature is not conclusive about the biological relevance of this effect. From biological, mechanical and anatomical considerations it was hypothesised that the relative abdominal contribution to compression would be minor in the beginning of the lift, that the relative and absolute abdominal contribution to compression would rise throughout the lift, and that the obliques would contribute to a larger extent than the rectus abdominis. To investigate these hypotheses, 10 subjects lifted 0.5, 10.5 and 22.5 kg. EMG levels obtained from the rectus abdominis and the obliques were converted into force using normalized EMG, muscle potential and area values, and modulating factors for muscle length and contraction velocity. An anatomical model was applied to compute the abdominal effects on spinal compression in three consecutive phases within a lift. If expressed relative to the total spinal compression, the abdominal contribution for the three weight conditions was 7.1% (SD, 1.7), 10.4% (4.7) and 12.5% (4.4) in the begin and 21.0% (5.8), 19.0% (5.3) and 22.2% (6.6) in the end phase. Thus, the relative abdominal contribution to compression was minor in the beginning and increased towards the end. The absolute abdominal contribution was constant throughout the lift. The contributions could be retraced to the obliques rather than the rectus, while during the lift a shift in activation from the obliquus externus to internus was observed.