The Safe Gym Workout

“Can I go back to the gym?” or “What should I do at the gym?” are questions we are asked every day at Blue Align Chiro.
That’s why we’ve developed a 20-minute version of our full exercise Webinar – Spine-Sparing Tips for The Gym.

Deciding how you should work out can be pretty confusing. There are so many opinions on the topic, and many different outcomes that exercise programs can focus on.

Our key objectives of our Spine Sparing Tips for The Gym webinar are:

  1. To give you the safest workout approach possible.
  2. What to prioritise in a workout for the greatest health benefit.

Our webinar is not designed to provide you with individualised advice, nor is it a treatment for a particular condition. But it will help you build protective strength and stability.

Want to know our Spine-Sparing Tips for the Gym?

When Should You Work Out?

To determine how our body is recovering after a workout session (or daily activities in general), we measure our adaptability using a metric called heart rate variability (HRV).

Our full exercise module, which is part of our ‘Adaptive Wellbeing’ series, focuses on building the adaptability of your nervous system, which has become a feature of the modern wellbeing definition.

Nervous system adaptability translates into how well your body (nervous system) can cope with stress.

HRV is now conveniently measurable on your mobile phone. This unique approach allows you to measure how well your nervous system is recovering after sleep, and helps guide you on how much activity you should take on that day.

In other words, HRV can assist you in determining how well you are recovering, and when and how hard you should train next.

In our experience, many workouts can be too stressful on the body, so it is worth checking out our ADAPT-Ability Workshop – Resources for a better understanding.

The Two Key Concepts of the Safe Gym Workout

1. Maximise Nervous System Engagement

When I was researching which exercises would work best with chiropractic adjustments, I wanted something that would enhance or maintain the effects of the adjustment.

The nervous system regulates alignment, stability, and control of our joints. We simply can’t have good posture or protect ourselves from injury without a healthy functioning nervous system.

Dynamic stability training provides one of the best ways to achieve this. The goal of dynamic stability training is to engage whole postural muscle groups while moving through full ranges of movement.

Dynamic stability training utilises unstable surfaces like balance pads, fit balls and bosu balance trainers, and other exercise strategies that involve balance (see Figure 1).

Engaging both muscle and the nervous system at a high level can be achieved by adding balance challenges to the exercise, while maintaining a neutral spine.

Dynamic Stability Training using a fit ball

Figure 1 – An example exercise using the dynamic stability training principle. Note the use of a fit ball which increases the need for balance. It is a Bridge exercise combined with Unilateral Fly. A fly exercise done this way increases the need for further balance, thereby increasing neurological engagement.

2. Spine-Sparing Exercises (Maintaining A Neutral Spine)

Dr Stuart McGill, one of the most respected spine researchers in the world, says ‘Use the hips and maintain a neutral spine.’ McGill explains in great detail that there are a finite number of times we can bend our back before it becomes injured. Therefore, we must preserve or ‘spare’ it, and use our hips.

The normal side curves of the spine are shown in Figure 2 below. These curves are called the lordosis in the lower back and neck, and a kyphosis in the mid back.

Think of these curves like a spring which acts as a shock absorber. We need to maintain these curves as much as possible throughout our daily activities. When the core is ‘braced’ in a neutral posture, we are most protected from injury. So, we must learn how to do this while we exercise.

Maintaining a neutral spine is a key component for building core strength and postural stability of the body, and proprioception (sense of position).  This equates to a stronger nervous system.

Figure 2 – Neutral spine, maintaining our natural shock absorber (Lordosis and Kyphosis curves)

It’s Not About Muscle SIZE

Muscle endurance is also a key component of our training approach. Back and posture problems are often associated with weak neuromuscular function which fatigues too early.

You do not require ‘muscle size’ or brute strength to prevent spinal problems. It’s about building postural muscle endurance so that your postural system can last the day without fatiguing.

When postural muscles fatigue, they compensate, and you find yourself back in that tight, painful state, or more vulnerable to injury.

The key to the success of our signature approach is the way we implement exercises to complement the chiropractic care corrective care process.

To Build Endurance in Postural Muscles We Start with the ‘Least-Loading’ Exercises

When people begin care with us, we start them with exercises, such as Side Bridge, that put the least amount of stress or load into the spine and body.

In Table 1 below, you’ll see the different load profiles of various exercises.

Side Bridge on Knees (Safe Exercise column) has a value of 2,000N (newtons of force) compared to a Sit-up (Unsafe Exercise column) which is closer to 3500N of force.

Our next step is to determine an individual’s fatigue point while they are doing our key exercises using our unique testing protocol.

It is essential to determine the ‘postural fatigue point’ of these foundational exercises, so a person doesn’t overload the spinal system.

We find even elite athletes can have issues with the basic foundational exercises.

 It’s important to get the foundation right, and progress from there.

In our experience, many athletes and gym enthusiasts spend so much time rolling, triggering and stretching tight muscles because their foundation is not stable.

In these cases, you can stretch all day, but the nervous system is programming the muscles to tighten up in a protective manner around joints of the spine and pelvis.

The postural fatigue point where nervous system starts to fail in holding a postural exercises and muscles begin to go into a defensive state. As this state progresses, muscles tighten and lose strength and their natural responsiveness. Stretching muscles in these situations are often counterproductive.

Chiropractic Care & Exercise Go Together Like Brushing Your Teeth & Flossing

Chiropractic care is a great tool to help improve the effects of exercise (see Table 2 below).

Like the exercises we recommend, the majority of benefit that comes from a chiropractic adjustment comes from its effects on the nervous system.

Many research studies have demonstrated Adjustment appear to stimulate and open up nerve pathways between the brain and body, improving coordination and control of the musculoskeletal system.

TABLE 2 – The Effects of a Chiropractic Adjustment
Chiropractic adjustments can:
• Reduce pain
• Improve joint control and strength
• Improve muscle reaction times
• Restore range of motion in restricted joints
• Improve balance
• Improve function of the autonomic nervous system
• Improve the effects of exercise

To help support the effects of chiropractic care, we want exercise that will continue to stimulate and build strong nerve pathways.

Have you been suffering from reoccurring injuries or not performing to the level you require, maybe you need a different approach?

Do you want to avoid long term damage and injury at the gym, or maximise the health benefits of a workout in the quickest amount of time?

Then this information is for you!

Our short webinar (20-minute) is designed to help you implement exercise that is:

* spine sparing and prevents unnecessary injury,
* of the highest health benefit in the shortest amount of time, and
* maximises full muscle and neurological activation (does not isolate muscles).


  1. Essentials of Dynamic Stability Training and Chiropractic Care (
  2.  Effect of chiropractic care on heart rate variability and pain in a multisite clinical study – PubMed (
  3. Effects of Posteroanterior Thoracic Mobilization on Heart Rate Variability and Pain in Women with Fibromyalgia – PMC (
  4. Effects of Upper and Lower Cervical Spinal Manipulative Therapy on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Variability in Volunteers and Patients With Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled, Cross-Over, Preliminary Study – PMC (
  5. Rationale for assessing the effects of manipulative therapy on autonomic tone by analysis of heart rate variability – PubMed (

DISCLAIMER: All content is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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