A year ago, the concept of an ‘Anterior Pelvic Tilt’ was totally unknown to me (however after doing some research it is, in fact, a very common posture disorder). I knew I had bad posture, but I was unaware that there are terms for each type of posture disorder.
I thought each person had their own unique posture types that they were born with, and there was little one could do to change it. The fact that I didn’t know that posture could be corrected, goes to show how clueless I was about how the human body works.
It wasn’t until I started researching and paying more attention to my daily posture that I realised I had an anterior pelvic tilt. My own case is unique in that I seem to of had both swayback posture and an anterior pelvic tilt.
Having two pelvic issues made it hard for me to correct my own posture as it wasn’t easily identifiable what the problem was. It was in fact only after I corrected my swayback, that I noticed that I still had some issues and this is what led me to the idea of an Anterior Pelvic Tilt.
To get a greater understanding of what an anterior pelvic tilt is, I recommend watching the above video.
What is an Anterior Pelvic Tilt and What Are The Symptoms?
An anterior pelvic tilt is characterised by a couple of things, but the primary indicator is that the front of your pelvis will be tilted forward (which is what anterior means) and downwards. The main cause of an anterior pelvic tilt is from too much sitting.
If you were to look at yourself from the side, having an anterior pelvic tilt means that the front of your pelvis will be lower than the back (the opposite being a posterior pelvic tilt). Imagine that a see-saw represents your pelvis. If you imagine looking at a see-saw from the side, someone with normal posture will have the see-saw balanced in the middle, however, someone with an anterior pelvic tilt will have the see-saw (pelvis) tipped to one side.
It is this forward tilt of the pelvis that causes other muscle imbalances in the body. Since the pelvis is tilted forward, this causes the hip flexors to become increasingly short and tight, as the distance between the pelvis and the hips is shortened. Over time the hip flexors will remain this way and continue to pull the front of the pelvis down.
Since the back of the pelvis is tilted up (higher), the lower back muscles shorten because of the decreased length and become tight. As a result, the lower back will become arched and the butt may start to stick out. Further ramifications are weak hamstrings, glutes and core muscles.
Here’s a summary of the symptoms of an anterior pelvic tilt so far:
- Tight hip flexors
- Tight quads/thighs
- Tight lower back
- Weak glutes
- Weak Hamstrings
- Weak core
If you have an anterior pelvic tilt you’re going to want to correct it. Not only does it look slightly weird, but it can cause lower back pain too. It’s also a sign of muscle imbalances in your body.
How to Test for an Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Watch the video above on how to test if you have an anterior pelvic tilt. Testing if you have one is vitally important. If you wrongly diagnose yourself as having an anterior pelvic tilt, and then begin to start doing exercises to address one, you could cause all types of further muscles imbalances in your body.
A common mistake is for people to diagnose themselves with an anterior pelvic tilt, when in fact they have a posterior pelvic tilt or swayback posture. Make sure that you do have an anterior pelvic tilt before reading on, you may also want to check out my article on swayback posture.
How to fix an Anterior Pelvic Tilt
To correct an anterior pelvic tilt we have to reverse everything that it has caused. Here’s a quick summary of what you will need to do in no particular order.
- Release and stretch the tight hip flexors
- Release and stretch the quads/thighs
- Stretch the lower back
- Strengthen the glutes and hamstrings
- Strengthen the core
The following section will provide a number of stretches and exercises you can try to achieve all the points above.
1. Releasing the Tight Muscles
Before you start stretching anything, you will want to loosen any muscles first. By doing so you’ll see increased benefits from your stretching.
Rolling the Hip Flexors
To start, we’ll focus on rolling out the hip flexors which have become short and tight from all that sitting. It is the tightness in the hip flexors that are pulling the pelvis down causing the anterior pelvic tilt.
To roll our your hip flexors get a foam roller and place it on the ground. Lie on top of it and place it above the quad. Roll around this small area, placing pressure on the roller. You can also rotate your body gently from side to side to roll them out further.
Foam Roll Out the Quads
Next, you want to roll our your thigh area. Again using a foam roller, apply pressure on your thighs whilst on your front. Slowly roll your quads up and down the roller whilst creating motion with your arms. If you want something more advanced, you can use something smaller than a foam roller such as a small massage ball (softball or lacrosse ball works well).
Roll out the TFL
To loosen the hips further you’ll want to roll out your TFL. It’s much like rolling out your hip flexors except you want to tilt your body at 45 degrees. Once you’ve located the TFL slowly roll around this area.
All-in-one Anterior Pelvic Tilt Foam Rolling Routine
Alternatively, you can try the foam rolling routine from the video above. It covers how to foam roll the following muscles:
- Rectus Femoris (centre of thigh)
What’s interesting about this video, is that it includes a ‘lat’ roll out to target the tightness in the lower back. I didn’t include a separate video on this because foam rolling the lower back can be risky if not done properly. The video above does cover how to roll out a tight lower back safely.
2. Stretches to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt
After foam rolling and releasing the tight muscles, you can now move onto stretching them.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The stretch shown in the video above is the main stretch you will want to try to address the problem of an anterior pelvic tilt. Whilst doing the above stretch, make sure to keep your glutes and core squeezed tight which will automatically cause your pelvis to draw into a neutral position. If you prefer to try another stretch or want a greater variety, see my page on hip flexor stretches.
Stretch Out the Lower Back
As I’ve paid attention to my own posture when I had an anterior pelvic tilt, I noticed how frequently my lower back was arched during the day. This included times when I was stretching, exercising or even in a plank position.
Take care to not arch your lower back but instead focus on creating length in your lower back as if you were pulling your spine apart at the ends.
In addition to focusing on lengthening your spine, you should add some lower back stretches to your daily routine. There aren’t too many stretches that work on the lower back, however, a simple ‘child’s pose’ can do the trick (shown in the video above).
I’d also recommend adding some stretch routines from my page on the best stretches for the lower back. If you also have pain as a result of your anterior pelvic tilt, this page will be highly beneficial.
By stretching out the lower back you can begin to lengthen the short and tight lower back muscles which contribute to an anterior pelvic tilt.
3. Strengthening Exercises
The next section targets strengthening the muscles that are weak.
Strengthen the Core
The plank exercise is the number one exercise to tackle an anterior pelvic tilt. Someone with an anterior pelvic tilt will usually have a weak core. The core should be counteracting the downwards pull of the hip flexors, but because it’s weak, it allows the front pelvis to be pulled down. Holding yourself in a plank position is the number one way to strengthen your core.
For an anterior pelvic tilt sufferer, they may even want to hold their plank with a slight posterior pelvic (pull the pelvis towards the elbows) tilt to dramatically strengthen the core.
For more exercises, see this page on how to strengthen a weak core.
Strengthen the Glutes and Hamstrings
There are many ways you can strengthen the glutes and hamstrings, and really any exercise is fine however the ‘Glute Bridge’ strengthens the hamstrings and the glutes at the same time.
Any exercise which helps increase strength in either the glute or the hamstrings should help with fixing your anterior pelvic tilt. Donkey kicks also work well for strengthening the glutes and lengthening the hip flexors.
If you’d like to add additional methods to work solely on your hamstrings, then see this page on further exercises for the hamstrings to add to your routine.
You should also be aware that people with an anterior pelvic tilt may find it hard to switch on and activate their glutes. If you are someone who does a lot of sitting it is not uncommon for your glute muscles to no longer ‘fire’ when they should, but rather they take a back seat as other muscles take over the slack. There is also the possibility of developing a glute imbalance where one glute muscle switches off whilst the other one continues to work as normal.
If you have an anterior pelvic tilt, I’d make sure that BOTH your glutes are firing properly; check out this page on how to activate your glutes.
Don’t Overdo this Routine!
You will want to repeat these exercises frequently and over time your pelvis should return to a neutral position. Be careful because it is possible to overdo the exercises and go beyond a neutral position and develop a new problem (chronic posterior pelvic tilt). You need to be constantly monitoring your pelvis’s resting position, and to stop when it looks like it is in a neutral position.
It’s important to note that a slight forward tilt of the pelvis is normal (around 7 degrees).
How to Sit If you have Anterior Pelvic Tilt
People with an anterior pelvic tilt will usually sit in a posture with their lower back arched and their pelvis tilted forward. This video shows how you should be sitting if you do have an anterior pelvic tilt.
The trick to find the correct sitting position is to squeeze your glutes and tense up your core. What you’ll find is that your pelvis will move out of the forward tilt and into a neutral position.
How to Sleep If you have Anterior Pelvic Tilt
As well as with sitting, there is a hack to help your anterior pelvic tilt whilst sleeping. The trick is to place a pillow underneath your knees, which takes out the arch in your back. For the science of why this works, watch the video above.
Getting to the Root Cause: Too Much Sitting
The most obvious way to correct your anterior pelvic tilt is to identify the root cause and eliminate it. If you don’t attack the issue that is causing it in the first place, all the stretches and exercises listed here will have little effect.
As you have seen the main issue is too much sitting.
It’s pretty much known that today’s society is sitting more than any other generation. Office workers are spending more time at their desks and we’re also spending much more time sat down in front of digital screens watching non-stop entertainment. If you have an anterior pelvic tilt and want to fix it, then you’re going to have to try and spend less time sitting.
Here are two quick hacks to get you standing more:
Get a Standing Desk
If you are someone who works at a desk all day, you can try to purchase a standing desk. You can get some desks that electronically raise and lower depending on whether you want to be seated or standing.
Whilst you don’t have to be standing all day to combat an anterior pelvic tilt, you can spend some moments of your day working on your feet. The first time you ever try working standing up, it will feel very strange. When I first tried it, it was as if I was focusing on two things, the work in front of me, and a strange feeling of standing up whilst working. Gradually over time, you get used to it and it will become extremely comfortable to work standing up. You may find that you never want to go back to sitting!
Not only does a standing desk help prevent an anterior pelvic tilt, but also rounding of the upper back and rounded shoulders.
Stand Every 20 Minutes or so
I understand that it may not be feasible for you to get a standing desk, perhaps your boss does not allow it, but you can counteract the muscle imbalances that develop from too much sitting by simply standing up at set intervals. A good mark would be every 20 minutes or so. By standing up frequently, you are preventing your muscles from becoming too ingrained in their current seated position. Stand up to go to the bathroom on one 20 minute interval, then the next one that comes around grab yourself a glass of water.
So there you have it, the complete guide to help fix your anterior pelvic tilt. You should note, however, that it’s likely your body took years to develop an anterior pelvic tilt and therefore it will not be a quick fix.
Don’t lose hope! If you work at correcting it daily, you’re bound to see results. The body is an incredibly adaptive piece of equipment and will usually adapt according to what you do with it. Correcting your anterior pelvic tilt isn’t necessary just about doing some exercise then seeing a fix. It also requires a lifestyle change, of trying to sit less and become more active.
I also recommend seeing a qualified health practitioner in this area to help you out with the initial diagnosis and exercises. I am not a health expert so be careful when attempting any of the things listed in this post!