August 1, 2013

Position Check

Want to try something cool?  You don't even have to be riding for this exercise that will improve your position in the saddle.  You can even do it at work!

What not to do.  All of my core strength is useless in this
slouched, slumping position.
This is a quick position check that applies to “shoulders back!”, “don’t slouch!”, and “sit on your pockets/stop perching!”  If you normally hunch your shoulders, slouch, or otherwise break the natural alignment of your spinal vertebrae, this will not be easy at first, but it will improve your riding (or anything else) if you practice it enough that it becomes a habit.  You need to be standing (preferably on your feet, but in the stirrups will do) in order to do it.  This technique is out of the Supple Leopard book, paraphrased by and with an equestrian spin added by me.

Step 1: Stand square, then squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) as hard as you can.
  • Yes, seriously!  This brings your pelvis underneath you and into the proper position.  

Step 2: Engage your abs in order to maintain your new pelvic position.
  • This is the amount of ab tension you should have at all times in order to maintain a neutral spine.  Think of ab tension on a scale from 1-10: 10 is max effort weightlifting, 4 is riding ("use your core!"), and 2 is normal/maintaining your neutral spine.  
  • Because sitting (and riding) deactivates the glutes, you need the abs to maintain the position that you discovered by engaging your glutes.  You also wouldn't be able to hold the "squeeze as hard as you can" position for very long, but can hold the abs at a tension of 2 all day.

Step 3: Gently bring your shoulder blades down your back.
  • Ever heard “Shoulders back!”  from your trainer?  Did she have to say it again later?  It’s easy to go too far in the opposite direction and to create tension in your upper back if you pull your shoulders “back”.  Instead, think about pointing your shoulder blades down and letting them move down your back.
Okay, now a final check: If your upper body is collapsed forward and your shoulders are slumped forward, your palms will be facing the front of your thighs when you’re standing.  If your shoulders are back where are they supposed to be, your palms will face the outsides of your thighs.

I'm willing to bet that if you've been told you need to use your core more, or you need a stronger core, that it's actually posture related, and you're just neutralizing the effects of your core with bad posture.  I know this is one of the biggest problems with my riding, and when I remember to "stretch up", Connor goes so much better.  Give it a try!


  1. I need to do this. I have the *worst* posture.

    1. How did you like it? You're supposed to re-check every fifteen minutes, which is hard to remember at first. We should do a challenge!

  2. Plus if you focus on how you sit in your office chair or in the car you can see where some of your posture problems stem from. Since someone opened my eyes to those types of things I try to sit evenly in the car, if one foot is forward I put the other forward and work on keeping my seat bones even.
    I have to think roll the shoulders, up, back and down because like you said back is a misnomer.
    Good post.

    1. Thanks!! I agree, though I drive a stick with a super long clutch, so my position in the car is never going to be terribly even. Office, definitely.