Movements of the Spine

Cervical Spine

Extension:

Definition: Straightening/arching the cervical spine by moving the head and neck posteriorly (backward).
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Neck extension
  • Isometric neck extension
  • Rear neck bridge

Flexion:

Definition: Bending/rounding the cervical spine by moving the head and neck anteriorly (forward).
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Scalenus anterior
  • Scalenus medius
  • Scalenus posterior
  • Longus colli
  • Longus capitis
  • Rectus capitis anterior
  • Rectus capitis lateral
Exercises:
  • Neck flexion
  • Isometric neck flexion
  • Front neck bridge
  • Chin tuck
  • Lying chin tuck to head lift

Lateral Flexion (Abduction):

Definition: Bending the cervical spine laterally (to the left or right side), away from the sagittal plane (midline), by moving head and neck to the left or right.
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Lateral neck flexion
  • Isometric lateral neck flexion
  • Wall side neck bridge

Rotation:

Definition: Turning the head and neck to the left or right by rotating the cervical spine in either direction.
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
  • Splenius capitis
  • Splenius cervicis
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Semispinalis capitis
  • Semispinalis cervicis
  • Scalenus anterior
  • Scalenus medius
  • Scalenus posterior
  • Longissimus capitis
  • Rectus capitis posterior major
  • Rectus capitis posterior minor
  • Obliquus capitis inferior
  • Obliquus capitis superior
  • Longus colli
  • Upper trapezius
  • Levator scapulae
Exercises:

Thoracic Spine

Extension:

Definition: Straightening/arching the thoracic spine by moving the upper torso posteriorly (backward).
Image:  
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:

Round-back exercises train the thoracic extensors dynamically; flat back exercises train them isometrically.

Since most round-back exercises also involve lumbar spine rounding (not just thoracic rounding), it can be potentially dangerous if using heavy weight. So, it’s best to do higher reps with low to moderate loads.

Flexion:

Definition: Bending/rounding the thoracic spine by moving the upper torso anteriorly (forward).
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Ab crunch

Lateral Flexion:

Definition: Bending the thoracic spine laterally (to the left or right side), away from the sagittal plane (midline), by moving the upper torso to the left or right.
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Side bend
  • Oblique crunch

Rotation:

Definition: Turning the torso the left or right by rotating the thoracic spine in either direction.
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:

Lumbar Spine

Extension:

Definition: Straightening/arching the lumbar spine by moving the torso posteriorly (backward).
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Round-back hyperextension
  • Hyperextension (flat back)
  • Stiff-leg deadlift (round back)
  • Deadlift (flat back)
  • Round-back good morning
  • Good morning (flat back)

Round-back exercises train the lumbar extensors dynamically; flat back exercises train them isometrically.

Round-back exercises can be potentially dangerous, especially with heavier loads. If you do them, use low to moderate loads with higher reps (10+).

Flexion:

Definition: Bending/rounding the lumbar spine by moving the torso anteriorly (forward).
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Lying posterior pelvic tilt
  • Reverse ab crunch

Lateral Flexion:

Definition: Bending the lumbar spine laterally (to the left or right side), away from the sagittal plane (midline), by moving the torso to the left or right.
Image:
Muscles
Involved:
Exercises:
  • Side bend
  • Oblique crunch
  • Oblique leg raise

Rotation:

Note: There is practically no rotation that occurs at the lumbar spine due to the design of the facet joints in the lumbar region, which only allow up to 2 degrees of rotation (this is a protective mechanism, as too much lumbar rotation would put the spinal cord at high risk of injury).

The vast majority of trunk/torso rotation occurs in the thoracic spine (see thoracic rotation).

That said, the muscles responsible for the minimal amount lumbar rotation include the following: obliques (internal/external), quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, rotatores and multifidus.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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