The problem with “pushing” or pressing your back against the floor is that it reduces the range of motion that your core muscles can move. And in exercises that require you to lift your legs in the air, it can also remove some of the work from your core and put it on your hip flexors, causing them to grip. “It’s not terrifying to feel your hip flexors, but we want to feel mostly abdominal,” says Brian Spencer, an East River Pilates and Well + Good trainer. Good moves coach.
So what exactly is a neutral spine?
As the name implies, the neutral spine is the position where your back maintains its natural curvature without bending or stretching it too much – so that you do not button your tail down to straighten your waist on the mat and do not brag unnecessarily in your waist. back and chest.
Spencer says that often the problem people face is extension, which means they bend over and lift their waists off the floor to compensate for core muscles that are unable to handle the workload they need. This is one reason why strength and HIIT trainers often suggest straightening your back on the mat, but this adjustment removes the work from your core and strains your back muscles.
An example of this is when lifting legs, when you are trying to lower your legs farther than your torso can handle and your waist is starting to rise higher to balance the weight. Instead, “make sure you work out a range of motion that your abs and core stabilizers can support,” says Spencer.
How to find a neutral spine
“The neutral spine is your pubic bone that stacks just above your tail – it does not try to get between your legs or your navel,” says Spencer. Until you have a sense of neutral spine in your body, one of the ways instructors want to help students find the right position is by tilting their pelvis.
Spencer shows you how to do this in the video below:
Essentially, alternate between tilting your pelvis away from you and then tilting it toward you while lying on your back with your legs bent and your feet on the floor. Imagine having a bowl of water sitting in your pelvis: You want to let your pelvis swing away from you, spill water on your thighs and then pull it towards you to pour water on your navel.
“This is to help us really memorize our waist and pelvis so we can understand when we are too stretched or too bent,” says Spencer.
The neutral spine is located between these two extremes, but will be different for everyone. You may have more or less natural curve in your lumbar spine, so the space between your back and the mat may be longer or shorter than someone else. But as a general rule, you want to feel that you could place a blueberry in this air pocket and not squeeze it while training. Or, as Spencer puts it: “Find a soft space between your waist and the mat.”
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