By Pat Staszak, PT

Last month we reviewed the very basic March exercise: While lying on the floor, we used our deep abdominals to stabilize our pelvis and low back as we moved our legs.  To make the exercise more challenging and functional, we will apply the same concepts, but while you are in an upright position.  Working against gravity and introducing a component of instability will increase the workload for the core stabilizers.  Most of us spend a lot of time sitting – this is another opportunity for us to learn the correct alignment and practice staying in this position with day-to-day activities.

Marching on the Stability Ball

Sit on a stability ball so that hip and knee are bent to 90 degrees and your pelvis is in a neutral position.  Remember from last week that your pelvis is in neutral when your pubic bone and ASIS are vertical.  Another cue we give is, “keep your SITS bones wide.”  This will help you avoid tucking the pelvis underneath and rounding out the lower back.
Keep in mind that you will need to shift your center of gravity slightly so that your pelvis is centered over the supporting leg as you attempt to take one foot off the floor. Imagine your pelvis as a bowl of fruit sitting on a table; while you do the exercise keep that bowel level so that no fruit spills out the bowl.  When you have found your balance on one leg, figure out just how much stabilizing muscle activity you need to prevent any wobbling as you lift one foot off the ground.

Inhale: Prepare in neutral sitting with front of pelvis in vertical plane, feet at sit-bone distance apart and knees pointed straight ahead so that your femurs (thigh bones) are parallel.
Exhale: Slight shift of pelvis toward supporting (left) leg, contract core stabilizers and lift other (right) foot just off the floor, maintaining neutral.
Inhale: Return foot to floor and shift pelvis to centered position.
Exhale: Shift pelvis toward opposite (right) leg , contract core stabilizers to support neutral and lift the other (left) foot just off the floor.
Inhale: Return foot to floor and shift pelvis to centered position.

Helpful hints:
Hold onto something stable the first time you try this exercise on the Stability Ball
Repeat until you feel as though you are able to minimize any excessive wobbling of the pelvis.  Practice makes perfect!  When you are unable to control the wobbling, it means the stabilizers are fatigued and it is time to give them a rest.  Good work!  Over time you will notice increased stability and endurance… and it is likely you will notice less back pain as well.

Functional Application:
It is important to maintain a neutral pelvis wherever you are sitting – on a ball, chair, couch, or on the floor.  This allows your entire trunk and upper body are able to be in good alignment.  Your rib cage is then able to balance directly over the pelvis and your head and neck can be centered on the shoulders.  A good way to think about it is that you want to have your weight equally balanced on your pelvis and feet and the rest of your body balanced over your pelvis.  This position minimizes the stress through all your joints and tissues. 

Neutral Pelvic Posture

Neutral Pelvis
In the picture above, his pelvis is in neutral and his overall posture looks pretty good, his pelvis is upright and his ribs and head are balanced over his pelvis.  To be perfect though, he could use a little more support through his mid back to better balance his ribs over his pelvis.   This would pull his head back into a more centered position.

Pelvic Tilted Posteriorly

Pelvic Tilted Posteriorly
The picture above is an example of poor sitting posture.  You can see that his pelvis is tucked under and slides forward of the rib cage, and the head is pulled forward.  This position can lead to tightness in the gluteals and stress through the sacroiliac joint.  It also causes abnormal stresses through everything above it; the lower and upper back, shoulders and neck.

Try to find that good neutral sitting position on your own.  Good sitting posture does make a difference – it may even help you avoid a trip to the doctor or physical therapist!