If you’ve been struggling with anterior pelvic tilt and want to learn the right way to fix it, then you’ve come to the right place.
Anterior pelvic tilt (also known as “lower crossed syndrome) is becoming more prominent nowadays mainly due to the increased time we spend sedentary and the poor postural habits we’ve adapted. However, it’s not something that should simply be ignored. Because not only can it lead to lower back discomfort, but it can also lead to inhibition of the glute muscles and decreased force production in key movements (such as the deadlift and squat) in the gym.
In this article I’ll show you guys the 4 essential steps to fixing anterior pelvic tilt, and I’ll summarize it all into a 10 minute daily corrective routine that you can get started with right away.
But before we dive into how to fix it, we need to first understand what it is and what causes it.
What Exactly is Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
For those who are unaware, anterior pelvic tilt is a postural pattern characterized by a forward tipped pelvis. This causes the hips to be pushed out back and the abdomen to stick out forward, which ultimately results in a prominent arch in the lower back.
You can tell if you have anterior pelvic tilt if your relaxed posture looks something like the one on the left.
Aside from that, some common symptoms of anterior pelvic tilt are the following:
- Lower back pain (Youdas et al. 2000)
- Lower back tightness
- Knee hyperextension
- Low glute activation
- Tight hamstrings
These various signs in combination with a visual assessment of your relaxed posture are good indicators of if you have anterior pelvic tilt.
What Causes Anterior Pelvic tilt?
Now the root cause of this can be from a variety of factors:
- Prolonged sitting with poor posture (in an anteriorly pelvic tilted position)
- Physical inactivity
- Genetic predispositions (e.g. bone structure of the pelvis)
- Poor exercise technique (excessive lower back arching during the squat or deadlift)
- Imbalanced strength training (not enough glutes/ab training)
- Muscle imbalances from sports
- Foot pronation
Despite all of the potential factors, anterior pelvic tilt most commonly arises nowadays due to extended periods of sitting in this posture. The figure on the left exhibits an anterior pelvic tilt when sitting whereas the figure on the right exhibits a posterior pelvic tilt. Neutral would be somewhere in between, which is ideal!
But it’s important to note that a slight anterior pelvic tilt is perfectly normal. Research tends to show that about 85% of healthy males and 75% of healthy females exhibit a slight anterior pelvic tilt.
A “normal” degree of tilt looks something like the below photo.
With that being said though, problems can start to arise in those who have a more prominent anterior pelvic tilt and lift weights.
Because as soon as you start performing loaded movements like the squat and deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt (an arched lower back), it creates a lot more stress on the lower back and inhibits your force production.
In the long run this commonly results in lower back tightness and pain and prevents you from lifting heavier weights or properly activating the glutes.
Therefore, if this is the case for you, then it’s definitely something want to look into correcting.
The “Science” Behind Fixing Anterior Pelvic tilt
But before we dive into the corrective routine, it’s important to know the reasoning (and the evidence) behind it.
Research has indicated that anterior pelvic tilt is often the result of some muscles that have gradually become underactive and other muscles that have become overactive.
Typically it’s the abdominals and the glutes that become weakened and it’s the hip flexors and the erector spinae that become overactive.
These muscles can be seen in the below photo. Those of you with a basic understanding of human anatomy can see how these various overactive and underactive muscles can lead to a forward tilted pelvis.
So to solve this, you want to focus on:
- Stretching the overactive muscles. But the focus should be on the hip flexors. Although the erector spinae is tight, it’s more a consequence of the forward tilted pelvis rather than the cause of it. You may also notice that your hamstrings feel tight as well and as if they should be stretched. Again, this is a consequence of your forward tilted pelvis. The position of your pelvis when in anterior pelvic tilt “pre-stretches” the hamstrings which gives you the false impression that they’re tight. Often times, stretching them does more harm than good.
- Strengthening the underactive muscles. The two main muscles you should focus on strengthening are the abdominals and the glutes. However, caution should be taken as to which exercises you choose to strengthen them. Those with anterior pelvic tilt often have trouble activating the glutes and relaxing the hip flexors. Thus, the routine you’ll learn today will take this into consideration.
Furthermore, the routine I’ll provide you and other routines you may have seen online will be of little help if you don’t first learn how to properly maneuver your pelvis. Which leads us into step 1 of the corrective routine.
Step 1 – Learn How to Posterior Pelvic Tilt
Since you’ve been stuck in anterior pelvic tilt, you need to first learn how to properly posteriorly tilt your pelvis. Otherwise, your body will cheat when performing corrective stretches and exercises.
Exercise 1: Lying Pelvic Tilts
One easy way to learn this is by practicing pelvic tilts on the ground. Simply lie on your back with your knees up. You’ll probably notice there’s a space between your lower back and the ground.
What you want to do is flatten your lower back into the ground by squeezing your glutes and tilting your pelvis. This action is called posterior pelvic tilt.
And when you go back to the position where there’s a gap between your lower back and the floor, this is when you’re in anterior pelvic tilt.
So go back and forth between the two positions for around 10 reps to get comfortable with tilting your pelvis.
Exercise 2: Standing Pelvic Tilts
Then you want to progress to doing the exact same thing but standing.
Stand relaxed with your feet shoulder width apart. You’ll naturally be in an anteriorly pelvic tilted position. Then you want to squeeze the glutes to come into posterior pelvic tilt.
Again, go back and forth between these two positions for around 10 reps.
Step 2 – Strengthen the Glutes and Abdominals
Now that you’ve hopefully learned how to posteriorly tilt your pelvis, we want to carry that over into strengthening exercises for your underactive glutes and abdominals.
Exercise 1: Bodyweight Hip Thrusts
The first exercise is the hip thrust and will mainly target your glutes but the key is to do them properly.
Basically, all you’re doing is driving your hips towards the ceiling. You want your shoulder blades to stay on the bench and your feet placed so that your shins are vertical when in the top position. But your body will likely try to compensate by arching your lower back as you perform the movement which takes the glutes out of the equation.
Instead, you want to use what you learned in step 1 by posteriorly tilting your pelvis throughout the whole movement.
This means that at the top position, you should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your knees and you should be squeezing the glutes and feeling them contract.
You can also try glute bridges instead where your back is on the floor and you apply the same protocol I mentioned. But regardless the goal is to build up to weighted hip thrusts with a posterior pelvic tilt in order to really strengthen the glutes overtime.
Exercise 2: RKC Plank
Now we are going to use an exercise to strengthen the abdominals.
Although there are several ab exercises out there, for those with anterior pelvic tilt you need to focus on ab exercises that minimize involvement of the hip flexors since they’re overactive.
One great exercise to accomplish this is something called RKC planks. They look like the standard plank but are especially beneficial for those with anterior pelvic tilt since they better engage the abdominals and help strengthen the glutes.
In fact, an EMG analysis by Bret Contreras showed that the RKC plank elicits 4x higher lower abdominal activation and 2x higher internal obliques activation than the standard plank! But the key is to perform them properly.
Here’s some key points for proper execution of this exercise:
- Set up how you would in a standard plank but with your hands interlocked and your feet slightly wider than normal.
- Activate your abdominals by thinking about drawing your belly button towards your spine.
- Using what you learned in step 1, posteriorly pelvic tilt your hips by squeezing your glutes and keeping them contracted as you hold the plank.
- Hold this position for as long as possible without letting your lower back arch.
Step 3 – Stretching the Hip Flexors
Exercise 1: Psoas Stretch
The first stretch is the lunge stretch for the psoas muscle (one of your hip flexors) which is a stretch most people know of yet don’t perform correctly.
To properly perform this stretch, use the following tips:
- Get into a lunge position with both knees at 90 degrees.
- Contract your abdominals by thinking about drawing your belly button towards your spine AND move your hips into posterior pelvic tilt. The goal is to feel a deep stretch in the front of your back leg. Many of you will find that this position already provides an adequate stretch.
- For a deeper stretch, simply lean forward while maintaining your posterior pelvic tilt as you shift forward.
- For an even deeper stretch, rotate your upper body to the opposite side.
- Hold each side for around 10 deep breaths.
Exercise 2: Rectus Femoris Stretch
The second stretch is going to specifically target the rectus femoris, which is another hip flexor muscle and is often the tighter muscle in those with anterior pelvic tilt.
Simply place your back foot up on a bench or couch with your other foot planted forward. Again, you want to contract your abdominals by drawing your belly button towards your spine AND move your hips into posterior pelvic tilt.
You should feel a deep stretch down the front of your thigh. You can move forward slightly for less of a stretch or move closer to the bench for more of a stretch.
This same stretch can also be done without the use of a bench by holding onto something for balance and then pulling your back leg up towards your butt. Hold each side for around 10 deep breaths.
Step 4 – Implement This Into a Daily Corrective Routine
To sum the article up and to provide you with something to takeaway, here’s a corrective routine utilizing all of the exercises I previously discussed.
Lying Pelvic Tilts: 1 set of 10 reps
Standing Pelvic Tilts: 1 set of 10 reps
Bodyweight Hip Thrusts: 3 sets of 10+ reps
RKC Plank: 2 sets of max holds
Lunge Stretch: 2 sets of 30 second holds each leg
Rectus Femoris Stretch: 2 sets of 30 second holds each leg
And I’ve also made a free PDF of the anterior pelvic tilt corrective routine which comes complete with exercise pictures, tips, and progression exercises so that you always have something convenient to refer to when performing the routine. You can access that file here.
But keep in mind that when it comes to correcting anterior pelvic tilt, frequency is the most important factor that will determine your success in correcting it. All of these exercises can be done at home so try your best to do these daily and you’ll quickly start to notice significant improvements.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always be aware of how your posture is throughout the day and while in the gym. If you sit or stand for extended periods during the day, then use what you’ve learned today to keep your pelvis in more of a neutral position. This is what’s going to prevent your anterior pelvic tilt from worsening or coming back after it’s corrected!
Similarly, when performing movements like the squat and the deadlift in the gym, you need to teach yourself how to maintain a neutral pelvis. This will help a lot in terms of strength improvements, especially in your leg workouts.
Anyways, that’s it for this article. Hope you all enjoyed it. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions down below. And give me a follow on Instagram , Facebook , and Youtube where I’ll be posting informative content on a more regular basis. Cheers!