Neutral spine: two words that fly around the training world a lot these days. I say it all the time on here and at my office. I read articles everyday that reference it. But I realized this week that it seems to be used incorrectly or perhaps too much. That’s not to say that understanding spinal positioning should be ignored, but for some reason Neutral Spine gets thrown out there constantly without a real understanding of what it means or how to achieve it. In the world of purposeful, safe training though, understanding better spinal alignment is everything.
So where is the confusion on Neutral Spine coming from?
Today on Monday Rehab we are going to dive into the world of Neutral Spine, but more so as it relates to golf posture.
To better understand it though, let me first show you two of the most common spinal positions you will find a golfer in. On the left is C posture or excessive rounding on the spine. The right is S posture, excessive arching of the lower back.
Why are these two positions problematic? When the spine is in C curvature, it places stress in the mid to low back due to where the hinging point is located. It is also an indication of muscle imbalances such as the pecs being too tight resulting in limitations in thoracic rotation. S posture on the other hand involves tight hip flexors, weak glutes and the low back being too involved. I find that when someone is locked in S posture, it is impossible to rotate the hips properly. Check out the video below where you see me attempting rotation first from S posture, then from a more neutral position. You will notice a change from lateral hip movement to rotation.
Ok, so what is Neutral Spine? Well, it does not look the same on everyone. Your body is uniquely your own and moves in a way that tells a story. I like to define it as the middle point between the maximum anterior and posterior tilt of the pelvis. Everyone has a different range of motion in this department though, and that means the middle point might have some curvature to it or it may be more straight. Why is the middle point so important? You want to have room for the pelvis to move in both directions in order to properly transfer energy and also have balance between the muscles on either side.
Before I show you how to find the proper position for you though, let’s talk about some of the mistakes that can be made!
Mistake 1: “stick out your butt when you address the golf ball” or “stick out your butt when you deadlift”. We’ve all heard these cues, I look back on footage of my golf swing at a younger age and it looks like I’m about to audition for a Wreckx-n-Effect music video. This cue works for some, but many times it results in extreme arching of the lower back. Great if you want to dance to Rump Shaker, but not if you are hoping to survive a round of golf without back pain.
Mistake 2: Assuming that the spine has to be straight in order to achieve the neutral position. Because one of the ways TPI began showing people how to achieve the position was with a stick down the back, the assumption was made that the spine needs to be flush to the stick on everyone. And as a result, the whole process of improving pelvic mobility was skipped in an attempt to just get the spine perfectly straight.
Mistake 3: Everyone started talking about it, but did not implement it in the training process. Enough said.
Mistake 4: The ability to hip hinge was never addressed when working to achieve Neutral Spine in golf posture or other hip hinging patterns. The end result is bending from the mid back and basically a green light for injury!
Ok, back to finding the evasive Neutral Spine! Just a reminder of what Neutral Spine is: the midway point between your maximum anterior tilt and maximum posterior tilt. I will also add now: it is the safest place for your spine to be in at all times! So here is how you find it in golf posture:
- Use a golf club to help stabilize the body and improve the range of motion
- Arch your back as much as you are able without pain
- Round the back as much as you can without the lower body shifting
- Arch once again
- And as you round the back one more time, stop halfway!
- Always find this position from the arched position, that will turn on your glutes and abs. If you do it from the posterior position, your lower back and hip flexors will light up and that equals no fun!
One of the biggest indicators of a successful Neutral Spine position is relief. If you have been stuck in one of the other postural positions for a long time, you should feel like dancing once you find the proper position!
My disclaimer: There is definitely much more to correcting posture than simply doing pelvic tilts. There are many other exercises that need to happen in conjunction to maintain and use this new position. But that’s where applying it to your exercise routine becomes essential. If you can reinforce it there, using it on the golf course becomes much more possible.
As a side note, we’ve kept track of distance gained after achieving Neutral Spine over the past 5 years in our office. The average is close to 10 yards! That is the power of this position, it helps make the entire body move more efficiently and reduces pain, all elements that make the little white ball go that much further. Yay!!
Now let’s just hope the snow melts in Seattle this week so we can get back on the course!