In addition to the compression forces of squats and deadlifts, our spines can encounter even more detrimental forces. Events like car accidents, contact sports, or even carrying a baby on your hip can have some detrimental effects on your spine if they go ignored for too long. I touched upon it a bit, but it’s time to take a bit more of an in-depth look at our spine and what it can do. With that said, let’s explore some of the other motions of the spine.

 

Spinal Motions

The article I linked to above already covered flexion and extension—that is, bending forward and backward. So with those out of the way, that leaves us with the following:

  • Lateral Flexion— if you ever have seen a side bend, you have seen lateral flexion. To perform, stand with a neutral stance, and slide your hand along the side of your leg as if you’re trying to reach all the way to your foot.
  • Lateral Extension— starting where you ended for lateral flexion, reverse the motion and stand straight. The main difference between the two is where you are applying force. If you were to hold a single dumbbell in the left hand and laterally flex to the right, you would be applying force in that direction on your right side. Hold the dumbbell in the left hand and flex to the left, and it becomes a passive movement, instead. For lateral extension, hold the dumbbell in the left hand. Laterally flex your spine. From this starting point, stand straight up, and you are applying force into lateral extension.
  • Anterior/Posterior Translation— these two are some of the undertrained motions I mentioned. Translation is a fancy way of saying that you’re moving across the transverse plane. In simple terms, if there were an imaginary square cutting you in half at the hips rendering you into a top and bottom half, this square would be the transverse plane. With spinal translation, your vertebrae would glide across this plane. To perform, stand in front of a fixed barbell at hip height. Starting with your head, lean over the bar without flexing your spine. You should be trying to reach the wall in front of you while standing tall. The purpose of the bar is to keep your lower half stationary. For posterior translation, you do the exact opposite. Your butt faces the bar, and you lead with the back of your head going over the bar without extending your spine.
  • Lateral Translation— Similar to the anterior and posterior translation, this one is just a side to side variant. An easy way to perform is to stand tall and put your arms out like you are trying to fly (but don’t try to fly, my own experience says it won’t work). With your arms out, try to touch the wall to your left and right. One of the most common areas where you will see this is in dancing. If you ever watched Michael Jackson free style dance, you can see him translate his neck side to side sometimes.
  • Rotation— this is when you twist. Wood chops, swinging a baseball bat, and looking behind you are all good examples of this.
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