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How to Improve Athlete Performance PDF: Spinal Curve

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How to Improve Athlete Performance PDF: Spinal Curve


Download our FREE “How to Improve Athlete Performance PDF Guide” to learn how to evaluate spinal curve and athletic ability in yourself, your athlete, and/or your team!

Bad posture can result in feelings of fatigue, weakness, and stiffness. A person can suffer from bad posture when they cannot develop multiple 1st class lever systems necessary to establish stability and force against anterior resistance.

This guide provides a scientific way to determine if you have underlying poor spinal posture that could put you at risk of injury. Dr. John S. Scherger used these principles to consult with professional NFL teams to pick superior athletes and taught them how to get and maintain the Correct Neutral Spine.

1. How to Identify a Good Curve vs. a Bad Curve

A properly curved neck has muscles that move at approximately a 45º angle.

Relaxed Vs Tense Muscles

Neck Curve 1Neck Curve 2

If you displace your head forward over your chest, you may develop a poorly curved neck. Forward displacement can give the appearance of a vertically running sternocleidomastoid muscle. A more vertical muscle is more susceptible to loss of the proper curve.

Mechanical Advantage of Proper Posture:

Neck Posture Compression Comparison

Neck Posture Compression Comparison

Neck Posture Joint Force Comparison

Neck Posture Joint Force Comparison

2. Analyze Neck Movement for Proper Structure

Observe your spinal posture's quality with a head turn. Have your side face a partner while they watch you turn your head toward them. If you have good cervical spinal posture, you will lead with your eyes. If you have poor cervical spinal posture, you will lead with your chin.

Good Spinal Posture

Poor Spinal Posture


A neck with cervical curve loss will not usually be able to bend or rotate much..

3. Evaluate Shoulder Movement to Identify Proper Posture

The shoulders should be in their proper anatomical position for a proper neutral spinal posture. A cervical spine with poor posture can be identified with rolled shoulders, a bent forward position, and arms extended forward instead of vertical.

Lift your arms up next to your head. A neck with good posture will allow the arms to move easily and keep the head in a proper anatomical position during the whole movement.

Shoulder Movement

If you have trouble moving your arms, your neck is in poor posture. Rolled shoulders will not be able to arrive at the vertical position without ending their normal physiological movement. Your head will also fall forward.

4. Identify Breathing Physiology for Proper Posture

Breathe deeply and sit up straight.

You can visibly see a good neutral spine posture by the deep concavity in the lower back. Your back muscles should be relaxed instead of the enlarged and firm muscles seen in a poor and flat neutral spinal posture.

Breathing Physiology


5. Analyze Posterior Musculature when Standing for Proper Posture

Stand up straight with a correct neutral spine. Your spine should align with your hips, and your neck muscles, lower back, and hamstrings should be relaxed.

Posterior Musculature



If you have an improper spinal structure, the spinal centers of mass are forward of the hips, with your neck muscles, lower back, and hamstrings being aggressively used to keep the posture stable.

You might feel your muscles relax if you gently move your upper trunk mass posterior.

Incorrect Neutral Spine



6. Evaluate Jumping Dynamics for Proper Posture

You should land in the same spot when jumping vertically if you have a good neutral spinal posture. Your upper trunk should be balanced over your lower trunk.

If you have poor neutral spinal posture, you will land forward after a vertical jump. This is because the upper trunk will be forward of the lower trunk mass.

Jumping Dynamic Correct Neutral Spine

Jumping Dynamic Incorrect Spinal Posture

How Structure Affects Athletic Performance:

The Incorrect Neutral Spine reduces stretching capacity, fast-twitch muscle recruitment, stride length, and power, while the Correct Neutral Spine increases them. 

The Correct Neutral Spine makes a superior athlete with lower back and abdominal strength to effectively sit up against gravity, launch and hit objects, and stand upright and move things forward.

Lower Body Posture Comparisons

Statistics from Dr. Scherger's "Physics Demonstration of Locomotion"

Correct Neutral Spine Zero Hamstring Effort



Incorrect Neutral Spine Forward of Hip


Dr. Scherger's locomotion, walking, and running section of "Kinesiological Analysis of Human Core Stability: Spinal Development, Structure, and Function" show "Hamstring Muscle Effort Difference Between Good and Poor Posture When Planted Leg is at 60 Degrees: Good Posture Hamstring Effort: 0 lbs of effort versus Poor Posture Hamstring Effort: 400 lbs of effort".

Common Force of Effort Across Both the Hip and Knee

Incorrect Neutral Posture = Tight Hamstrings

Incorrect Vs Correct Neutral Posture


In Incorrect Neutral Posture, leg muscles are forced first to maintain posture, NOT control movement. As a result, athletic performance when running and jumping (locomotion) will decrease, as shown above. 

Each person stands upright and moves under gravity because the spine is a mechanical system with levers comprised of muscles, bones, joints, and discs. The correct neutral spine allows effective mobility and effective momentum. Effective mobility is when the human stands upright on two legs and moves effectively and efficiently under gravity. Superior athletic performance is only possible when the hamstrings are flexible. The hamstrings have two different jobs: maintaining posture and creating bipedal locomotion such as walking, running, and jumping. Instead of devoting all hamstring effort for locomotion, incorrect neutral posture forces the hamstrings to constantly work to prevent hip rotation and keep the body from falling forward.

The hamstrings control stride length, stretching, and the distance the human travels. The hamstrings produce force in direct proportion to their ability to stretch. The hamstrings are powerful and recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers to produce effective mobility for superior athletic performance.

With the Correct Neutral Spine, the trunk develops power and stability for superior athletic performance.

All our How to Guides are free and written based on Dr. John S. Scherger’s Manuals and Physics Demonstrations:

Ab Exercises for Bad Back PDF: The Correct Sit-Up
Core Stability Exercises PDF & Exercises to Avoid
Home Exercise Program for Low Back Pain PDF: Spinal Twist
Lower Back Strengthening Exercises PDF: Power Cushion or Sleeping Bag
Neck Strengthening Exercises PDF Guide: Neck Flexion

Now you can train to improve, restore, and maintain the ideal S-shape spinal posture instead of accentuating or creating the incorrect neutral spine.

Neck Structure and Function

Lower Back Structure and Function