Spinal exercise prescription in sport: classifying physical training and rehabilitation by intention and outcome

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Context: Identification of strategies to prevent spinal injury, optimise rehabilitation, and enhance performance is a priority for practitioners. Different exercises produce different effects on neuromuscular performance. Clarity of the purpose of a prescribed exercise is central to successful outcome. There is a need to classify spinal exercises according to the objective of the exercise and planned physical outcome. Objective: The objectives of this study were to define the modifiable spinal abilities which underpin optimal function during skilled athletic performance, and to classify spinal exercises according to the objective of the exercise and intended physical outcomes. Design: A qualitative consensus method of 4 iterative phases. 1] Exploratory panel carried out an extended review the literature to identify key themes and sub themes to inform the definition of physical abilities, exercise categories and physical outcomes. 2] Expert project group reviewed panel findings. 3] Draft classification discussed with physiotherapists (n=49), and international experts. 4] Revised classification reviewed by lead physiotherapy and strength & conditioning teams (n=17). Consensus was defined as unanimous agreement. Results: Spinal abilities were defined in four categories: mobility, motor control, work capacity, and strength. Exercises were sub-classified by functionality as non-functional or functional; and by spinal displacement as either static (neutral spinal posture with no segmental displacement) or dynamic (dynamic segmental movement). The proposed terminology and classification supports commonality of language for practitioners. Conclusions: The Spinal Exercise Classification will support clinical reasoning through description of a framework of spinal exercise objectives which clearly define the nature of exercise prescription required to deliver intended physical outcomes.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2016


  • spine, back, exercise prescription, classification, training, rehabilitation