Neck posture during lifting and its effect on trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine posture

Appl Ergon. 2017 Jul;62:28-33. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2017.02.006. Epub 2017 Feb 27.


Neck and head posture have been found to have a significant influence on the posture of the lower spine region during lifting and both an extended/upward gaze and a flexed/downward gaze have been hypothesized to lead to increased pain and/or overuse of the neck musculature. As a result, strength training recommendations have turned to the use of a retracted neck posture as being the safer posture to assume during lifting. This study examined trunk and neck muscle activity and lumbar spine posture in seven participants while performing moderate load lifts using a retracted neck posture (chin drawn in posteriorly; recently gaining popularity among coaches, trainers, and physical therapists to reduce neck pain during lifting, and freestyle neck posture (no instructions given). The retracted neck resulted in less lumbar spine flexion and increased lumbar erector spinae, external oblique, and sternocleidomastoid activity. The retracted posture also resulted in decreased activity in the thoracic erector spinae and dorsal neck musculature. The increased trunk and sternocleidomastoid activity and decreased spine flexion observed in the seven participants of this study when lifting with a retracted neck may have the potential to help lower the risk of spine pain/injury.

Keywords: Cervical spine; Electromyography; Lifting; Lumbar spine; Muscle activation; Neck posture; Pain; Spine posture.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Oblique Muscles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lifting*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiology
  • Male
  • Neck / physiology*
  • Neck Muscles / physiology*
  • Paraspinal Muscles / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Posture*
  • Young Adult