The Work-Out Guide - Some Basic Elements

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Some Basic Elements

All of the exercise descriptions refer to a Neutral Spine position, a Butterfly shoulder blade position and Engaging the Core Muscles. Below are descriptions of what these terms mean.

Neutral Spine



Neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine -- cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) -- are present and in good alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when we are standing or sitting, and the one that we are made to move from. In layman's terms the spine should feel straight, not arched or bent. The bottom is tucked in, the belly button is drawn mid-way back towards the spine and the shoulder blades are held back, pulled slightly down and drawn towards each other (This last is referred to as Butterfly, see below). The chin is also slightly tucked in.

This position applies when standing upright for an exercise, when bent forwards from the hips (as in the Bent Over Row ) and even when prone (for instance for a Push Up). This Neutral Spine Position should be maintained throughout each exercise.


The Neutral Spine incorporates a shoulder blade position that we call Butterfly. This is where the shoulder blades are pulled slightly back, down and towards each other. They should be held in this position for the duration of the exercise.

The Butterfly helps to stabilise the scapulae while performing certain exercises and helps prevent recruitment of other muscles, specifically the upper traps. It creates a solid foundation for all your presses and in chest movements; it will help to decrease front deltoid involvement and will improve overall posture. If you tend to slouch, your rhomboids are a bit dormant and can't keep your shoulders back in their proper position. By using and practising the Butterfly position your posture will improve and, in turn, all your exercises.

Core Strength/ Core Muscles

The Core Muscles are the muscles around the torso, front and back, and around the body. They consist of the Pelvic Floor muscles and the Transverse Abdominals, the body's natural weight belt. The Core Muscles are necessary to support the spine, and our posture, and are thereby essential in helping us to stand up, walk, etc. Furthermore, they are useful in helping to keep internal organs in their proper place (where they are best able to function well) such that a good core is beneficial to digestion, for example. 

It's worth noting that the true core muscles are not the ones that are easily seen. The core muscles lie in sheets beneath those more-obvious muscles. Whether you're running, lifting weights or picking up your toddler, these 'core' muscles help keep your body stable and balanced.

When the exercise text instructs you to engage the core, you pull the belly buttonmid-way back towards the spine, tense the abdominal muscles, clench the buttocks as you would do when stopping yourself from going to the toilet.

These three elements will help to prevent injury, make the exercises more functional and as you get used to holding them will give you a better posture in general.