Neutral Spine

Neutral Spine

You’ve probably heard of neutral spine and even wondered if you’re doing it right. Neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) — are present and in good alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when we are standing, sitting or moving.

How do you get into neutral spine?

To get into neutral spine think of the body being balanced. Let’s start from the bottom up.

1. Feet

Start at the feet (if standing) by having the feet hips distance apart and parallel to each other with the toes pointed forward. It’s important to have the feet hips distance apart so our centre of gravity can be stacked over the joints. If we stand with our feet too close together or too far apart it can create tension in the hips, knees and other joints.

The same is true for having our toes pointed forward and our feet parallel so that our hips aren’t internally or externally rotated too much. There may be a slight natural variation in this as our hip joints are all made differently. While you’re paying attention to the feet also take a moment to notice where you put your weight. Notice if you put more weight in your toes, heels or left/right foot. If you do transfer your weight in the other direction to create balance in your weight distribution.

 2. Hips and lower back

Next you want to find a balanced position between having the hips tilted back and having the pelvis tucked. Over tucking the pelvis or rounding losses the natural curve in the lower spine and creates tension. You want to have the hips tilted back slightly (like you would if you tried to stick your butt out) so that there is a slight, but not exaggerated curve in your lower spine. Here you’ll find your neutral pelvis.

3. Diaphram and ribcage

Now that your pelvis is aligned you want your diaphragm to be parallel to your hips. This way your ribcage isn’t forward and flaring, but neither is it tucked too much and sinking back.

4. Shoulders and upper spine

Next make sure that your shoulders are aligned roughly over top of your hips. Your shoulders should find a balanced position. Try rounding your shoulders forward then bringing them down and back. You want to find a balance between these two positions in the shoulders.

5. Neck and head placement

You want to place the head overtop of the shoulders with the head parallel to the floor. Find your earlobes and check to make sure they hover just above the shoulders. Then have your chin come parallel to the ground. this will help to make sure that you aren’t tucking the chin or extending the neck and putting pressure on the cervical spine. Once you find this position the head should feel nice and light.

If this still doesn’t make sense to you we highly suggest asking for help. Even if you think you’ve to go it, teachers are more than happy to help. We want to make sure everything is clear and everyone is safe!

Should I always be in neutral spine?

So now you might be feeling a little awkward and be wondering if you have to now train yourself so stand like this forever and the answer is no. If you’ve been training in a compromised posture for a while this alignement might feel uncomfortable while you realign your body. Neutral spine is very important as it is where we are our strongest. It does not mean however that we have to be here all the time. In fact, we want some variety. The point of a neutral spine is that this is where we want to train a lot of the time. If we are lifting heaving, doing repetitive motions this is where we will be the safest. The same gose for those daily movements such as picking up kids, groceries, sitting at a desk or while walking.

Our bodies, however, will come in and out of alignment which is why it’s important we train outside of this alignment too. If we train outside of alignment in a controlled setting (when training) then we have the opportunity to strengthen other positions. It’s ridiculous to think that we could stay in a neutral spine all the time and if we only train in that position what do we think will happen when we come out of it? That’s why we have so many vertebra and limbs, to begin with, is to use them!

Happy training!

The DMC Team,