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Coaching Neutral Spine

One of the most powerful tools we have in our toolbox can be purchased at your local hardware store for less than a couple of bucks.

A simple piece of PVC pipe can help you coach and cue neutral spine with your clients and athletes, consistently getting them in the appropriate position. Neutral spine is integral, whether your goal is to reduce lower back pain, squat or deadlift more weight, or to excel at your given sport.

Below is a short video depicting how to effectively coach neutral spine. Enjoy!

Remember, the goal is to have three points of contact initially:

  • Back of head
  • Upper back/t-spine
  • Sacrum/buttocks

Once your clients have achieved a neutral spinal alignment, the next step is to have them actually move through various ranges of motion. I like to have them perform two big-bang movements patterns – typically a squat or quad-dominant pattern, and a deadlift or hip-dominant pattern.

IF they are unable to squat/deadlift in this fashion, it may be a good idea to regress them to something a bit easier. Try a basic core training exercise such as a front plank or birddog initially, and then build them back up over time.

While this may seem incredibly simple at first blush, I guarantee this can make a profound difference in how your clients move and feel.

Give it a shot next time you’re in the gym and I think you’ll really enjoy the results!

Stay strong

MR

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  • http://julieiverson.com Julie Iverson

    I use PVC pipe all the time now after watching Mike’s section on Muscle Imbalances Revealed. It’s a great cue and I will use it on my PT and bootcamp clients and even when I’m doing basic orientations in the gym, it makes a world of difference when trying to explain the concept of neutral spine during pushups or birddog exercises. Thanks again for great information Mike!

    • Mike

      Thanks Julie!

  • Sergey

    Sorry, but how does this 3-point contact with the pipe prevents lumbar spine hyper-extension? I’ve just tried it standing against the wall instead of a pipe, and it seems I can hyper-extend at lumbar spine as much as I wish without loosing contact of the wall with any of those 3 points. Do I miss something?

    • Mike

      Sergey –

      I said this was a good technique, not a perfect technique ;)

      You’re going to have to monitor your lumbar spine. If you are hyperextending, you need to focus on getting your core and glutes/hamstrings stronger. Read the article “Hips Don’t Lie” for more info.

      MR

  • jerry

    hi mike, by looking at the form of the squat in neutral spine position in the video, i was wondering if it would be possible to maintain this form during front squats? or if this form were to be only used for back squats? ie. the chest not puffing out as much or the eyes not focused on a point higher up

    • Mike

      Yes, you should be able to do this during front squats

      MR

  • Dee Ellis

    The other old trick -I’m (in)famous for my stick, been using it for 12 years- is to use the stick in the same fashion during a simple sit to stand to assess the ability to maintain nuetral in a more basic functional movement. I start there, cuz if they can’t do that, we better do some work before squatting. Lying the stick crossways at the hip during bridges and birdog also gives you some observation which muscles need cuing as well. A very good basic tool in the gym or clinic-yes!

  • William Rodriguez Jr

    Mike, what are the exact dimensions for the PVC pipe you use? I am interested

    in applying your technique, but I need this to duplicate your technique. TY.

  • paul

    Great, but simple tool to use for neutral spine!

  • http://starfactoryfitness.com Conor

    Awesome technique! I’m definitely going to try this with my clients. Thanks,
    Conor

  • http://vitaphysicaltherapy.com Joshua Van Schaick

    Mike, this has been a very effective coaching technique. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. You’ve been a big help in my evolving as a trainer and coach.

    Thanks again,
    Josh

    • Mike

      Fantastic Josh – really great to hear!

  • jeff

    Thanks for the info.I have about a dozen 11-12 yr olds that are green to body weight exercises and I will have to work on there form , your stuff is excellent!