How to check a neutral spine

hands behind head, neutral spine

During the podcast RowingChat with Marlene Royle she mentioned an easy way to demonstrate the “neutral spine” position for your athletes. [It’s at 19 minutes if you want to listen].

The safest position for a spine is neutral

How to find the neutral spine position – simply put your hands clasped behind your neck your spine will come into a neutral position.  And then you can see if you are flexed or curved in the boat – of if you have a neutral spine.

rowing, neutral spine rowing, seated neutral spine,
Marlene Royle demonstrates the neutral spine test seated

Test this while sitting – get the feeling for what is a neutral spine – compare this to a photo of you in the boat or a video so you can see what you DO with what you think you do. 

Rowing coaches always teach a neutral spine because it is more resilient to injury and it favours leverage in the rowing stroke – this is more important than pulling when the forces are going through your spine.

hands behind head, neutral spine
Photo credit: Spark People

2 thoughts on “How to check a neutral spine

  1. Concerned Reader says:

    Seriously? You think that just clasping your hands behind your head automatically puts your spine in a neutral position? That’s ludicrous. If you have tight lats and poor shoulder flexion (which is most rowers) then in order to achieve this position you will likely need to flare the rib cage through excess lumbar extension. OR the head comes forward with excess cervical flexion so that the scapulae do not have to protract and upwardly rotate as much. Seriously please make sure there is some competent editor with knowledge of basic biomechanics going over these articles before just shoving them out into the internet.

    • Marlene Royle says:

      Our concerned reader is presenting a case where the rower does not have full range of motion. If a rower has limited range of motion what that rower can achieve would have to be addressed individually. I would like to reference a drill of Coach Bob Kaehler, former US Team rower and physical therapist, for posture and the neutral spine (below) Also Back researcher, Dr. Stuart McGill strongly advocates a neutral spine for rowers as the most resilient to injury.
      Posture, Power, and Performance #1
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq-CvhPY7xg&t=2s

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