Open scissor posture, what is it and how you can change it

Open scissor posture is a common term used amongst physios but usually when I say it during a consult I get a puzzled look from my clients. It’s a very important concept to understand as fixing this has the potential to help ANY and EVERY sport you want to do, whether it be running, dancing, lifting etc.

Let’s start by showing some visuals about what open scissor posture looks like and then we can talk about why we do it and how that may be affecting your sport.

open scissor lifting open scissor skeleton


As you can see from the images above, open scissor posture is a term used to describe when the ribcage is not placed (or ‘stacked’ as we like to say) over the pelvis. The pelvis starts to tilt anterior (forwards) and the ribs flare outwards and up. The ‘stacking’ position is the optimal position to be in so that your body can utilise its proximal stability. Proximal stability refers to the chain of muscles that start at our core and they help produce, control and transfer force through to the extremities (think hips/knees/ankles/shoulders etc). If you are adopting this open scissor posture it’s most likely that you don’t have adequate proximal stability and this can lead to injuries and technique problems within your chosen sport. In runners, this may end up presenting itself as calf or Achilles tendon pain. In dancers it may present itself as lower back or shoulder pain.

open scissor

I’m going to use running now as my example but these principles can be applied to yourself regardless of what sport or activity you do. The way to correct this posture is to firstly recognise that you are doing it! For runners I suggest trying to film yourself from the side when running and try to work out if your hips look like they are tipping forward, the curve in your lower back is quite accentuated and your rib cage looks like it is flaring out and up. The image below of the male runner is a good way of highlighting the difference between an open scissor posture, showing the hallmarks of the anterior tilted pelvis versus the female below him who looks stacked through her torso and controlled through her pelvis. The female runner has a much better chance of producing the adequate mechanical forces through to her glutes which will then prevent against lower back pain and overuse injuries to her hamstring, calf or Achilles.

anterior pelvis crop

So how can you fix this posture? Here are 3 things to consider:

  1. Strengthen your core using exercises that replicate the ‘stacked spine’ position. A good example of this is the ‘dead bug’ exercise. It’s really important during this exercise that you keep the ribs locked down to your hip bones and not let your lower back arch far away from the floor. There are a variety of progressions or regressions of this exercise that you can try to ensure you are getting the adequate level of activation.
  2. Learn to breath. Breathing is one of the most overlooked ways of strengthening your core. If you are interested in learning more about breathing google ‘360 breathing’ and get started! This way of breathing will help you utilise your diaphragm which will help create optimal abdominal pressure and prevent against the open scissor posture.
  3. You may need to strengthen your hip flexors and not stretch them! So many people over stretch the front of their hips due to them feeling ‘tight’ all the time or when trying to manage lower back pain after a run. Commonly with dancers in particular who are coming in with the open scissor posture, we find their deep hip flexor called the psoas needs to be strengthened. Strengthening the psoas whilst in the stacked spine position will help you create a stable pelvis and a better chance of injury prevention.

But be patient – the above points take time, consistency and effort. Your body wont miraculously change overnight, but if you start making small alterations to the way you move then over time you will see and feel change in your body.