Proper Posture For Driving (plus exercises)

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… Do you drive?

I am certain that a vast majority of you reading this blog will drive to work on a regular basis.

Let’s say that average person spends approximately 60 minutes in the car per day. That’s 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes on the return trip back home.

If you’re like me and you work the 5 day week, that’s a total of 5 hours of being in the car per week. If you do the math…


You spend over 20 hours in your car per month … or 240 hours per year!


… That’s a lot of time!

Imagine what you could achieve if you made use of those valuable minutes in the car each day.

Bad posture for driving

bad car posture

… Look familiar?

The Correct posture for driving

1. Position your pelvis correctly

To place your pelvis in a neutral position, try to “Sit on your Sit bones”.

Instructions:

  • Locate the Sit bones:
    • Whilst sitting down, slide your hands underneath your hip.
    • Feel for a bony prominence.
  • Visualize these bones as upside down triangles.
  • Tilt your pelvis forwards and backwards.
    • As you are doing this, feel for when the sit bones protrude into your hands the most.
    • This corresponds to when your pelvis is in the neutral position.
  • The aim is to sit directly on top of the point of the triangle.

Note: Most people tend to sit with their tail bone tucked underneath and sit behind their sit bones.

2. Position your Torso

Your rib cage should “float” evenly above your pelvis.

3. Position your Shoulders

correct shoulder position

Instructions:

  • Reach and stretch out your hands as far to opposite sides as possible. (see above)
  • RetractionSlightly bring your arms backwards.
    • Make sure you can feel a gentle contraction between your shoulder blades
  • Posterior Tilt: Turn your palms towards the back as far as you can so that your thumbs are almost pointing towards the floor.
  • Take note of your shoulder position. Keep this position! And gently lower your arms by your side.
  • Think“Wide and long shoulders”. 
  • Do NOT over squeeze your shoulders back together.

4. Position your Head

  • Gentle tuck your chin in.
  • Aim to keep your neck as elongated as possible.
  • Imagine your head is being stretched towards the sky.

exercises to improve posture for driving 

READ THIS:

  • Your safety is the most important!
  • If you feel that these tips impede your ability to drive, please re-consider doing them.
  • Perform these exercises at your own risk.

1. Seat adjustment

Keep your seat height as high as it can comfortably go… providing that:

  1. You can sustain complete vision of the road
  2. Your head does not hit the roof of the car
  3. Your feet can comfortably reach the foot pedals.

The advantage of this high seat position is that it allows you to position your pelvis in the correct neutral position.

I’ve talked about the correct position of the pelvis in this post: The correct pelvis position whilst sitting.

If the seat is too low, it will cause you to slouch at the pelvis, round the lower back, and result in a hunched posture. (… and this is the exact posture we are trying to avoid)

knee angle

Another key point to note is that chair should be positioned within reasonable distance to the foot pedal.

How does one determine what is reasonable distance?

Good question… You want to aim to have your knees bent at ~120-135 degrees.

Any more than this, especially for those who suffer from tight hamstrings or gluteal muscles, your pelvis will start to rotate backwards.

Note: For those people who drive a fairly low car, you may have limited options when it comes to seat height adjustment.

For you people – I recommended doing a whole lot of hamstring stretches!

2. Use a lumbar support

Most cars these days are fitted with a lumbar support in the seat which can be adjusted accordingly to the shape of your back.

The main aim with the lumbar support is to preserve the neutral arch of your lower back. (… most of us tend to round our back whilst driving)

If your car does not have in-built lumbar support into the seat, consider using a rolled up towel or a small pillow instead.

Just make sure that you are not over pronouncing the curve of your lumbar arch.

3. Stretch whilst you sit

Stretch sitting – This is a term that was developed by the Esther Gokhale who is the pioneer of the Gokhale Method.

It involves sitting in a specific way which will help stretch out the spine.

It was developed as a response to the fact that most of our back issues are due to excessive compression along the spine.

Video from Gokhale Method.

Instructions:

  • Tuck your pelvis to the back of the seat.
  • Tilt your lower ribs down to elongate the spine.
  • Place your hands on the side of the seat and push down as you bend forward.
  • Hinge backwards until the middle of your upper back is hooked onto the seat.
  • Relax you arms.
  • Re-position your shoulders by rolling backwards.

What should it feel like? There should be a subtle pulling sensation throughout the spine. It should feel like someone is gently elongating and stretching your spine as you sit tall.

4. Elbow position

elbow position in car

Keep your elbows low and close to your body. Do not allow your elbows to flare out.

By doing this, it will help with maintaining your shoulders in a safe and neutral position.

A common mistake I see a lot of drivers make is that they place their elbows on the side of the window.

This will cause your elbows to flare out, shoulders to hunch and result in a bad posture.

5. Red light chin tucks

Every time you stop at a red traffic light, do some chin tucks!

chin tuck in car

Instructions:

  • Rest your head back on the head rest.
  • Gently tuck your chin in.
  • Nod your chin downwards.
  • Aim to feel a stretch at the back of your neck.
  • Hold for the duration of the red traffic light.

For more exercises to fix your head posture, check out the post: How to fix Forward Head Posture.

6. Scapula retraction

Instructions:

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Aim to feel the muscles between your shoulder blades contract.

How long can you hold this for? I usually try to hold this contraction for the length of a whole song whilst listening to the radio.

7. Pelvic tilts

Instructions:

  • Gently tilt your pelvis forwards.
  • Relax
  • Repeat 10 times.

8. Wake up the butt muscles

Too much sitting whether it be at work or in the car (or both!) can cause your gluteal muscles to become weaker.

Your gluteal muscles can affect your posture!

Check out this post: Glute Activation Exercises to get a list of exercises that will help strengthen your butt muscles.

When your car is stationary, take advantage of this time to get those muscles working.

glute activation in car

Instructions:

  • Sit up tall.
  • Push the outside of your knees against your car.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can until you need to drive again.
  • Feel your glute muscles contract!

9. Big stretch

Once you have reached your destination, get out of the car and stretch!

Do this:

yawn stretch

Focus on feeling the stretch of all the structure at the front of your body.

These muscles are usually the ones that are tight when you sit in your car for long period of time.


What to do next…

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me on the Facebook page. Let’s keep in touch!

3. Start doing the exercises!

14 thoughts on “Proper Posture For Driving (plus exercises)”

  1. Hi Mark, just wanted to say I found your tips to improve your posture while driving. Preparing for a cross country road trip and I struggle with back pain on long trips, so I think they will be a god-sent, thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Hey Lars,

      Remember to take strategic breaks, set up the car seat as best as you can and move the back every opportunity you can.

      All the best!

      Mark

  2. Have any tips for bucket car seats past 2009? I was reading that the newer standards have a headrestraint (not head rest) and it has been designed for larger North American’s with poor posture. To sit without the restraint pushing on my head, I folded a towl at the back of the bucket (horizontal) and angled the seat at about 10 degrees back (vertical). However, my shoulders are now 1-2 inches away from the seat (which at least gets me away from the boalsters that were pushing my shoulders and arms forward – but it is not sustainable to have no support). Being 6’1″, my head is already close to the roof. I feel like I need something wedge shaped to fill the gap at the top of the seat. Ideas?

    It looks like you drive a car with the older style headrest… So I guess your lucky. 👍

    Reply
    • Hey Troy,

      Car seats are horrible :(

      They are more so designed for accidents, but not so great for posture.

      Only way around it is to avoid driving long distances (not practical in most cases), getting a new car with better seats (also not always practical) or doing exercises in the car to keep your body moving.

      The danger of posture is when we stay there for way too long!

      There are some things like seat wedges, lumbar supports, neck supports etc that might be able to help.

      Mark

  3. Mark, I’ve been searching high and low for good orientation for driving posture and your post is amazing :) I always keep a good driving posture in the car, though I do have a preference for keeping my seat low – as a car enthusiast, I admit it simply feels better for driving, for.. feeling the car. Been trying to avoid back pain, so I make sure I exercise, stretch and do all the other parts right.

    My current car has a somewhat hard seat rest so my lower back feels like it’s resting against a hard surface rather than a cushioned seat, I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a problem with the seat or if I’m just unused to it.

    In any case, your stretching tips and exercises are helping me a lot. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us :)

    Reply
  4. I had a herniated disc and without surgery and in a matter of a couple of months have become completely pain free. The main difference I have made is that when driving I no longer tilt my seat back. I now have my seat nearly straight up so I can keep my head and shoulders back against the seat instead of slouching forward and reaching for the steering wheel.
    I spent all last summer thinking my life was over due to the extreme pain and now my back is better than it has ever been. I can now drive all day long or lift heavy weights all day long with absolutely no pain.

    Reply
    • Hey Patrick,

      That’s awesome news! Great to hear it!

      Sounds like changing your seat position placed your pelvis in a more neutral position.

      Mark

  5. I have an anterior anterior pelvic tilt, and always have problems with long drives and the around my sacrun and lower back. Any suggestions for posture exercises or positions while driving for this condition?

    Reply
    • Hey David,

      To be honest, it is actually very difficult to maintain good posture in a car seat.

      The main reason behind this (I think) is that the car seats are designed to be safer for whiplash injuries during a motor vehicle accident.

      In regards to your Anterior pelvic tilt, The main thing is to keep your pelvis is a Neutral position as much as possible.

      Check out this post here

      Mark

  6. Hi, Thanks for the useful post. I am currently suffering a pinched nerve due to driving. I have tried adjusting the seat a lot to find the sweet spot . Once I find a comfortable position it still feels like my neck is being pushed forward and now I’m in agony. I have purchased a back joy to help with my posture, hopefully that helps.. other than that it’s been a painful journey thus far.

    Reply
  7. Thank you for the post! My chiropractor has been working on my neck pain and we’ll be driving to California for the holidays. He stressed that I have proper posture while I’m driving or it could increase the pain for the week we’re staying with family. Is it OK to drive with a neck pillow or will that mess with your posture?

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer,

      If you feel that your head is straining over long periods of driving, a neck pillow (one of which does not push your head forward) may provide some support. However – I would suggest using it intermittently throughout the trip as opposed to all the way.

      Also – if you are not the one behind the wheel, you can try reclining your chair so that your head is resting on the head rest which will offload your neck muscles.

      Thank you for the comment. Happy travels!

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