These days we spend a lot of time sitting. Whether that be at our job or in front of our computer or tv screens, this increase is having a detrimental effect on our posture.
One of the areas that is most commonly affected is the pelvic area.
Holding the pelvis in an incorrect position for long periods of time can lead to a particular postural dysfunction know as the posterior pelvic tilt. This is where the front part of the pelvis is tilted upwards, whilst the back side is tilted downwards. The optimal position for the pelvis should be level.
If you think you have a posterior pelvic tilt then it’s important to make sure you correct this as soon as you can. Not only does it look slightly weird and give the appearance of a ‘flat ass,’ but it can also leave you prone to potential injuries given that there is a misalighnment in the spine and pelvis. In addition, you will feel much better mentally and physically, in a body that is working as originally designed.
If you have a posterior pelvic tilt and are looking to fix it, then you are in the right place! In this post you’ll learn how to test if you have a posterior pelvic tilt, what causes it, and corrective exercises to fix it.
Symptoms of a Posterior Pelvic Tilt
One of the main telltale signs of a posterior pelvic tilt is a flat lower back, which is devoid of a natural healthy curve. If you imagine looking at your pelvis from the side, the front part of your pelvis will be higher than the back part.
Another helpful way to illustrate this example is imagining the belt-line of your trousers as a see-saw holding water in the middle (still viewing your pelvis from the side). In the case of a normal pelvis the water will balance in the middle. If you have a posterior pelvic tilt, the water will slide down and pour out toward the back side (with an anterior pelvic tilt the water would pour towards the front).
In addition, most people with a posterior pelvic tilt will usually have a noticeably flat looking butt due to it being tucked under and pushed forward. So if you’re someone who has always cursed your own genetics for having been given a flat ass, perhaps it’s your posture?
There are also muscles imbalances that develop in conjunction with a posterior pelvic tilt:
- Short and Tight Hamstrings – Hamstrings that are too short and tight will pull the back of the pelvis down causing the pelvis to tilt posteriorly.
- Tight Abs – If your abs are short and tight, they will pull the front of the pelvis up. The force of the abs pulling the front of the pelvis up, and the hamstrings pulling the back of the pelvis down, exacerbates the posterior pelvic tilt.
- Tight Glutes – People with a posterior pelvic tilt will likely have tight glute muscles. Tightness in the glutes will pull the back of the pelvis downwards in a similar fashion to tight hamstrings.
- Weak Hip Flexors – In most cases, along with a posterior pelvic tilt will come a weakness in the hip flexors. By strengthening the hip flexors can help counteract the upward pull of the abs and balance out the front of the pelvis.
- Weak Lower Back – Having a weak lower back, where the muscles will most likely be too long and stretched, will allow the hamstrings to pull down on the pelvis too much. Strengthening the lower back will help pull the pelvis back into a neutral position.
The list looks long, but a posterior pelvic tilt can definitely be corrected, and fixing it should be a high priority. If you have a posterior pelvic tilt your lower back will be flat. Without a healthy lordotic curve your spine is missing it’s shock absorption which can lead to injuries if not corrected.
What Causes a Posterior Pelvic Tilt?
A posterior pelvic tilt doesn’t just happen on it’s own. As we’ve already seen there are particular muscle imbalances (tight hamstrings, glutes and abs, weak back and hip flexors) that are symptomatic of a posterior pelvic tilt, however those imbalances usually arise from how we hold our bodies on a daily basis.
If the body is held for too long in a position where a muscle is constantly in a shortened position, the muscle will adapt and become chronically shortened if not stretched out frequently.
There are a couple of daily habits that can contribute to a posterior pelvic tilt:
- Sleeping on Your Front – Sleeping on your stomach is another factor that can reinforce a posterior pelvic tilt. When you sleep in such a position your arms are most likley in front of your face which pushes your top half back, allowing your hips\pelvis to shift forward. Someone who sleeps on their front and is looking to fix a posterior pelvic tilt will want to adopt the preferred position of sleeping on their back.
- Too much sitting – As we’ve already seen too much sitting is one of the main culprits that cause a posterior pelvic tilt. Specifically too much sitting in an incorrect posture. I’m sure that you can envision what this incorrect sitting posture looks like now that you know what a posterior pelvic tilt is. Typically, the person will not have their lower back pushed up against the back of the chair, but will have their butt/pelvis slid forward. If someone were to sit in this compromised position for hours everyday, the hamstrings are shortened, the lower back curve disappears and a posterior pelvic tilt is likely to develop.
- Standing with bad posture – Costantly standing in a posterior pelvic tilt will only reinforce the bad posture. For example, people with a posterior pelvic tilt will often shift their hips forwards when bearing weight in their top half. Take for instance a mother holding a baby. Rather than standing up with a strong lower back, they may let their hips sway forward to compensate for the extra weight. Another example could be where someone leans forward with their belly on a counter-top to support their weight.
Sway Back and/or Posterior Pelvic Tilt
If you feel you have a posterior pelvic tilt, then it’s almost a certainty that you will fall into the category of having what is known as Sway Back. Sway back is a type of posture where the persons hips/pelvis will be swayed forward over their toes, rather than their hips being perfectly inline and stacked above their ankle.
This swaying of the hips forward accompanies a posterior pelvic tilt in order for the body to maintain balance. This is why most people with a posterior pelvic tilt will have Swayback posture. It would be difficult for someone with a posterior pelvic tilt to not sway their hips forward as they will tend to lean backwards.
As well as reading this post, it would be a good idea afterwards to check out our post on how to fix swayback. This post is enough to cover how to deal with a posterior pelvic tilt, but if you want something extra be sure to read that post too.
Is it a Posterior Pelvic Tilt or an Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
If you know what an anterior pelvic tilt is, then you can imagine that a posterior pelvic tilt is the exact opposite in terms of symptoms, causes and corrective exercises. It is important before moving further that you diagnose yourself properly.Which do you have? An anterior pelvic tilt or a posterior pelvic tilt?
Even though these postural dysfunctions are the opposites of one another, it is common for people to get these two mixed up. Mixing up the two can lead to disasterous results. For Example, doing posterior pelvic tilt corrective exercises, when you in fact have an anterior pelvic tilt, will only reinforce the bad posture that you are trying to correct.
Before moving forward, it would be a good idea to check our in-depth guide on the anterior pelvic tilt which covers symptoms and how to test for it.
How to Test for a Posterior Pelvic Tilt
The video above shows a quick way to test if you have a posterior pelvic tilt. In short, you want to locate a certain bone on the front of your pelvis and see if it is higher than a bone in the back of your pelvis.
Another indicator that you may have a posterior pelvic tilt is to see how easy it is to raise your toes when standing in a neutral position. Since most people with a posterior pelvic tilt will have their hips swayed forward, they will also find it difficult to lift up their toes.
Steps to Fix a Posterior Pelvic Tilt
In this section we’ll cover the process of how to fix a posterior pelvic tilt. We’ve already identified the muscle imbalances that occur with a posterior pelvic tilt, so the solution is to fix these imbalances through either stretching and lengthening the tight muscles, and strengthening the weak ones.
1. Stretch Out and Release the Hamstrings
Too much sitting will usually cause tight hamstrings which pull down the back of the pelvis causing the unwanted tilt.
First you will want to release any tight spots in the hamstrings using a massage ball followed by a series of hamstring stretches. If you are not sure how to release and stretch the hamstrings, I recommend watching the video above.
2. Stretch Out the Abs
Whilst the hamstrings will pull the back of the pelvis down, tight abdominals will pull the front of the pelvis up. A person suffering with a posterior pelvic tilt will need to stretch out the abs to create length and minimise the effect of the upward pull of the pelvis.
There are two stretches that I find work the best to stretch the abs.
The first stretch requires lying on a stability ball allowing the lower back to curve and create length in the abdominal area.
If you do not have a stability ball check out the video above. The video shows a few different methods to stretch out the abs comprising of:
- Cobra/Upward dog stretch
- Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch with a bend
- Advanced backward bridge
3. Release the Tightness in the Glutes
Tight glutes work in a similar fashion to tight hamstrings in pulling the back of the pelvis into a posterior tilt. To remedy this, the glutes will need to be lengthened and stretched out.
The first step is to release any trigger points in the tight glutes using a lacrosse or massage ball.
Once you’ve massaged out the glutes, you will next need to create length in the glutes. Any stretch will work but if you don’t know any effective glute stretches, then the stretch in the video above is a good one.
To do this stretch, lay on your back. Take one foot and put the outer side on the opposite knee. Pull the opposite knee towards you by grabbing underneath the thigh. You should feel a stretch in the glute area of the resting leg. To intensify the stretch, push down the knee of the leg that is resting.
4. Strengthen the Hip Flexors
The hip flexors help to move your leg up and into flexion. This is the equivalent of lifting up your knees towards your waist.
The best hip flexor strengthening exercises usually involve some form of equipment such as ankle weights, stability ball and elastic bands. The video below covers some of these.
If you feel your hip flexors are extremely weak and do not wish to use equipment yet, you can simply stand up tall and raise one of your knees up towards your waist as high as you can. For some, this exercise will be a great place to get started before moving onto more complexed moves.
3. Strengthening the Lower Back
If you have a posterior pelvic tilt, it’s likely your lower back is going to need strengthening. Doing the ‘superman’ move everyday can help to build up strength in the back area.
The dumbbell stiff legged deadlift is going to be the next back exercise to move up to once you’ve built up some strength. This is an advanced move so proceed with caution as it puts a lot of strain onto the lower back.
What makes this move perfect for posterior pelvic tilt sufferers, is that not only does it strengthen the lower back, but it also causes the hamstrings to lengthen which remedies the problem of the tight hamstrings.
When doing a dead lift, becareful not to arch the lower back and allow it to bend. This is something that people with a posterior pelvic tilt will tend to do automatically.
Awareness and Persistence is Key to Fixing a Posterior Pelvic Tilt
And that’s the end of the step by step process to fixing a posterior pelvic tilt.
An important thing to remember, is that the road to recovery could be one that is long and windy. Your posterior pelvic tilt didn’t develop over night but was most likely caused through years of poor posture. That being said, if you implement these exercises into a regular schedule and more importantly, do not place your body in a posterior pelvic tilt, results can be quite quick.
You just have to keep at it and be wary of when your pelvis is posteriorly rotated. As soon as you notice it, correct it. If you do this, you’re journey to a stable pelvis will happen quicker than you think.
As stated earlier in the article, it would also be a good idea to see my article on how to fix sway back in order to have a full arsenal of knowledge on correcting your posture. Good luck!