I decided to revisit the belly pooch topic because I was fielding a lot of questions regarding how to keep the muscles of our midsection engaged while sitting. I made such an effort to describe appropriate standing posture but, given that many of us spend a lot of time throughout the day sitting, it seems I left out some important information – sitting posture.
My comment on the previous “belly pooch” blog was that the posture you hold throughout your 24-hour day plays the biggest role in shaping your midsection. If you sit for the majority of your 8-10 hour work day, you cannot sit back on your buns and tail bone with a rounded back and rounded shoulders and expect to look tight and toned the minute you stand up.
So how exactly do you sit with appropriate posture and engage your core muscles? The first step is to get to the front edge of your chair. If you have ever been coached to scoot your buns back in your chair and then work to press your back against the seat back, “sitting up straight”, please forget everything you have been taught. The problem with this is that it is far too much work and you will fatigue and go back to a slouched/slumped posture because it “feels better”. The reason why this is too much work is because your hips are at the same level as your knees. When your hips and knees are at the same level or if your hips happen to be lower than your knees – such as in a car – you have to work to overcome your hamstring tension that rounds out your lower back. Remember, a healthy low back is a back in neutral spine with the natural lordotic curve, not a flat back or rounded back. So the key is getting your hips higher than your knees when you are sitting. Most office chairs are adjustable, so simply sit to the front edge of your chair with your feet on the ground and pay attention to your hip height vs. the height of your knees.
The second step is to roll forward onto your “tripod.” Your tripod is made up of your 2 sit bones and your pubic bone. If you roll forward on your tripod, your tail bone is actually lifted as it is supposed to be and free from contact on the chair. If you are rolled back on your buns or feel any pressure on your tail bone, you are not in good sitting posture. You will know that you have found your sitting tripod as long as you feel pressure up front on your pubic bone.
Once you find your tripod sitting position, your body will automatically be in neutral spine with a natural lordotic curve of your low back. The best part is that as long as you are on your tripod, this position requires no extra work from your muscles. You will notice that when you are in this position, you sit up taller, taking your midsection out of the slumped posture you are usually in. With your midsection stretched out and your chest up, you can now focus on engaging your transversus abdominus muscle to draw your belly button in, essentially tightening up the corset around your neutral spine. It is this conscious effort of engaging your transversus abdominus that will gradually improve the tone of your belly pooch.
To finish your posture up through your shoulders and neck, simply open up your hands. Making sure your thumbs are pointing up throughout your day (you never want to look down and see the back of your hands) will ensure your shoulders are open and where your shoulders go your head will follow!
So a quick review of appropriate sitting posture:
1. Sit to the front edge of your chair with hips higher than your knees
2. Find and sit on your tripod
3. Engage your transversus abdominus
4. Open up your hands
Initially following all of these steps will take a conscious effort but, if you are consistent, it will become an unconscious habit. Not only will it help your belly look better, but you will feel better, take in more oxygen, reduce the stress on your back, shoulders, and neck and, who knows, maybe you’ll be more productive throughout your work day!