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Moving in and out of Neutral Spine

What is it? Why do we need to know about it? And when to use it...

A neutral spine is a posture with the natural curvature of the spine, without any manipulations or stress. It is in this neutral position that optimizes most movement patterns. Since our spine is the part of the core that keeps us upright, the muscles, tendons, tissues, etc. surrounding it are crucial. When we work to strengthen these muscles, the more stability we'll achieve to support movement. Think of these muscles as the concrete foundation to your mansion (body). The stronger the concrete (with allowances for expansion and contraction), the safer your mansion.


For a full breakdown of your stabilizer muscles, click here.


Why is it important to know what neutral spine is? Let's go back to our mansions, shall we? Your mansion is all built and your foundation is strong! What happens when the heat comes and your foundation starts to expand? Or what happens when the natural elements come and test the security of your mansion? If your foundations are too rigid, the mansion will give under the pressure. Your mansion needs the flexibility to withstand the different stressors that come and go. And just like our mansions, we need a strong enough core to support our spine, but we're not meant to live in it. We need the flexibility to overcome our own stressors.


Whether you're moving within neutral spine or out of it, consider the stress applied to the spine. If the muscles cannot withstand the load out of neutral spine, the risk of strain, injury, tears, and chronic tightening increases dramatically. Change to a neutral posture to activate your core stabilizers and see if that doesn't make a difference!


How to find neutral spine:

Start by sitting on the ground. If you cannot criss-cross at the ankles, elevate the hips by placing a pillow or block under your bum. Or, you can sit on a chair. Bring the hands to the lap or lightly on the tops of the thighs. Start to rock forward and back. You'll notice you travel between flesh, bone, and flesh. The bone part of this motion are your "sit bones." The sit bones are the foundation to the pelvic floor and the trunk of the body. The next time you locate the sit bones, stop. Now, stack and align the shoulders over the sit bones and draw the deep abdominals towards the spine (think lengthen and lift). Lastly, stack and align the ears over the shoulders, lifting up from the front of the throat.



This is neutral spine. You can practice this any time and once you feel comfortable, try finding it standing or laying down.


Examples of exercises that move within in neutral spine:

  • Deadlift

  • Plank

  • Bicep Curl

  • Bent over Row

  • Squats (most)

  • Lunges

  • Push-ups

  • Dead Bug

  • Hip Thrusters

  • Tricep kickback, dip, extension

  • Lateral Raise

  • Pull-ups

  • Jumping Jacks

  • Shuffles


Examples of exercises that move OUTSIDE of neutral spine:

  • Cat/Cow

  • Crunches

  • Reverse Crunches

  • Chest Press

  • Swimming

  • Running

  • Rowing

  • Snatch

  • Back extensions

  • Lateral Side Raise

  • Side plank hip drop

  • Yoga


Image provided by Katy Craner's relation with permission

Please note: People with scoliosis have a different curvature of the spine and in some cases is extreme enough to need corrective surgery and/or physical therapy. Katy has scoliosis and has to tailor her workouts and exercises specifically to compensate for this. If you have questions about scoliosis, please contact your physician. Katy is more than happy to work with your physician and/or physical therapist to create a workout program for you, but she cannot diagnose or treat scoliosis.

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