Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fixing Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Postural Limits for Fat Loss

Update 7/3/2011
I just wrote a new post on some additional soft tissue/myofascial considerations when addressing anterior pelvic tilt (opens in a new window). Be sure to check it out after reading this entry.

Update 5/15/2011
If you are on this page, there is a good chance you were referred here by this bodybuilding.com thread. The OP "TheBroBrah" is a friend of mine who stumbled upon my blog when searching for APT. Since finding me, we have had several discussions on how to fix APT, and I see he used much of the advice I gave him to create his post and subsequently answer hundreds of questions about correcting the posture. I know some people would be upset that "their" ideas were taken and used somewhere else, but not me. I'm glad that in helping "TheBroBrah," I was able to help dozens upon dozens of other people. All I ask is that if you read this, that you do the same and link back to my site. Please click the "like" button below to help build backlinks for this page so more people can benefit from the discussion. Thanks!

Postural limits fall under the category of functional limits to fat loss. A postural limit is a skeletal alignment that restricts one's ability to move or utilize the appropriate muscles. Poor posture not only causes issues when it comes to being able to perform certain movements or lift heavy weights, but also poor posture can lead to pain and injury. Anybody who regularly trains knows that pain and injury are major problems that are big-time motivation killers. We all know that if you aren't training, you aren't optimizing fat loss!

In this entry, I will analyze one of the most common postural limits that exists in today's society, anterior pelvic tilt, and give you some tips you can start performing immediately to fix the problem.

Anterior pelvic tilt is especially common in people who are expected to sit at a desk all day at work or at school. Millions of people are in this situation, and that is why APT is so prevalent in society. What causes anterior pelvic tilt is a shortening or stiffening of the lower back muscles, the rectus femoris, and the hip flexors. This is accompanied by a lengthening of the abdominals, glutes, and hamstrings.

What you end up with is someone who has an excessive lower back arch. Normally, people can determine if they have APT by feeling for two bony landmarks on their pelvis. The anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) is on the front and is prominent and pointy. The posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS) is located on the back and is often harder to find, but it is close to the dimples that are slightly above the buttocks. If the PSIS is significantly higher than the ASIS, then there is a likelihood of anterior pelvic tilt (women are the occasional exception because they might have a different bone structure genetically). The big arch in the low back is always a dead give away, however.

Some problems that are likely to result from anterior pelvic tilt are many and are listed below:

1. Gluteal amnesia (weakness and inability to recruit the glutes for hip extension)
2. Hamstring injuries (try to compensate for glute weakness)
3. Groin pulls (compensation for glute weakness)
4. Anterior hip pain (the glutes do not hold the head of the femur in the center of the joint)
5. Low back pain (weak abs, continuous extension posture, poor hip mobility)
6. Knee pain (position of femoral adduction and internal rotation affect the normal mechanics of the knee, quad dominance puts more pressure on the patellofemoral joint)

As you can see, anterior pelvic tilt can be a pretty big problem that hinders your exercise program and prevents you from losing the fat you want.

Luckily, anterior pelvic tilt is fixable with only minor lifestyle changes. The main issues that need to be addressed are the tissue length and stiffness, the gluteal amnesia, and the lost mobility from the anterior pelvic tilt.

1. Soft tissue quality and stiffness

First, you'll need to invest about 10 dollars in a foam roller. You need to fix the problems of rectus femoris and low back stiffness. Spend a few minutes a day rolling the rectus femoris (the central quad muscle on the front of the thigh) and the low back muscles. HOWEVER, be very careful when rolling the low back muscles. Be sure to maintain a neutral spine. Do not let your lower back extend around the roller (that is one of the problems in the first place!), and do not flex your spine (like a situp) while rolling. Soft tissue work from foam rolling goes a long way to loosening up muscles and getting rid of adhesions. Obviously, seeing a licensed massage therapist is better alternative if you can afford one. They can really work those muscles and can hit spots a foam roller cannot reach.

After rolling the muscles, you MUST static stretch. After working out those knots, you have to stretch the muscles so they don't come back. Perform a combo hip flexor stretch and quad stretch. I do not recommend low back stretches, but the cat/camel mobility drill is generally a safe recommendation provided that you never force ROM that isn't there.

2. Muscle Activation

The muscles that are long, weak, and inhibited need to be retrained. So, after the soft tissue work and stretching, muscle activation drills should be completed. For the gluteus maximus, I recommend the glute bridge (lie on your back and bend your knees to about 90 degrees, then lift your butt off the ground by squeezing your glutes together as hard as you can). If you have really poor glute function, this might be a difficult exercise to perform. You'll know if you feel your low back muscles and hamstrings cramping up. If this is the case, just stick with squeezing your glutes as hard as you can without worrying about movement. Progress to the bridge. If the bridge is easy, lift one leg off the ground and perform a single leg bridge.

For the gluteus medius, I recommend two exercises to start. The first is the clamshell. The second is side-lying leg raises (hip abduction). The pelvis and low back should remain stable and shouldn't move at all for either exercise. Range of motion is not important. Quality of movement is. Most people cheat on the side lying leg raises by recruiting muscles on the front of the thigh (like the tensor fascia lata). You can prevent this be keeping your legs in straight alignment with your torso or even slightly behind it. You should feel the exercise on the side and back of your hip (not the front of the thigh).


3. Strengthening the right muscles

For anterior pelvic tilt, the muscles that need to be strengthened are the glutes and the abdominals. The glutes can only be strengthened if you are actually able to recruit them properly. If you can't, just stick with regular activation drills throughout the day until they are up to snuff. Once the glutes are ready, hip dominant exercises such as deadlifts, reverse lunges, and loaded bridges are recommended. So, when coming up with your exercise program, make sure to include some of those! (One important note is that you should never stop with the activation drills even when they work great!) Also, when trying to correct APT, try to avoid exercises that are quad dominant!

For the abdominals, the focus should be on training them to maintain a neutral spine alignment. This can be best achieved, in my opinion, with static holds of planks and side planks.


I hope this short discussion of anterior pelvic tilt will help set you on the path to fixing your posture... if you need it, that is!

For more information on The Theory of Fat Loss, head to the official FB page of the book at http://facebook.com/thetheoryoffatloss.


  1. If I do these exercises can they cause other problems?

  2. Any exercise carries risk. Use pain as your guide. If it hurts, don't do it!

  3. Thanks this is a very useful discussion. I have an excessive APT and I would like to know how often do i stretch and do these activation exercises to see fast results. Also how long to stretch for and how many sets and reps do I do for the exercises like gluts bridge etc. I've been trying to fix my posture for so long over a year now and still nothing changed. I'd do anything to have a good posture.

  4. Stretch as often as possible. There is something known as the 23:1 rule. If you train for 1 hour a day, you have the other 23 hours to screw everything up again. So, what you want to do is try to fix that ratio by doing corrective work throughout the day.

    Static stretches should last about 30 seconds. Multiple sets work better than single sets. Activation drills should be done throughout the day as well, but you especially want them to precede a workout. Usually one set should be enough before a workout (8-15 reps) provided you are focused on using the right muscle groups. That way, when you go to do your strength training, the right muscles fire and get a strong contraction.

    Using these techniques, I have gotten one of my clients to completely fix his APT in one month. It was one of the worst cases I had ever seen, but we got through it very quickly.

  5. Thanks very much for replying this means so much to me. By the way 1 month to fix ATP is unbelievable I thought it takes long at least 6 month, I'd love to have a well aligned pelvis in just a month. This is my routine for fixing APT tell me if anything is missing or anything wrong here for fast fix

    3 sets of 30 seconds static kneeling hip flexor stretch
    3 sets of 30 seconds static combo quad/hip flexor strech
    3 sets of 30 seconds static kneeling hip flexor stretch
    3 sets of 30 seconds static combo quad/hip flexor stretch
    Glutes bridge (hold it up for 10 seconds 10 reps)
    Reverse crunches 3 sets 10 reps

  6. You are missing one of the most important aspects here... the soft tissue work. Stretching is far less effective if you don't foam roll.

    This is a good start... I don't think it'll fix you in a month though. You need to get the glutes and hamstrings stronger as well. Glute bridges are a good activation drill, but they aren't good for strengthening unless you do some sort of loaded glute bridge. My preference would be trap-bar deadlifting or some other glute dominant multi-joint exercise.

    As far as reverse crunches go... I don't think they're a bad idea for people with APT... but I'd be cautious just because of the lumbar flexion. A plank progression or rollout progression would be better for long term spine health.

    If you want, "friend" me on Facebook (Timothy Ward) and we can message there as well.

  7. Talking on facebook would be a lot better. I searched (Timothy Ward) on Facebook but many results came up I don't know which one is you, by the way I am Ibrahim Bush. You can try add me

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. facebook.com/timothyjosephward

    You have to send me a friend request otherwise I won't get any of your messages. Facebook makes no sense like that...


Commenting and asking questions about fat loss is the first step towards investing in your own health. You might also have comments that help other people or questions that other people are too shy to ask, so please leave a comment or ask a question.

Note that comments on posts older than 7 days are moderated to discourage spam.