Maintaining a neutral spine is a necessity for ensuring proper posture during many exercises or during everyday life. A neutral spine (a back position which aligns our spine with its natural curves and not flexing or extending the spine in any extra way) is a critical default position for all people to be able to hold. Imagine going for a walk while slouching over the whole time. Or imagine bending over to pick something up while arching your spine so hard backwards that your head was still facing the wall. Obviously these are extremes (Don’t try at home!), but they illustrate how many activities require us to keep a strong, neutral spine. Without the aid of video playback or utilization of mirrors, dialing in a neutral spine position becomes slightly more challenging. Fortunately, many of us have a more than adequate tool to help at our disposal at all times: a mobility cane! If you don’t use a mobility cane, a broomstick or dowel rod will be perfect as well.
To check spinal alignment, simply extend your cane and reach it around to place it on your back. Make sure it is in line with your spine. One hand will reach behind you to hold the cane as if you were going to scratch your lower back. The other hand will hold onto the cane from the top as if you were reaching to scratch the base of your neck.
Description: A front and side view of using mobility cane along spine, making three points of contact
Different body types may get more or less contact with the cane from top to bottom but a few spots are key for everyone. The base should be in contact with the back of your head, a portion of your upper back and the base of your spine just above the glutes. This will keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine and keep your spine’s natural curve. Notice how if you crunch forward too much your lower back will also push significantly into the cane indicating you are rounding over.
Description: A front and side view of a hinge movement, with mobility cane for positional help
Now you can get used to different movements using this neutral positioning. Squats, hip hinges/deadlifts, pushups, and planks will all greatly benefit from your ability to find and maintain this position. Utilize this little trick during warm ups or movement drills to make this a habit.
Hope this helps!