Lift with your Spine!

The title is correct…. well somewhat. Sure, ideally it is preferred to use the largest muscle group in our bodies (the legs) and have all the factors for a good lift:

  • Stable Base of Support
  • The load close to their centre of gravity
  • Coordinated movements

The reality is though, its not always practical and often this lift is completed incorrectly actually increasing your risk of injury!

How so you ask? Well during a conventional lift we are taught to ‘brace the abdominals to protect the spine’ which causes many individuals to hold their breath, in doing so they are initiating an isometric contraction of the superficial core and postural musculature, in particular, the abdominals and spinal extensors. Let’s just call it bracing incorrectly.

With these muscles held in a static contraction, we are reducing the contractility of the muscles and therefore reducing the body’s ability to produce adequate muscular force required to complete a safe lift.

We often also find in this scenario that the intrinsic muscles which support the spine become underactive as the superficial muscles are over-bracing, leading to a weakened support system, helping to explain why most lower back injuries occur when individuals are caught off-guard, or when the superficial musculature becomes fatigued from highly repetitive tasks.

Alixe Luckins, Senior Exercise Physiologist states that:

With the body in a stiff ‘upright posture’ as taught in a conventional lift, the abdominals and the spinal extensors are opposing each other in an attempt to maintain this posture throughout the lift and ‘protect the spine’, rather than assisting with the lift itself. The most common misconception is that this is the safest way for us to lift, but this is not necessarily the case.

At Absolute Balance our team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists are often faced with challenging injuries and have adapted research to assist our clients with not only injury rehabilitation but also injury prevention which is why we used design thinking and latest research to create Neural Fx.

Neural Fx , an adaptation of dynamic neuromuscular stabilisation is based around five key interacting principles: Respiration, core stabilisation, quality of support, body movement awareness, and joint segment centration”.

The five principles combine to address proper breathing patterns, synergistic movement patterns of the trunk and extremities, and proper joint interplay during tasks. At its foundation we break movement patterns down to prevent stronger, tighter or fired-up muscle groups from fighting the functional movement patterns of attached and opposing muscle groups when performing a movement which is what usually causes injury!

If we implement the techniques taught in the Neural Fx programme, we are able to re-train the body and the CNS to support the spine during any style of lift. By implementing these particular techniques the spine becomes better supported during a lift, leaving the superficial muscle groups free to assist with lifting the load, enabling the body to become more efficient and reducing the risk of injury.


Ryan O’Connor (B.Sc. – Sports, Grad Dip. OH&S)
Director – Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)