The Importance of a Neutral Spine and Deep Core Engagement with Weightlifting
October 18, 2022
Do you experience low back pain when weightlifting or while performing ordinary household/outdoor activities? If so, you may be struggling to engage your deep core musculature as well as maintaining a neutral spine while performing these tasks. Your deep consists of several muscles including your pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, and multifidus musculature. With overactive or underactive activation of these muscles, dysfunction may result leading to discomfort. If you combined decreased core activation along with increased lumbar flexion, increased stresses are placed on your low back. This is not to say that you will be injured if you lift something in this manner because our spine is very rigid and strong, however, it can place you at increased risk for an injury.
Weightlifting stands as one of the safest sports there is when performed correctly. It is also important to factor in outside stresses such academics, work, social life, poor sleep, and other hardships that one may experience. Injuries are multifactorial and happen for a variety of reasons. This to not say poor form alone places you at increased risk, however, if exercising at heavier loads with a combination of other outside stresses, your risk of injuring yourself increase, so this is when it becomes important to be cognizant of your form and core activation. Increased core activation leads to an increase in intraabdominal pressure which will help you lift heavier loads.
In the attached image, you can see a patient performing a posterior pelvic tilt which helps engage your deep core musculature and flattening your low back. To perform, think of rolling your pelvis backwards as if trying to tuck your tailbone between your legs. Perform lightly as if attempting to stop the flow of urine. In performing this movement, you align your pelvis in a neutral alignment and decrease the lordosis of your low back resulting in a neutral spine which is optimal when lifting heavy loads. To further progress this exercise, attempt to perform a “bird dog” in a quadruped position. You will alternate lifting your opposite arm and leg while maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt as well as attempting to keep your pelvis level as you transition from one leg to the other.
In a more advanced exercise such as a squat, perform with a simple hip hinge. With the use of dowel or broomstick, think of maintaining 3 points of contact with the dowel (head, mid back, and low back). You will need to perform a posterior pelvic tilt to get your low back to maintain constant contact with the dowel. Next, lightly bend your knees and think of bending over without further bending your knees and instead push your hips backwards as if trying to close the door with your hips. To progress, attempt the same series of movements without the use of the dowel and then with exercises such as squats, RDL’s, and deadlifts. With proper deep core activation and a neutral spine, you will optimize your bodies mechanics and be able to lift heavier weights.