What is a neutral spine?
Definition: 'The position of an individual's spine where every joint is held in an optimal position to allow an equal distribution of force through the entire structure.'
In neutral posture, the body is able to function in its strongest, most balanced position. Stress to the joints, muscles, vertebrae and tissue is minimized. Maintaining neutral posture will help reduce the risk of injury and increase the efficiency of movement during exercise.
Working in neutral posture is also a component in a more holistic approach to movement and exercise where the body is viewed as an integrated unit, rather than isolated parts. When people have difficulty achieving or working in neutral posture, it is often an indication of muscular imbalance. Muscular or postural imbalances are a concern because they can lead to injury and chronic anatomical problems or limit performance. Working out of neutral alignment, may inhibit the recruitment of certain muscles and make the movements more difficult. Most of us feel that our exercise programs are challenging enough and we don't want to make them any harder!
How to find your neutral spine
Let's take a look at how you can find neutral spine and use it to make your fitness program effective and balanced.
- 1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, thigh muscles elongated without locking the knees.
- 2. Maintain a small hollow in your lower back, but avoid the tendency for too much arch/leaning back, especially with prolonged standing. The "tail" should remain slightly tucked down.
- 3. Lift the breastbone. As you do this, the shoulder blades will move down in back. This should create a good distance from your hipbone to your rib cage.
- 4. Your chin should be level and your nose pointing straigh forward. Relax your jaw and neck muscles.
A "wall test" can be performed to help practice good standing posture. Stand with head, shoulders, and back against wall and heels a couple of inches forward. Draw in the lower abdominals, decreasing the arch in your low back. Push away from the wall and try to maintain this upright, vertical alignment.