Finding proper alignment reduces unnecessary stresses on the joints and soft tissues, says Carolyn Appel, CSCS, a New York City-based trainer who specializes in biomechanics. It’s a crucial factor in determining how well the body moves.
“Neutral alignment puts you in the most advantageous stance so you can generate the most force when you’re working out,” Appel says.
When the body is in neutral alignment, the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle line up, Appel says. When it’s not, the pelvis is either tipped down in an anterior tilt (which arches the back) or tipped up in a posterior tilt, tucking the glutes under the hips. These positions compress tissues in the lower back, leading to pain, injury, and compensation.
Here’s how to find the right balance: Stand against a wall with heels, tailbone, shoulder blades, and the back of your head touching it. Press your lower back into the wall to get rid of the free space between the two, then arch your back to recreate that separation.
You’re in neutral alignment when your lower back is halfway between the two extremes.
Aim to keep this posture when standing, sitting (in which case only your ears, shoulders, and hips would align), lifting, or doing any other exercise that puts pressure on the spine.