The V-Sit: The Ultimate Movement for Posture, Power, and Strength

Follow these progressions on your way to building the strength to perform this fundamental gymnastic movement.

On the path to developing a solid foundation for movement, practicing the V-sit can help address issues in several parts of the body. The V-sit is achieved by maintaining a straight-arm support position with an elevated pike. This happens when straight-leg hip flexion is held in combination with scapular retraction and depression.

Developing a stronger V-sit will:

  1. Assist with the ability to press out of seated or squatting positions
  2. Enhance abdominal flexion
  3. Increase contractile force in the dorsal hinge
  4. Reduce injury potential in backward falls
  5. Build greater driving force off vaults and support releases
  6. Increase balance and coordination through the lateral lines of the arms
  7. Increase posterior shoulder stability and rotator cuff strength
  8. Increase compression force through the anterior chain

But what may be considered the most important benefit of a solid V-sit is the potential to correct common postural issues. As an experiment, draw your shoulders back as far as possible, as if you’re standing in a boot camp lineup, and notice what happens to the abdominals and lumbar spine.

“V-sits enable greater hip and abdominal flexion beyond that of the L-sit.”

If you are like most, when you retract the shoulder blades, your abdominals will release and the low back will extend. It can be quite difficult to hold the shoulders back while maintaining the integrity of the lumbar spine with abdominal support. The V-sit is an excellent training tool for overcoming this issue.

Example Programming for the V-Sit

The programming for developing competency within the V-sit position is broken down into three sections:

  1. Flexibility and mobility
  2. Patterning of the breath and movement
  3. Strength and postural alignment

There are no rep or set recommendations as the goal is to build competency and autonomy within the V-sit position – not obligation and predictability, which lead to a loss of spontaneity. Do all exercises for refinement and improved quality, striving for an increase in awareness and competency within the position.

Flexibility and Breath Work

Support Wall Pike

  1. Sit facing a wall and with your legs straight place them as high as possible on the wall.
  2. Scoot yourself as close as you can toward the wall and extend your arms behind you.
  3. Relax into the stretches in the hamstrings, posterior pelvis, low back, shoulders, and anterior deltoids.

V-Sit Breath Patterned Pulses

V-sit breath patterned pulses are done to increase range of motion in conjunction with proper breath coupling. They are done in the same position and usually in conjunction with the support wall pike. The breath is used to build a platform for tensions held in the torso for the retraction of the scapulae and flexion of the hips and abdominals.

The inhale is drawn into and held in the chest to provide a solid base for scapular retraction and depression while the exhale is forced out of the lower abdominal and pelvic regions allowing for greater abdominal and hip flexion. It is important to remember the tensions in the respiratory muscles are compounded and not released during the breath cycle. In other words, more breath is pushed into the chest on every inhale, held as much as possible, and not allowed to escape on the exhale. Meanwhile more and more breath is pushed out of the abdomen and not allowed to return on the inhale.

Movement and Mobility Patterning

High Kick Crab Walks

Imagine crab walks from P.E. class performed with the utmost integrity. Maintain your hips at the highest point while reaching each hand as close to the foot as possible. When lifting the leg for each stride, attempt to straighten it and create as much flexion at the hip. You can allow the torso to side bend to achieve greater posterior chain tension unilaterally or attempt to maintain a straight body line for core stability.

Forward Bend Reverse Grip Shoulder Dislocates

  1. Sit in a traditional forward bend hamstring stretch with a stick held in a reverse overhand grip behind your back.
  2. Retract the shoulder blades and drive the stick as far behind you as possible.
  3. As you rotate the stick over your head, keep the stick in the crooks of your wrists similar to a false grip.
  4. Repeat, increasing hip flexion and narrowing the grip on the stick as you progress.

Strength and Postural Alignment

Wall Support Heel Drives

  1. Sit facing a wall and with your legs straight place them as high as possible on the wall.
  2. Place a small towel under your feet so you are holding the towel against the wall with your feet.
  3. Extend the arms and lift the feet and hips as high up the wall as possible.
  4. Continue, each time reaching for the highest and longest range of motion you can achieve.

It is important to keep light contact between the feet and the wall by drawing in through the abdominals and to not allow the shoulders to roll forward by retracting the shoulder blades.

Static V-Sit Holds

The static V-sit hold is done as a single one-rep max for time spent at the peak of the position. The peak is defined as the tightest pike possible with the hips pushed as far out in front of the hands as possible. The arms should be straight and externally rotated while maintaining an open chest.

The Value of Skill Development

Taking the time to develop the L-Sit into a V-sit is a worthwhile endeavour. V-sits enable greater hip and abdominal flexion beyond that of the L-sit. The additional strength built in the rotator cuff and back muscles also protects against shoulder injury and will improve pressing and pulling power as well as posture.

And once a strong V-sit is established, the door to developing Manna presses is also opened allowing for even greater control and strength in all of these aspects.

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Photo courtesy of Andre Miller.