Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practitioners of the Alexander Technique

Gait Posture. 2011 Oct;34(4):496-501

Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Day BL

Neurological Sciences Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, Beaverton, OR, USA; UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


The study involved 15 trained Alexander Technique teachers and 14 people who acted as controls. The control participants were selected to match the teachers as closely as possible in terms of age, height, weight and gender. The everyday action of moving from a sitting position to one of standing was used to evaluate movement coordination. 

Compared with the controls, the Alexander teachers had greatly reduced bending of the spine during the movement. In addition, for the teachers, the movement was smoother with weight shifting gradually onto the feet while bringing the body mass forward and at an angle. In contrast, the control participants took their weight off their feet at the beginning of the movement and predominantly used their hip muscles to generate momentum. 

The authors suggested that the markedly different movement coordination seen in the Alexander Technique teachers was related to their adaptive postural tone in the head/trunk, and lack of stiffness in hip joints that has previously been reported.


The Alexander Technique (AT) is used to improve postural and movement coordination and has been reported to be clinically beneficial, however its effect on movement coordination is not well-characterized.

In this study we examined the sit-to-stand (STS) movement by comparing coordination (phasing, weight-shift and spinal movement) between AT teachers (n=15) and matched control subjects (n=14). We found AT teachers had a longer weight-shift (p<0.001) and shorter momentum transfer phase (p=0.01), than control subjects. 

AT teachers also increased vertical foot force monotonically, rather than unweighting the feet prior to seat-off, suggesting they generate less forward momentum with hip flexors. 

The prolonged weight-shift of AT teachers occurred over a greater range of trunk inclination, such that their weight shifted continuously onto the feet while bringing the body mass forward. 

Finally, AT teachers had greatly reduced spinal bending during STS (cervical, p<0.001; thoracic, p<0.001; lumbar, p<0.05). 

We hypothesize that the low hip joint stiffness and adaptive axial postural tone previously reported in AT teachers underlies this novel ”continuous” STS strategy by facilitating eccentric contractions during weight-shift.

Crown Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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