Starting Positions

Original Editor - Nikhil Benhur Abburi Top Contributors - Nikhil Benhur Abburi and Kim Jackson


Movement can be initiated from a variety of positions. To attain a position we start at one and end in another. Posture is a position which one holds their body when standing, sitting or position it in a way appropriate to the movement that is desirable kneeling, lying or for a specific work.

The postures from which the movement is initiated are known as starting positions, these can either be active or passive in nature.There are 5 fundamental starting positions[1]

  • Standing
  • Kneeling
  • Sitting
  • Lying
  • Hanging

All other positions are derived from these positions by altering the positions of arms, trunk and legs and are known to be Derived Positions. All exercises begin in one of the starting positions and altered by moving into another position or modified according to the need. A balance of forces acting on the body maintain equilibrium and stability in these positions. Postural reflexes control strength and distribution of contractions.



In standing the whole body must be balanced and stabilized in correct alignment on feet with a small base of support by coordinated work of many muscle groups.It is the Most difficult of positions, the position is described as below[1]

Heels Together, in same line, toes slightly apart
Knees Together & straight
Hips Extended & slightly laterally rotated
Pelvis Balanced on femoral heads
Spine Stretched to maximum length
Head Thrust upwards, ears leveled & eyes look straight forward
Shoulders Down & back
Arms Hang loosely to sides
Palm Facing inwards towards body

Muscle work

When the Body segments are in good alignment and perfectly balanced the muscle work is minimum. This increases as movement occurs or the forces keeping the alignment disturbs.


Intrinsic muscles of feet Stabilizes feet & Prevents toe curling
Plantar flexors Balances lower leg on foot
Dorsiflexors Counterbalances plantarflexors & support

medial longitudinal arch of foot

Evertors Counterbalances action of invertors

Presses ball of Great toe on ground

Knee extensors works slightly
Hip extensors Maintains hip extension

Balances pelvis on femoral heads

Hip Lateral rotators(Slight action) Bracing of legs & foot arches
Spinal extensors Keeps trunk straight
Lumbar flexors Prevents over action of lumbar extensors

Maintain correct angle of pelvic tilt

Supports abdomonal viscera

Pre vertebral neck muscles Controls extensive neck extension

Straightens cervical spine

Flexors/extensors of atlanto-occipital joint Work reciprocally to balance head
Elevators of mandible Closes the mouth
Scapular retractors draws the scapulae back wards
Arms Relaxed

Effects and Uses

Due to small base of support this position is less stable, high COG. This position is suitable to persons who can perfectly balance and maintain it correctly.

This is suitable for performing many exercises, if maintain correctly reduces muscle work and conditions the postural reflex.[1]


In this position the body is supported on the knees which can be together or slightly apart. The feet are plantar flexed if kneeling on ground or in in mid position if on plinth, this is often used in praying

Muscle work


The lower leg is relaxed and the body is supported on the knees[1]

Muscle Work
Flexors & extensors of knee Inter play to balance femora vertically on the knees
Extensors of Hip and flexors of lumbar spine Maintain correct angle of pelvic tilt

Remaining work of the muscles is alike that of in standing

Effects and uses

This position is slightly stable than standing because of increase in the base of support but is the most uncomfortable of positions



This position is taken in chair or stool and the hips and knees are flexed to right angle and the feet rest on the floor[1] Most used position in daily life

Muscle work

This position does not need much of work to be done by the legs to hold on to the position, the flexors of hips work to maintain a right angle and prevent the tendency to slump

Effects and Uses

This is the most comfortable of positions and is very stable, rotation is limited to spine as the pelvis bears the weight of the upper body and is fixed, suitable for non weight bearing exercises of the knee and foot can be performed in this position and also suitable for training correct alignment of upper body in habitual sitting.


Lying is the most easiest of the fundamental positions and most of us spend few hours as in sleeping or relaxing and most preferred position for rest

it is as stable as possible

Muscle work

Muscle work in lying is minimal not much movement occurs in this position is taken on a soft mattress as it gives way to the contours of the body but if taken on a plinth or a hard surface the head can roll to either sides[1]

Muscle Work
Head rotators work reciprocally to stabilize the position
Extensors of hip & flexors of lumbar spine work to hollow the back
Medial rotators of hip keeps legs in neutral position

Effects and Uses

The spine is relieved of weight of the upper body suitable for many exercises and in the treatment of spinal deformities, unsuitable for patients with respiratory or heart conditions due to increased pressure of abdominal viscera and elderly due the hindrance to return of blood from heart



In hanging body is suspended by grasping onto something with the fingers and palm

Muscle work

Muscle Work
Flerors of fingers grasping
Wrist reduce stain on joints & synnergists to finger flexors
Flexors of elbow reduce stain on joints
Adductors of shoulder Lift the body on arms
Depressors, retractors & medial rotators fix scapulae and brace upper back
Pre vertebral post neck Maintain the position of head and neck
Flexors of lumbar spine Correct the tendency to arch the back
Adductors of hips Keep legs together
Extensors of knees Maintain full extension
Plantar flexors Point toes to floor

Effects and Uses

Hanging requires extensive work of upper back and arms so people with strong muscles to maintain the body weight can use this position[1]. Children enjoy this position in play not suitable for weak individuals


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 M.Dena Gardiner, Starting Positions. M. Dena Gardiner. The Principles of Exercise Therapy, fourth edition, revised by teachers of London Hospital, Published in India by arrangement with Baillier Tindall, london 2005 p 33-37