To “W” Sit or Not?

While coaching we regularly observe a child that will “W” sit. For those of you that are not familiar with this term it is when an individual sits on their knees with their bottom in the center and their calves planted outwards creating the effect of a W. It is a position in which the hips are placed at the extreme limits of internal rotation, predisposing the child to future orthopedic problems.

As a gymnastics coach this position is of concern as it complicates some of the basic foundational skills that we teach. For a child that is a habitual “W” sitter a simple straddle sit is very difficult. The legs will not widen and the knees and hips roll inward making this a very challenging position and often painful when attempted. It is obvious at this point the muscles have tightened and will now require daily stretching to correct. There are numerous skills affected too many to list.

As a child develops there are several future concerns if they continue to sit in the “W”.

1) The risk of hip dislocation.

2) Major muscle groups that are placed in this position begin to shorten and tighten especially the hamstrings, adductors and Achilles tendon.

3) Compromises balance development as the trunk muscles are not challenged and balance reactions are not needed.

4) Midline orientation is avoided. Children naturally begin to bring their hands together at the midline to manipulate objects but a child who regularly “W” sits is discouraged from engaging in this important milestone. Instead they will chose the right or left sided of their body and hands, which disrupts the development of more advanced motor skills.

Suggestions to those of you that observe a child sitting in “W” position encourage them to sit butterfly this will get the hip flexors stretching in the right direction.