How strong is your spine?
How strong is your spine? How much weight can the spine bear? Such questions are asked quite often. There are just as many answers to this question. Coaches, doctors and therapists exchange approximate values, sometimes draw charts and lists for individual intervertebral discs. The problem is that the spine is not used to lift anything, at least not in the way it is depicted.
In the human body, it performs the function of a more precise mechanical drive transmission, which, in cooperation with the muscular and nervous systems, allows a person to intuitively assume various body positions, providing him with the necessary flexibility to perform complex activities. The range of its bending allows you to keep the body’s center of gravity in the right position to maintain balance. These loads take over the muscles of the entire core, from the hip joint to the head, constituting a complex spatial mechanism, subject to constant bending and twisting in various directions. In these poses, the spine itself is like a spring that bends. It works like a human mechanism, working with the muscles, but they give the body the right shape, including the spine.
How do muscles shape and lift the skeleton?
An example of such body shaping with muscles is shown in the attached four illustrations. Two of them (Fig. 1 and 3) show athletes performing planche on one arm. Adoption of such a position is possible thanks to their perfectly trained bodies, but also due to the appropriate use of the laws of mechanics. The forces causing muscle tension are the weight of the body transferred to the ground with one hand and the equivalent reaction force of the ground. It is thanks to these forces acting on properly trained muscles that the tension is induced in them, stabilizing the loosely connected beams and rods of the skeleton and the flexible spine consisting of 24 articulated vertebrae. For example, in weightlessness in water, and even in conditions where this force is partially limited, such as on a mattress or trampoline. This indicates how much energy the muscles gain when acting on a hard surface under the influence of gravity. A yoga competitor shapes her body in a similar way (Figure 2).
Below is another example of how muscle tension constructs the movable elements of the spine and the entire torso in an efficient and orderly manner in a horizontal system, when the ground reaction forces are transmitted by means of a vertical ladder anchored in the ground. (Figure 4).
What is the actual contribution of the spine to weightlifting?
When the athlete is standing, the transfer of ground resistance to the muscles works much more effectively. In this position, a person can function for a long time and lift weights relatively easily, without causing unnecessary strain on the spine. Provided that he does it correctly, making sure that the muscles of the torso work mainly on compression. The spine is then automatically protected by the muscular system – some muscles undergo a special short-circuit, blocking the possibility of damaging its discs.
If the spine was responsible for lifting weights, it would undergo constant development and enlargement as a result of training. However, this is not the case, as evidenced by the fact that a competitor aged 18-22, with an optimally developed spine structure, usually lifts 60-80 kg in the deadlift at the beginning of weightlifting. It happens that after hard training for many years at the age of 26-35 there are impressive results, e.g. 350-450 kg in the same fight. Did his spine grow and develop during this time? Absolutely not. Muscles have been strengthened and developed. And the spine? It has not undergone any expansion or expansion.
On the contrary, the spine of such a player is usually in a bad or even very bad condition, mainly due to improper use. Despite this, trained and developed muscles lift many times more weight than when he was at the optimal stage of his development. It is the appropriate gravitational tension of properly developed muscles, adjusted by the still working mechanism of the spine to the range of the lifted weight, its direction of action and the reaction force of the ground, that allows you to lift such weights.
If the spine can bear the weight…
If the muscles are too weak or the athlete drastically exceeds his capabilities, some of the forces are actually transferred to the intervertebral discs. It is also common in everyday life and is usually caused by poor musculature, but also by using incorrect movement patterns when bending over, lifting heavy objects, and sitting incorrectly.
When the spine, through improper use during lifting and other activities, replaces the muscles, it is gradually destroyed. Movement limitations and pain associated with them appear.
We can risk a statement that the erroneous understanding of the mechanics of the body and the dissemination of incorrect information about the role of the spine is one of the most important causes of the so-called. musculoskeletal disease epidemic.