Compared with rigid objects, grasping and lifting compliant objects presents additional uncertainties. For any static grasp, forces at the fingertips depend on factors including the locations of the contact points and the contact forces must be coordinated to maintain equilibrium. For compliant objects, the locations and orientations of the contact surfaces change in a force-dependent manner, thus changing the force requirements. Furthermore, every force adjustment then results in additional changes in object shape. This study characterized force and muscle activation patterns in this situation. Fingertip forces were measured as subjects grasped and lifted a 200-g object using their thumb, index, and ring fingers. A spring was sometimes placed under the index and/or ring finger contact surface. Surface electromyographic activity was recorded from ten hand muscles and one proximal arm muscle. The patterns of grip (normal) force and muscle activity were similar across conditions during the load and lift phases, but their amplitude depended on whether the contact surface was compliant. Specifically, the grip force increased smoothly during the load phase of the task under all conditions. To the contrary, the tangential contact (load) force did not increase monotonically when one or more of the contact surfaces were compliant, resulting in a decoupling of the grip and load forces.