Keep Your Spine Aligned

Lately I have been paying a lot of attention to spinal alignment, which any of my athletes reading this can attest to. For about six years now I have been on a continuing struggle to cope with and fix my low back pain. During this time period I have done quite an extensive amount of homework on the spine. Everyone knows that the spine is important because it houses the spinal cord, but until you really dive into the anatomy and physiology of the spine you don’t realize HOW important it is. The spine is unique in the body and should be treated as such. Just last week I went on a bit of a rant (thank you to those who put up with in on twitter) about my thoughts and current coaching cues on spinal alignment. Because of my obsession to keep every one of my athletes spine healthy, I am reposting my thoughts here as well. Read up, and keep these in mind the next time you step into a gym

  • When in the gym it is important to keep your focus on the alignment of your spine during any lift.
  • Your spine is the basis for any movement you make. If you keep your spine healthy, you will keep your performance high.
  • Remember that your spine is a joint, just like your knees, shoulders and elbows.
  • Your spine will wear out just like a knee, shoulder, or elbow will. Only, the repercussions of a worn out spine are much more severe.
  • When doing any exercise its important to ask yourself “Am I putting my spine in a position of excessive stress?”
  • This means pay attention to your lower back (lumber spine), mid back and upper back (thoracic spine), AND head and neck (cervical spine).
  • The joints in your cervical spine are some of the weakest joints in your body. They also house the nerves that control almost all your body.
  • Think about your head and neck position when you do an exercise and make sure that your head and neck are in line with your spine during it.
  • Pushups are a great example here: Don’t let your head and neck sag while doing pushups. Instead tuck your chin into a “double chin” to keep in line. Keep the core engaged and the hips tilted anteriorly to keep the low back from sagging.
  • Be sure to engage your core when you do all exercises to keep your lumber spine protected. This includes prone and supine exercises.
  • A sagging lumbar spine will put unnecessary pressure on the intervertebral disks that can lead to disk herniation and degeneration, and consequently, severe performance decrease.
  • A large extension (arch) in the back can also put unwanted stress on the lumbar spine.
  • Do not over-arch your back when BO rowing, deadlifting, or RDL’ing. Keep it flat, and keep the core engaged.
  • Spine health occurs outside of the gym as well. Don’t slouch when sitting in a chair or on the couch.
  • Slouching puts excessive pressure on the intervertebral disks in the lumber spine which can be almost as bad as working out with a rounded back.
  • Slouching also uses more total body energy than sitting up straight does – think kinking a hose.

Be smart. The best way to increase performance is to not be injured.

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