Mid-line stability and spinal organization is really important in CrossFit because it is how we can move "safely and effectively [while] maximizing power output and force production." Sure we can still generate force even in less than ideal positions but continuing to move with poor form and mechanics eventually leads to injury and loss of potential benefits and gains. 

The majority of today's discussion, including pictures, are from Kelly Starrett's book, Becoming A Supple Leopard. It's a good resource for everyone and if you are interested in diving into it, just let me know and I'll let you peer at it in the gym or borrow it for a day or two.

So we'll first look at the different spinal positions:

Spinal Positions.jpg

The spinal flexion is common and often seen in the backs rounded out in deadlifts, kettlebell swings, or set up for any number of lifts off the ground. It it also possible to be too extended (see middle photo) and that can be limiting as well. I often see this at the top of kettlebell swings done with the American swing variation. Sometimes we don't necessarily know we are overextended or in flexion and it takes practice and body awareness to align ourselves into a neutral spine.

Why should we practice this neutral spine position? Three reasons:

  • Learning to brace your spine prevents injury to the central nervous system (CNS)
  • A disorganized spine will lead to mechanical compromises.
  • When you lose spinal positioning-head, ribcage, or pelvic fault- you potentially shut down force production and lose ability to stabilize your shoulders and hips.

K Star has a four-step sequence to get us into this neutral position:

  1. Squeeze your butt as hard as you can. This sets the pelvis in the neutral position.
  2. Pull your ribcage down. This sets your ribcage in a neutral position with your pelvis.
  3. Get your belly tight. Engaging your abdominals will lock your ribcage and pelvis in place.
  4. Set your head in a neutral position and screw your shoulders into a stable position. Think: align the ears over the shoulders, hips, and ankles. 

So let's extend this to the application of our head position during the squat (back and front), deadlift, snatch, or any other movement- when you deviate from a neutral head position, you lose stability and potential force. The picture below illustrates the Tony Blauer test:

Head test.jpg

K Star has a four figure lock on Carl:

In the photo on the left, Carl's arm is straight, spine and head neutral, and shoulders externally rotated; despite K Star's best effort, Carl's arm is unbendable.

Center and Right. When Carl looks up or down, or deviates from a neutral position, his arm bends instantly with any application of force during the four figure lock. 

The moment you break a neutral head position, it throws a kink into the system and destabilizes the structures downstream-same thing with throwing your head back during a squat- you default into an over-extended position.

With this in mind, start practicing your neutral spine position-while you stand, sit, or work out- and become more aware of how your head, ribcage, and pelvis positions impact your force generation. Your body is a system of systems so having a kink in one, affects the whole. 


A. 5 x 2+2+1 Clean + Front squat + Jerk
B1. 3 x 10 Good mornings
B2. 3 x 15 GHD sit ups

Power cleans 135/95#
Pull ups