The activity of the oblique abdominal muscles was investigated with the trunk in unconstrained, symmetrical and static postures. Electromyographic recordings in six healthy subjects revealed that in all subjects the activity of both the internal and the external obliques is significantly higher in unconstrained standing than in supine posture. Activity of the internal oblique was higher than that of the external oblique abdominal. The sacrospinal, gluteus maximus and biceps femoris muscles showed practically no activity in unconstrained erect posture. During unconstrained sitting both oblique abdominals are active. In most subjects the activity of the oblique abdominals was significantly smaller when sitting on a soft car seat than when sitting on an office chair with a hard seat. The possibility is discussed that contraction of the oblique abdominals in unconstrained standing and sitting may help in stabilizing the basis of the spine and particularly the sacroiliac joints. During standing and sitting the oblique abdominal muscles apparently have a significant role in sustaining gravity loads. RELEVANCE: Back pain and pelvic pain are often experienced in prolonged standing and sitting postures. In these postures the oblique abdominals are shown to be active. The present study gains clinical significance by the studies showing relatively small oblique abdominal muscle strength in patients with low back pain. A soft seat may be helpful in treatment and prevention, because it substitutes oblique abdominal muscle activity.