Thoracolumbar and Lumbopelvic Spinal Alignment During the Barbell Back Squat: A Comparison Between Men and Women.
Bengtsson V, Berglund L, Öhberg F, Aasa U.
Background: Maintaining neutral spinal alignment is considered important when performing the barbell back squat exercise. Since male and female lifters may differ in injury location it is important to examine whether they differ in spinal alignment during the back squat.
Objectives: The study aimed to quantify the spinal alignment in the upper and lower lumbar spine during the barbell back squat exercise in male and female lifters. Secondary aims were to compare alignment during the back squat to standing habitual lumbar spine alignment and determine whether male and female lifters differ in these aspects.
Study Design: Observational, Cross-sectional.
Methods: Competitive power- and weightlifters were recruited and performed three repetitions of the barbell back squat exercise using a load equivalent to 70% of their one-repetition maximum. Spinal alignment and range of motion were measured using inertial measurement units placed on the thoracic, lumbar and sacral spine. Data was presented descriptively and comparisons between men and women as well as spinal alignment in four different positions were done with a factorial repeated measures analysis of variance.
Results: Twenty-three (14 males, 9 females) were included. During execution of the squat, spinal alignment adjustments in the lumbar spine were made in all three planes of movement, compared to the start position, in both male and female lifters. Compared to their standing habitual posture, all lifters adjusted their upper lumbar spine to a less lordotic position when in the start position of the back squat (standing upright with the barbell on their back). Only male lifters assumed a less lordotic alignment in their lower lumbar spine in the start position compared their habitual posture.
Conclusions: Adjustments of spinal alignment, predominantly in the sagittal plane, are made during execution of the back squat in both male and female lifters. Further, lifters adopt a less lordotic alignment with a heavy barbell on their upper back, more so in male than female lifters. In conclusion, it seems that spinal alignment changes noticeably during the barbell back squat.
Level of Evidence: 3