Anterior pelvic tilt is one of the most common postural dysfunctions. It is easily recognized when looking at a person in standing from the side by the characteristic increased curvature of the lower back.
What is Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
The pelvis is a bony structure that connects that base of the spine to the legs. It has the ability to rotate or tilt in space. An anterior pelvic tilt occurs when the pelvis rotates forward, placing the front of the pelvic bones well below the level of the back. This tilted position increases the natural curve of the lumbar spine.
To determine if you have an excessive tilt, stand with your back flat against the wall and measure the space between your lower back and the wall. The natural curvature of your spine should allow a hand to slide into that space. Men generally have 4-7 degrees of anterior pelvic tilt, and women typically have between 7-10 degrees. If something much larger than your hand, like a paper towel roll, is able to fit back there then it’s likely you have a large anterior tilt.
Causes of Anterior Pelvic Tilt
This posture results when certain muscle groups shorten or become overactive and overpower the muscles responsible for rotating the pelvis in a posterior (backward) direction. One of the main contributing factors is prolonged sitting that over time can shorten the hip flexor muscles. When a person with tight hip flexors stands up, the shortened muscles will pull the front of the pelvis downward resulting in an exaggerated curvature of the spine.
Training errors, when certain muscle groups are emphasized more than others, can also result in an imbalance of the muscles around the pelvis. The body may also assume an anterior tilted posture to compensate for a problem away from the back such as overpronation of the feet or forward head posture.
Effects of Postural Dysfunction
While a clear link between anterior pelvic tilt and back pain has not yet been established, it is reasonable to think that the exaggerated curvature would negatively affect the health and function of the spine and surrounding areas. An anterior tilt will also cause misalignment of joints outside of the back like the ankles, knees, hips, and neck leading to extra strain and problems in those areas.
From an aesthetic point of view, an anterior tilt posture doesn’t look good, particularly in men, and can cause your midsection to appear bigger that it really is!
Exercises to Correct Anterior Pelvic Tilt
There are four primary anatomical components to an anterior tilt they need to be addressed in order to bring the pelvis back into normal alignment:
- Tight (shortened) hip flexors
- Weak (lengthened) abdominals
- Tight (shortened) lower back muscles
- Weak (lengthened) glutes and hamstrings
Exercise #1: Posterior Pelvic Tilting
This exercise is by far the most important and should be mastered first. This movement will also be used in the other three exercises. The posterior pelvic tilt motion is the exact opposite of the anterior tilt. I prefer to do this exercise in standing because that is when the dysfunction occurs. The ability to control the position of the pelvis in standing is on the most important factors for postural improvement.
- Stand with your back flat against the wall with your heels placed about 6 inches away
- Press your lower back against the wall while keeping your shoulders and hips against the wall and knees straight
- Hold the position for 10 seconds then relax and repeat 10 times
Posterior pelvic tilting requires activation of the abdominals and glutes (tighten your stomach and squeeze your butt). Take your time practicing this. You can place your hand, or have someone else put their hand, between your back and the wall to check and see if you’re effectively closing down the space between the wall and your lower back.
Once you’ve mastered the movement, remember what it feels like to posterior tilt. Try to keep yourself in a posterior tilted position for the other exercises.
Exercise #2: Hip Flexor Stretch
This exercise is designed to lengthen tight hip flexors. Attempt to maintain contraction of the abdominal and glute muscles while performing this stretch.
- Start in a half kneeling position with the left leg in front and the right leg behind
- Rock forward keeping your back straight until a stretch is felt in the front of the right hip
- Hold the stretch position for 1 minute and then switch legs and perform the stretch on the other side
- Repeat twice on each side
The advanced version of this stretch places the foot of the leg being stretched against a wall or couch. This may be beneficial for athletes who want to more aggressively target their hip flexors.
Exercise #3: Lower Abdominal Leg Lower
- Start lying on your back with both legs lifted straight in the air
- Attempt to lower both legs down to the floor while keeping the knees straight until the lower back begins to arch off the ground
- Only lower the legs as far as you can without the back lifting up
- Return to the starting position and repeat for 2 sets of 20 repetitions
It’s really important to maintain pressure of the lower back on the floor by performing the posterior tilt described in the first exercise. Once the back lifts up the abdominals are no longer being worked and instead you will be strengthening the already overactive hip flexors. It may be helpful to keep one hand under your lower back to make sure you’re maintaining downward pressure. As your abdominal strength increases you will be able to lower your legs farther without the back arching.
Exercise #4: Bridge with Leg Kicks
- Begin lying on your back with both knees bent
- Lift your hips into the air as high as you can
- Once you are in this bridged position, kick one knee straight out and hold for 5 seconds
- Lower that leg down and kick and hold with the opposite leg
- After kicking with both legs return to the start position and repeat for 2 sets of 10
This exercise works your glutes and hamstrings. Make sure to not let your butt drop down as you are performing the kicks.
Posture correction takes time. Performing these exercises will help you develop the strength and flexibility necessary to bring your pelvis and spine into good static alignment. As you feel more confident in your ability to hold your back in a neutral position, work on maintaining that posture during other activities throughout the day. Don’t forget about the top half either. Consider working on forward head correction also, for improving alignment of the whole spine.
If you have any questions or suggestions for other exercises feel free to leave them in the comment section below.