How many times have you seen a burly trainer doing heavy shrugs while jutting his head out and looking down? Just watch – it’s all the time! Huge mistake, sadly, and one that we know firsthand!
The optimal position to protect the disks of your spine is the neutral position – that is, everything from your hips to your head is in alignment. This creates equal distribution of the load on the spine, which provides the foremost spinal and disk protection. So:
· When you’re squatting, your head is facing directly forward, as if looking back at yourself in the mirror – not up!
· When you’re shrugging, see above, but avoid the tendency to tilt your head down.
· When you’re doing bent-over rows, your head is aligned so that you’re looking at a distant object on the floor. Keep everything in alignment.
· When you’re doing Romanian deadlifts, your head travels from that far object to looking back at yourself in the mirror as you rise up. Most people simply crane their heads to look back at themselves in the mirror as they reach bottom, which is incorrect.
Namely, the problem is that when your neck is flexed (or extended) and out of neutral position, the additional heavy load adds additional compressive forces on the spine. A rounded neck exposes the cervical disks on one side to tremendous pressure that can cause a herniation – a serious injury that can literally end your lifting career.
Unless you’re specifically training your neck, think of it as being locked with your upper torso, meaning they all move in unison in the same direction as a unit.