How to Fix Your Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Part 1
#1: Weaksauce Abs
#2: Tight hip flexors
#3: Tight lumbar region that creates lordosis (excessive lumbar arch)
#4: Weak/long hamstrings and weak/inhibited glutes
I don’t know about you, but these qualities comprise around 97% of the clients I have assessed since I started working with the general population 4 years ago (and also myself, to a degree). Rarely does someone come in with a dominant core and posterior chain, and are able to keep a relaxed face when I put them in a Half-Kneeling Hip flexor stretch.
If you were nodding your head in agreement as you read those qualities, there is a good chance you have an anterior pelvic tilt.
As you can see in the photo, the hips are flexed and the lumbar has way too much of an arch, due to the fact that the pelvis is rotated anteriorly around the hip joint.
Simply put, we sit (and in a lot of cases, stand) too dang much and don’t know how to effectively train the core.
Why does pelvic alignment matter?
If there is one thing I have learned in training all sorts of people over the last few years, it’s that ALIGNMENT IS KING. If someone is excessively out of alignment, it is really tough to create a sustainable training effect without creating an injury or uncovering an old one. It’s a principle that, if ignored, will rear it’s ugly head and cost you training time, and if you are a trainer/coach, significant cash-money. And it all starts with the pelvis, because that’s your center and if the center is off, you can expect to find a trail of dysfunction every which way.
Let’s get serious though, in an anterior tilt, you will have a strong lack of booty and a stomach that looks bigger than it should.
Yeah…we gotta fix that.
I am going to focus several blogs on killing it with alignment, but I wanted to start with a focus on fixing an anterior pelvic tilt, because a TON of people are walking around with this, but don’t know exactly what to do to get it fixed. There aren’t that many resources out there that spell out step-by-step what to do without creating a massive headache, so I am going to attempt to give you a bulletproof guide that’s easy to follow.
I realized recently I am not a fan of massive posts, and that information is best absorbed in chunks, so I am not going to tackle this subject in one blog. I don’t know about you, but my attention span these days is slim. I used to be able to sit down and read a 5,000 word article, but now, 800 words in to something and I’m looking around for a bicycle. That being said, I’m going to make things more user-friendly by breaking anterior tilt down cause-by-cause with their associated solutions.
There are 3 primary causes I want to cover;
#1: Poor core control
#2: Locked-Up Hip Flexors
#3: Extremely shy glutes
Let’s kick off this series by taking care of those weaksauce abs I mentioned.
It’s all in the…ribs?
You can’t effectively control your core, leading to runaway rib syndrome, otherwise known as rib flaring. This makes your gut look way bigger than it should and places undue stress on your lower back.
Get your breath right and ingrain the feeling of a posterior pelvic tilt
In an anterior tilt, because the abs are long and weak, this pulls on the lower back, resulting in ribs that flare out. In a properly trained core, the ribs are locked down.
Look at the following pictures;
Both guys have great abs, but can you tell the slight difference in the 2? Of course, these are 2 different people, but in the first photo, it is pretty clear he is stuck in an anterior tilt, and while he still has abs, they aren’t going to pop as well in that kind of lordosis.
In the 2nd photo, the ribs are locked down. Yes, he is probably flexing, but if you train that posture enough in your training, you won’t need to flex much to keep a flat stomach 24/7.
Aside from the aesthetic, a poorly controlled core is a problem, because on movements when your abs should be involved, your low back is actually the one taking the stress.
Hello, lower back problems! And goodbye what you thought was getting you a six-pack for spring break!
This rib flare is commonly overlooked on movements that aren’t “core”, but this pattern shows up on nearly everything that doesn’t already have your torso in flexion. Take a rear-foot elevated split squat, for example.
Look at the below photo. Can you see how they are hanging on their lumbar?
It’s subtle and probably not something you would have considered looking for with a movement like that. But if the core isn’t positioned properly, don’t expect that you are getting all that you can out of the exercise or that you are actually going to fix your anterior tilt. Not to mention, energy leaks will be created, sapping strength and increasing the injury potential for the back.
Or the one I see the most often, the hyperextended hip flexor stretch.
I could throw down other examples, but you can see the WORK the lower-back has to do when the core is slacking.
It’s time to get you better-looking and higher-performing abz with something that probably won’t seem all that sexy, but, oh, is it ever!
Being able to access a solid, diaphragmatic breath and then using that breath to get a full exhalation is the single-best way to more effectively engage your abdominals.
In order to create a posterior tilt of the pelvis, the external obliques and your rectus abdominis have to engage. When you live in extension with an anterior tilt, you are constantly in an “inhaled” state and you don’t ever really exhale completely.
Think of Rose from Titanic hanging on the life boat at the end. Shallow and labored.
If all of your air is in your chest, it becomes extremely difficult to keep the ribs from flaring and keeping any sort of true core engagement. You will not get out of an anterior tilt if you don’t first pay attention to your breathing.
I like the following drills for teaching a client how to breath for maximal core recruitment, while accessing a posterior pelvic tilt.
Whenever you are learning or teaching a new concept, it is best to start in a posture that removes the potential for an over-abundance of stress and thought. This is why Deadbugs tend to be a successful option, as lying on your back with the legs and arms up doesn’t present much room for error.
The key with this exercise is actually getting a full exhale at the end of each rep. You should hear yourself blowing your air out or you are leaving some core engagement on the table.
You can start the deadbug with just moving one arm back or just lowering one heel, but if the lumbar loses contact with the floor, the exercise’s purpose goes out the window. Progress to what I show in the video below.
Usually when I have someone do these for the first time, they sit up in surprise.
“Man, that didn’t look that hard, but I could really feel my core. Kasey, are you even human?”
If you rush through this movement, I want to be clear that you will not feel anything! If you flatten your back out against the floor though and blow your air out like an animal, you definitely will.
Do 2 sets of 5-6 solid reps DAILY. If you want to create a new pattern, you need to stimulate it frequently!
The plank has become so popular of an exercise, that’s it’s technique has naturally been water-downed over the past few years. For example, if you can hold a plank for 10 minutes, you’re not doing it right!
Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but the plank should not be an exercise where you can zone out and be able to check your text messages. It should be a hard effort that gets you feeling nearly every muscle in your body!
If you want to fix your anterior tilt and feel planks in a whole new way, focus on taking each breath through the belly.
To set yourself up for doing this, gently draw your shoulder blades apart. This will kickstart some more serratus anterior activation and heighten the feeling of the core even more.
Then, squeeze your glutes enough to crush diamonds to get your pelvis in more of a posterior tilt. Those 2 cues, combined with a consistent belly breath, will absolutely crush your abdominals. Don’t be surprised if they get sore, even if you have been doing planks for years. If you have a partner, have them place a dowel lengthwise through your spine and keep 3 points of contact at the head, upper back, and sacrum. I love using the dowel for external feedback.
Aim to do 2-3 sets of 15-20 seconds DAILY.
These 2 drills will do wonders for getting your posture right. To carry the concepts built in those positions to more integrated postures, such as half-kneeling and standing (e.g. the rear-foot elevated split squats I brought up earlier), just think RIBS DOWN.
This is the most effective cue I have found to get someone in the proper pelvic position. If someone recorded my life, “ribs down” would by far be the phrase I utter most, outside of, “Make me a sandwich!” and “Do you guys sell Trumoo?”
Essentially, when you lock your ribs down, you are doing a sort of mini-crunch. As long as you aren’t flying into a hunchback when you do it, you’re good. The below pic is a good example of what it looks like.
Work on exhaling completely at the completion of each rep of whatever exercise you are doing.
To sum up Part 1 of this series,
#1: Get familiar with breathing through your belly and exhaling fully
#2: Enforce this with drills, such as deadbugs and TRUE planks done on the daily
#3: Constantly cue yourself (or your client) “ribs down” when doing more integrated movements in half-kneeling, standing, etc.
I will be back next week with Part 2 with some great drills on freeing up your hip flexors!
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