The problem with “imprinting” or pressing down on your back to the floor is that it reduces the range of motion of your core muscles. And for the exercises that require you to lift your legs in the air, it can take some work out of your core and put it in the flexors of your buttocks, causing them to grip. Brian Spencer, a trainer at East River Pilates and well + good Brian Spencer, said, “If you feel flexion in your buttocks, it’s not terrible, but we just want to feel the belly first.” Good moves Instructor
So what exactly is a neutral spine?
As the name implies, a neutral spine is a position where you maintain the normal curvature of your back without bending or extending too much — so do not pull your tailbone down to flatten your back into the mat and do not unnecessarily arch through your middle. Back and rib cage.
Spencer says that often, people’s problem is extension, which means they bend and lift from the floor down to compensate for core muscles that are not able to handle the workload they need. This is because strength and HIIT trainers often suggest to lower your lower back into the mat, but that tweak pulls the work out of your core and strains your lower back muscles.
An example of this is when you try to lower your legs farther than you can handle your core while doing a leg lift and your lower back starts to rise to maintain weight balance. Instead, “make sure you’re working on a range of motion that your stomach and core stabilizers can support,” Spencer said.
How to find the neutral spine
“The neutral spine is your pubic bone which is stacked on top of your tail bone – it is not trying to move towards the middle of the leg or towards the belly button,” Spencer said. Until you have an idea of what a neutral spine feels like in your body, one of the ways trainers want to help students find the right position is to tilt their pelvis.
Spencer shows you how to do this in the video below:
Essentially, you have the option of pressing your pelvis away from you and then leaning towards you, bending your legs and leaning towards you with your feet flat on the floor. Imagine a bowl of water sitting in your pelvis: you want to move your pelvis away from you, sprinkle water on your thighs, then pull it towards you to pour water on your belly button.
“It’s really meant to help us memorize our lower back and pelvis so we can understand when we’re in a state of too much expansion or too much flexibility,” Spencer said.
The neutral spine is between these two extremes, but it will feel different for everyone. Your lumbar spine may have more or less natural curves, so the space between your lower back and the mat may be larger or smaller than any other. But as a general rule, you want to feel like you can put a blueberry in that pocket of air and not squash it while you’re working. Or, as Spencer puts it: “Find a soft spot between your lower back and the mat.”
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