Neutral spine is a phrase that is often misunderstood and not achieved. I’ve come to realize that when it is said, the people saying it are referring only to the lower back portion of the spine. This is only part of the puzzle; albeit, an important part. Neutral spine is speaking of your entire spine. You have 3 curvatures in your spine; 1 in your neck (cervical spine), 1 in your middle back (thoracic spine), and 1 in your lower back (lumbar spine). These 3 regions of your spine have varying degrees of curvatures, and when the degrees of the curves are thrown out of a safe balance, this causes problems, pains, and injuries to your spine or surrounding muscles, or somewhere else in the body. So, finding and working in neutral is very important, and can bring great strength gains.
For simplicity’s sake, use these tips to find your neutral spine: Take a moment and go through these guidelines with focus, fingers, and imagination. Get after it!!
- Imagine there is a string attached to the sides of both shoulders, and someone is pulling the strings to create width across your chest and shoulders. Your shoulders should go slightly back and your collar bones should feel like they spread farther apart from one another. Now sit your head back ever so slightly, so that it sits directly between both shoulders so that your neck feels lengthened.
- Imagine someone’s hands are around your ribs, and they are squeezing a little too tight, and you are drawing your ribs in to avoid being crushed. See if you can feel your ribs moving in from the sides and also from the front and back. Once you feel that you’ve got this three dimensional rib movement down pat, add in queue number 1 with it.
- Put your thumbs on your front hip bones, (the most salient bones at the top of your pelvic girdle), now, put your pointer fingers on your pubic bone (the bone right above your vagina). Tighten your stomach muscles slightly inward and upward as you move your front hip bones and pubic bone up towards your belly button; simultaneously, pull your tailbone up towards the back of your head. It’s very important that you tighten your abdominal muscles and start to pull your lower abdominals in and up. As you engage these front and back muscles, the two moves counter one another, and should put you in your neutral lumbar position. You should feel solid and immovable here, with lower back and abdominal muscles working together. Practice holding this position statically for 20 seconds, and working your way up to 30 or 45 seconds. When you have a discerning feel of this, add in the first 2 queues with it. You will start to gain strength in this neutral position and also an infallible awareness of when you are or are not there.
These are all queues that I use with my clients as well as within the Vertical7 program. It’s important for me to relay this information to my clients and felt I should further explain exactly what I mean when I deliver these queues to you. I hope this quick description helps you to understand better what neutral spine is and why it is so important to me as a fitness professional, but also why it should be important to you.
If you can affect these positions, and hold them through breathing, and certain exercises, you will achieve amazing strength gains, improved posture, and core awareness. These positions are your Neutral Spine.!!!