In my last blog, we spoke about why flattening the back is not always the best option. We also discussed the use of a neutral spine for exercising and how that position benefits the body. (Refer to Stop Flattening Your Back! Part 1)
Today, I want to discuss neutral spine and squats.
Flat Back Squat
Here is a flat back squat. As mentioned in my last post, many people think that engaging the abdominals means you need to flatten the back. However, as we mentioned, when you flatten the back you turn off the low back stabilizer muscles (multifidi). This means there is an imbalance in forces around the spine (more abs, fewer back muscles) and the spine is slightly rounded (flexed). This puts your back at risk for an injury (arthritis, disc injury, etc).
Neutral Spine Squat
The most optimal position for your spine in a squat is in the neutral spine position. The spine has the normal curve of the back (lordosis) and the motion occurs at the hips. This motion should feel easy, not compressed. There is a relatively equal balance of muscle activity between the abs and the back muscles.
Excessive Lordosis Squat
Now, there is one more position and that is the overextended or “too much curve” position (excessive lordosis). I often see this position in people who are attempting to keep an arch in their back. Unfortunately, they often think, “the more arch, the better”. You also may hear this cued at the gym: “stick your butt out”. While this cueing can be good for a certain people, in others, it can cause too much arch which also puts the back at risk for injury (arthritis, facet compression, spondys, etc).
Everyone has a different body which means that every squat is going to look a little different. Pay attention to the set-up of your body position and understand the muscles you should be working. If you need more instruction in proper positioning or help managing an injury, consult your local physical therapist. If you would like to contact our office, click the Contact tab at the bottom of this page and one of us will contact you soon!