I view myself as an open-minded person. I go into every conversation with a desire to learn and listen, regardless of what my own beliefs are. I allow/open myself up to being persuaded if the presented material is good enough and if I believe it myself. Having said that, training with a purpose is something I am beyond naive and stone-headed about. If your training isn’t making you better (whether your goal is strength, power or size) while improving your posture, then in all honesty I don’t care how much you lift, or how big your delts are. A proper training program should always prevent injury, work to correct your imbalances, improve your posture, and make your body bulletproof. That is the key to truly maximizing your performance. Train smart and hard, in that order.
One such example of a common postural problem is anterior pelvic tilt (APT). In layman’s terms, APT essentially means hips tilted forward resulting in a predominant low-back arch. Hip flexors and erector spinae muscles shorten, core and glutes become inhibited, and posture is compromised.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
If you are lifting without correcting your APT, you are leaving something on the table in terms of injury prevention and your performance potential. Correcting anterior pelvic tilt can usually be accomplished in a few simple steps aimed at ‘returning the athlete to neutral’.
Areas of Concern/ Checklist for Correcting APT
- lengthening the hip flexors
- activating the glutes
- engaging the anterior core
- posterior tilting the pelvis
- keeping the ribs stacked on top of the pelvis
In a systematic approach, the correct order of business should be as follows:
- Tissue Quality work:
-Self-Myofascial Release (foam roll) and Lengthening of hip flexors
- Activation work:
-Glute and anterior core engagement
- Motor Control/Movement Pattern
-Posterior tilting of pelvis
-Keeping ribs in line with pelvis
Now, having laid it out and organized for us, we can begin checking off each item.
Although hip flexors can be lengthened in a variety of ways, it is imperative that the means of doing so contribute to the end goal. Begin with foam rolling to “turn down activity” to the overactive muscle group. From there, utilize any variety of proper hip flexor stretches to lengthen the group. But be careful, there is nothing worse than seeing the following when stretching the hip flexors:
Downright ugly. While it may elicit a ‘good’ stretch, your client is also slipping into severe lumbar hyperxtension (low-back arch), which is one of their main issues of concern to begin with. Aside from the compensation, this ‘stretch’ is lengthening the anterior capsule of the hip, with little to no effect on the hip flexor itself. Not only will this stretch exacerbate their symptoms, but you are also not using your time effectively to retrain the proper movement patterns. A good hip flexor stretch should look like this:
With this position, we are able to maintain a neutral spine and can focus on engaging our anterior core to keep the ribs stacked on top of the pelvis. Furthermore, instead of slipping into lumbar hyperextension and low-back arch, we instead focus on posterior tilting the pelvis, which benefits are two-fold:
- Because one of the causes of APT is tight hip flexors, we are able to use the opposite movement (posterior pelvic tilt) to lengthen and relax the hip flexor to achieve a greater lengthening effect
- Reciprocal inhibition: defined as the relaxation of a muscle in response to the contraction of its antagonist (opposite). Posterior tilting of the pelvis is controlled by the glutes, meaning that by engaging our glutes we are able to elicit an effect that actually causes the hip flexor to relax further.
Did you see what we just did there? With one proper stretch we checked off EVERY component of our initial checklist.
While foam rolling and teaching the proper cues discussed with this stretch may be enough to help some people ‘re-train’ their neural pathways and eliminate their APT, for others we may have to go a step further. In attempts to ‘get them back to neutral’, we may have to incorporate some breathing drills and flexion exercises.
- You can read more on Breathing drills in one of my previous blogs right here. Breathing drills are an excellent tool that can be used to correct a variety of health concerns, including postural and core control.
- Flexion exercises: Flexion exercises (think sit-ups, crunches etc.) to develop core strength have gotten a lot of negative press over the past decade (and rightfully so might I add). Dr. Stu McGill has done an incredible job with all of his research pertaining to lumbar flexion and its strong correlation with disc degeneration and herniation disorders, and there is NO denying it. Having said that, there are specific populations who can actually benefit from properly prescribed flexion exercises (in this case, clients present with APT). One such exercise that I love to use for APT populations are Corrective Bears. If done properly, they are an excellent posterior pelvic tilt teaching tool, serratus anterior and shoulder health exercise, and anterior core/oblique activator.How to perform the exercise:
– Begin on all fours
– Lean forward slightly
– “Tuck your tail underneath” (aka. Posterior Pelvic Tilt)
– Round your upper back, push away from ground
– Lift knees off ground 1 inch
By utilizing Corrective Bears in conjunction with the aforementioned checklist and plan of attack, we are able to return the “hyperextended, low-back arch” client to a neutral posture. Not only do Corrective Bears teach the client to posteriorly tilt the pelvis to return to neutral, but they also activate the external obliques, which conveniently enough also have a line of pull with the pelvis that posteriorly tilts the pelvis. Getting a vice versa effect to prevent anterior pelvic tilt and promote posterior pelvic tilt. That’s two exercises in one blog with multipurpose effects! Now are you starting the see the benefit of placing an emphasis on posture and the positive effects it has on the body?
Notice that for this client who slips into the APT category, that the Corrective Bear has not thrown her into ‘excessive’ low-back flexion (which would be indicated by low-back rounding), but instead has brought her to a relatively neutral position (indicated by a neutral low back, with the rounding occurring at the thoracic/mid-upper back).
This is by no means the end-all-be-all for correcting anterior pelvic tilt, although if this is something you struggle with, beginning with the exercises discussed in this blog will certainly help. Corrective Bears are just one of many properly prescribed flexion exercises that we prescribe to our athletes and adults alike (don’t think for a second that because I said flexion exercises are good in some populations that you are allowed to substitute crunches and sit-ups back into your programming if you fall into the APT category. Crunches and sit-ups should be removed from all gyms, for everybody, forever). Always place an emphasis on correcting your postural and muscular imbalances. If not for the injury prevention purposes, at least do it for the performance improvement purposes. Think you are pretty badass right now, or are Mr. Know-it-all in the gym? Focus on improving your posture, and watch your numbers jump to another level.
If you are looking to take the next step in your fitness journey, and are looking for that next challenge, come in and try out our Adult Performance Program on a one-week free trial. Directed and designed by yours truly, our members range from retired NHL professionals, to former Division 1 athletes and Firefighters, to stay-at-home-moms and hip-replacement clients. We offer an individualized approach and have something for all experience levels!
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