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Physics 101 - Lift More with a Neutral Spine

Anyone who has attended one of my mobility classes has undoubtedly heard me refer to

a neutral spine. The neutral spine position is the strongest, safest position for lifting and, as such, having a firm grasp on this position should be top priority for every CrossFit athlete. A neutral spine demonstrates 3 natural curves - cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis and lumbar lordosis - while keeping your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle in a straight vertical line. Over or under emphasis of any of these curves will disrupt this line, robbing you of power in your movements and unnecessarily elevating your risk of injury.

Common suboptimal spine postures

The duck - over extension of the low back (hyperlordosis) deactivates the anterior core & glute muscles, causes tight hip flexors, and may cause low back pain.

The gorilla - internal rounding of your shoulders and rounding of the upper back (hyperkyphosis) are the hallmarks of tight pecs and upper traps, and are frequently linked to shoulder pain.

The turtle - forward head posture may be the result of long hours spent sitting at a desk and frequently leads to neck pain and headaches.

How will a neutral spine impact your lifts?

When lifting, force produced by your powerful lower body muscles (ie glutes, quads, hamstrings etc) is frequently transferred through your torso to your upper limbs and ultimately onto the barbell/dumbbell/kettlebell/bar. Your spine is the middleman in this transfer and it plays an enormous role in determining the effectiveness of your lift.

Consider an overhead lift such as a thruster:

1. Direction of force

  • In the thruster, your force should be directed up. Suboptimal spine postures lead to portions of the force you produce being directed forwards or backwards. This wasted force reduces movement efficiency making the movement harder.

2. Transfer of force

  • In a thruster, your legs produce force which is transferred through your body to the bar to be pressed overhead. A neutral spine is more stable and thus more resistant to flexing/bending under load. It is also a more stable platform for shoulder and hip movement. This means force produced in your legs is more efficiently transferred to your arms and less is bled off due to poor transfer.

3. Distribution of force

  • I would be remiss if I didn’t include the safety element of lifting with a neutral spine. A neutral spine is better able to manage the transfer of force than a flexed or rounded spine, thus reducing the risk of back injuries while lifting.

Contact Dr. Dwayne to learn more about the benefits of lifting with a neutral spine

  • Visit our clinics at CrossFit Connection and/or CrossFit Streets

  • Email

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