The not so secret truth about sparing your back using the concept of a neutral spine.
It's a universally agreed upon notion..
You have always heard "lift with your legs and not with your back", but what does that really mean? When it's discussed here in our office, a common excuse not to, is that "my knees are too bad to squat and lift". But as you will find the squat lift is not the only way to protect your back. There is a common theme in exercise and rehabilitation, it's the ability to move at the hips without moving at the back. This dynamic protects the back and allows the force to be carried where it designed to...The hips.
|The basic athletic stance|
|The dead lift|
|The Yoga half standing forward bend|
This one secret movement is called the Hip hinge. Iit can and should be used in all phases of life, and is essential in day to day lifting or leaning over a counter. When applied to exercise; it is the basic athletic position that all athletes get ready to play from, from heavy olympic lifting (Crossfit), to the Half standing forward bend in Yoga. It's an essential piece of mobility that comes from the hips. It allows us to move from where we are designed to move as explained in my previous blog here, and here, and finally here.
Is the force with you or against you?
Our lower backs can handle some movement, but when you add weight to those movements or repetitions (working out or manual labor) you start to add deleterious forces(shearing vs. compressive) to the spine. While the spine can handle a large amount of compressive forces, even small amounts of shearing forces can damage discs, facet joints and strain muscles. Keeping in mind the fact that low back pain is an epidemic in this country it's easy to understand how common poor mechanics are. Professor McGill at the University of Waterloo likens the lumbar spine to a wire hanger, you can only bend it so many times before it breaks.
|The spine can support hundreds of pounds of compressive force|
Mastering the Hinge
There is usually a certain technique that works for each individual when training the hip hinge. Some pick it up very quickly, while others struggle. The following are some really simple approaches for moving the right way, moving in a way that ensures you'll be "living to move"!
The Waiter's bow
Place your index fingers stacked where you feel the top of the pelvis. While sticking you buttocks out, try and bring your chest to the ground. You will definitely feel a hamstring stretch. A verbal cue we have had success with is reach for the back wall with the bones you sit on. This is a intuitive way to learn how to hinge, remember everyone's capacity to perform this will vary. If you find there is very little movement before the fingers separate, patience will be required.
Today we provided principles, so you can adapt your own protocols, don't hesitate to contact us with questions.
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Dr. Serafim is a Rehabilitation and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He lives and works in the Exton PA area and has devoted himself to furthering his understanding of movement related disorders. He teaches continuing education and operates a private practice. More information can be found at Kinetx.org and feel free to like us at our facebook page.