The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Overlooked Ab Muscles in Overhead Lifts

The cheerleaders in the photo at right are letting their lower spine overarch.

Their hip tilts forward in front and sticks out in back.

It is an unhealthy, pain-producing spine position.

Can you see it?

Can you see it better now
with arrows showing the tilt of the hip?

Sticking the hip out in back
creates a higher angle than normal
in the normal inward curve of the lower spine.

It is an unhealthy spinal position
called hyperlordosis, swayback, and overarching,
among other terms.

Letting the lower spine overly-arch presses the weight of the upper body, plus the weight being lifted, downward onto the lower back, folding it backward and compressing it unevenly. Over years, the joints of the vertebrae, called facets, can degenerate under the compression. The surrounding soft tissue aches. The photographer of the photo labeled it "Ouch" in the Creative Commons collection where I found it.

Overarching and sticking out in back is unhealthy for the spine, and is a major overlooked cause of ongoing lower back pain after long standing and ambulating (walking and running, for example).

If the cheerleaders were standing in neutral spine, the yellow arrows would be vertical. In the drawing at right, the left drawing shows neutral spine, the right shows tilting the hip so that it sticks out in back.

Tucking the hip until neutral spine does not mean curling the spine forward (rounding the back), which can pressure the discs. In neutral spine, a small inward curve remains in the lower back, but not a big one, and the hip does not tilt outward in back.

Some exercisers are accustomed to stick far out in back when lifting weight overhead. It is now known that it is healthier over the long run to maintain neutral spine, not sticking out in back, when lifting overhead.

Another bonus of neutral spine is that the muscles that pull the spine away from overly arched position and into neutral position, are the abdominal muscles. Keeping neutral spine is a free, built-in abdominal exercise. There is no tightening of the abdomen to hold neutral spine - you should be able to inhale easily. It should be no great effort to move your spine from unhealthy to healthy position. Just move the spine, the same as moving your arm to scratch your head.

The post Aren't You Supposed To Stick Your Behind Out to Sit Down or Do Squats? covered how sticking out in back causes spine problems, just as tucking too much and rounding forward.

See what it looks like if you overarch the lower back when you extend arms overhead:
Change Daily Reaching to Get Ab Exercise and Stop Back and Shoulder Pain

One way to see the difference between overarching and neutral spine is to check your beltline:
Using Abdominal Muscles is Not Tightening or Pressing Navel to Spine

Click this to feel the difference for yourself in strength and immediate reduction in pressure on the lower back when restoring neutral spine from an overly arched position:
Throw a Stronger Punch (or Push a Car or Stroller) Using This Back Pain Reduction Technique.

Click the label "neutral spine" below this post for all related posts. Neutral spine is fun, and looks healthier, stronger, and fitter. Enjoy.

Read success stories of these methods and send your own. For answers to personal medical questions - Replies to Medical Questions.
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Drawings of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan
Photo by heyerin
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.