The Role of Abdominals in Posture

Criss-cross applesauce, a phrase many have heard since grade school. A clever way to keep students seated, yes, but does a cross-legged position correlate with the strength of our abdominal muscles?

The crossing of our legs has been an etiquette standard for many centuries. The simple stance of such seated posture constitutes the differential angle of the pelvis as well as the activation of select abdominal muscles versus a straight seated posture. In layman’s terms, sitting in different postures might be beneficial to our abdominal develop and lumbar support, particularly cross-legged sitting. A variety of studies suggest this not only to be true, but physiologically significant to the average desk jockey.

Sitting might be considered the new smoking, but posture regulation can be the new workplace abdominal workout. Although we don’t encourage towards a sedentary lifestyle, many people have jobs where sitting is the standard position. While we applaud those who might slip in v-sits or Russian twists after the morning board meeting, not many are keen to perfecting their core conditioning during work hours.  Instead, we suggest switching up your standard posture during the day by adjusting to the commonly adopted, unconstrained posture of cross-legged sitting. Our bodies must engage our abdominal muscles to keep us upright in our chairs, providing us an already established platform to enhance. The consequence to sitting in a standard upright position for too long has the known effects of spinal compression and stiffness. Shifting a bit could be the key to better trunk activation and drawing from additional abdominal musculature components. Science lends a hand at proving this hypothesis.  Electromyography (EMG) studies have shown the true biofeedback of our abdominals. When in the cross-legged position our external obliques appear to have much greater activation than compared to alternative postures. Posterior pelvic tilt and greater kyphosis curvature in the lumbar and thoracic spine was also noted. Additional studies have also shown that our rectus abdominis muscles are still as engaged in this posture as seen in the standard sitting position, meaning we are not sacrificing the engagement of one set of abdominal muscles for the other.

Complete abdominal engagement isn’t fully achieved without total trunk activation. Crossing of the legs isn’t the only focus when going for a stronger core while sitting. Shoulder posture is a key element to preventing that desk jockey slump, as well as making sure our abdominal muscles are fully contracted versus passively assisting us in staying in the upright position.  Shoulder posture includes; pulling shoulder blades back, keeping chin at a neutral level, allowing the shoulder muscles to relax without rolling forward, and eliminating the upper back curvature. Performing shoulder rolls while drawing in a deep breath, can help re-evaluate your current sitting posture and cue your muscles to re-engage. An additional suggestion is to focus on your desk set up. Keeping your laptop at the natural eye level and fitting your chair at the proper height are simple tweaks to make for a big transformation.

Checking email can now be an event of multitasking. Cross-legged sitting, combined with keeping our shoulder posture in check, is the next revolution to abdominal strength and endurance.

Please Note: Before following exercise routines or changing your fitness regime, please consult a certified fitness professional. Always talk with a medical practitioner before following dietary advice or taking supplements.

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