How to Improve Core Stability Part 2: The Spinal Neutral Test

Jul 20, 2008 | fitness

This is part 1 of a 4 part series on the benefits of improving your core stability, and how you can improve yours.

This is part 2 of a 4 part series on the benefits of improving your core stability, and how you can improve yours.

Ok, so you’ve mastered Part 1, diaphragmatic breathing and you’re ready to progress to the next stage. This stage is all about maintaining spinal neutral while we move. To see how good you are at using your core muscles, try this test. You will need a piece of string tied around your waist. Tie this string along the line of your belly button. Have the tension so when you are relaxed, it gently digs into your belly, but when you draw your belly button in, it becomes loose. If you forced your tummy out, it would get really tight.

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. There should be just enough arch so you can slide your hand under your lower back, but no more. This is spinal neutral. You should feel relaxed here.

Draw your belly button into your spine and gently apply pressure onto your hand. The string around your waist should remain loose. If it gets tight, you have recruited your six pack muscles, rectus abdominus. This is a no-no. Stop, relax and try again. The muscles you are wanting to recruit are located like a corset around your abdomen, the transverse abdominal (tva). You may be able to feel a ridge and inch either side of your belly button.
Try it now, while you are sitting here. Draw your belly button in and feel for that ridge. Don’t worry if you can’t feel it, you soon will! If it’s hidden under a doona of body fat, read my 5 tips for losing body fat.Now you are ready to move. The aim is to remain in this spinal neutral whilst lifting one leg up at a time. Start with your right leg and slowly lift it off the floor. Observe your stomach and lower back. Does it arch, flatten, twist or tilt? Does the string stay loose or get tight. Everything should stay still.

Stage #1: Alternate legs slowly. It’s the transition from side to side where you may feel some instability. Do these transitions slowly and make sure that string stays loose at all times. Remember perfect practice makes perfect. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions. Each leg raise should take about four seconds up and four seconds down.

Stage #2: Both feet off floor, take one foot down slowly to the floor. Only progress to this stage if you have mastered stage #1. This places more pressure on the back and abdominal so make sure you hips don’t tilt and your back doesn’t arch as you lower each leg. Remember to make sure the string stays loose. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions. Each leg lowering should take four seconds down and four seconds up.Remember you can recruit your tva muscles at any time. Sitting at your desk, standing or lying. The better you get at recruiting them, the more effective they will become at stabilizing your spine and reducing the chance of back pain.

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