Lats Get out of APT!
I’ll be the first to admit, lats aren’t the first thing one usually thinks of when thinking about anterior pelvic tilt.
However, the lats can contribute to APT if they are short… or if they are stiffer than the abdominals.
If you almost look like Frankenstein when raising your arms overhead, you definitely have some tight lats.
The real test is getting to 170 degrees with arms overhead. Note that one arm might be different than the other. You can also test using one arm at a time.
Even though you may not have short lats, we still need to see if your lats are too stiff compared to your abdominals.
The first test is observing if one can simply maintain their pelvic position with the arms overhead.
The real test is to try to use your abdominals to see if you keep a neutral pelvic position while you lift both of your arms.
You are observing if the pelvis can maintain its position without moving. If your arms can get to the same spot without trying to use your abdominals, and you can maintain your lats, you do not have too stiff of lats.
From the testing, there are four possibilities:
0. You don’t have tight or stiff lats. Woohoo! (I'll count this as zero because there isn't a problem.)
1. You have short lats, but not excessively stiff lats.
2. You have stiff lats, but not excessively short lats.
3. You have short and stiff lats.
Our strategy is going to be simple. If we have tight lats, we will stretch them. If we have stiff lats, we need to train the abdominals to compete with the stiffness of the lats. If we have both short and stiff lats, we need to do a combination of both stretching and training the abdominals.
The last test we'll use is the standing shoulder internal rotation test. For this test, hold a pen or pencil in your hand while standing. See if the pen or pencil is facing forward. If it points inward at all, you have some excessively tight or stiff internal rotators.
The lats are internal rotators, so you should see if stretching them has a positive effect. While there are other implications and culprits for why you maybe internally rotated, you should see if stretching the lats improves your internal rotation at all.
Let's get to the fixes. Let's first assume you have short lats, but not stiff lats (picture #1 above).
We need to do the opposite of extending our arms and going into anterior pelvic tilt. I really like the crouched position for this because you can get a big lat stretch, but you also stretch out the whole posterior fascia chain which the lats are connected to.
Since the lats can also laterally flex your spine, you can also benefit by doing this stretch (which still includes the arms overhead position and rounded back position):
And damn, if those lats don't also contribute to thoracic rotation, we can stretch them out by rotating in the opposite direction like this. (Note, you can also combine the arms overhead, rounded back, and laterally flexed positions above).
These stretches are all great if we have tight lats, but not stiff lats. If we do have stiff lats, we are need to use a different strategy. We need to make sure we increase the stiffness of the abdominals to compete with the lats.
While there are a ton of ways to accomplish this, I’ve found two methods to work great.
The first is using the ground. This is ideal for those who cannot stand in a neutral pelvic position.
Lie on your back on the ground. Raise up your arms and keep your back flattened throughout the whole range of motion. That’s it! You can either hold this position, or go back and for with your arms. Either way, always keep your back flattened.
You can keep your arms overhead, or bring them forward, then back to beside your head. Either way, make sure your back stays flat which will require you to use your abdominals. This will help you maintain your pelvic position when your arms go overhead.
Please note that you should never raise your arms higher than if your back comes off the ground.
If you have short lats and stiff lats, you can use some DB's in your hands to help you with getting a bigger stretch. But under no circumstances should you stretch beyond the point where your low back comes off the ground.
Another option is to use a stick on your back, and then simply bring your opposite arm overhead. This is a perfect strategy if one arm was limited in lat length, but the other was not.
If you want to combine your abdominal strength training with your lat stretching, and combatting your lat stiffness, then you can use a dead bug.
Make sure your back stays flat, your arms can move or stay overhead, and your legs go up and down.
While the lats might not be the only thing keeping you in anterior pelvic tilt, they can still be a contributor. Keeping them loose while strengthening your abdominals will play a big role helping you stay out of APT.
Don't Walk Like a Model
I never could figure out why a person would want to walk in an anterior pelvic tilt.
I guess I can understand why one would want to promote a butt if there really isn't one, but that's going to hurt in due time.
I see a lot of people walk in anterior pelvic tilt who aren't trying to do it. If you have a big butt like me, it pretty much guarantees that you will look like you are walking in anterior pelvic tilt. However, you might or might not have APT.
This is why I can understand why someone like Kim Kardashian who purposely goes into an APT posture and already has a big butt gets popular. The curves are even more dynamic.
The truth is if you have anterior pelvic tilt, you likely have to retrain everything including how you walk, how you run, or how you do your cardio. For this article, we'll focus just on the walking and some running.
Since most of my clients will do some regular walking or running, I've made the mistake of doing everything right in the gym, then not training how they walk.
Just last week, I had a client look at me incredulously and ask, “How do you expect to leave this place and keep up what I’m doing?”
What my client really meant was, “I know I’m getting out of anterior pelvic tilt in the gym, but how do you expect me to stay out of anterior pelvic tilt, if I’m walking out of here in anterior pelvic tilt.”
She had a good point.
We were doing everything to get her out of anterior pelvic tilt, but I realized if we didn’t coach her walking and her cardio, she would simply be reinforcing her anterior pelvic tilt.
A lot of people think they can fix their anterior pelvic tilt by simply doing some exercises and stretches. For some, this will work. For others, they need everything.
You’ve probably seen people running like this:
We’ve already covered standing in APT. And if you don’t know what to do in standing, you need to work on this first.
However, even if you optimized your standing, you still need to work on your walking and potentially any other cardiovascular work you do.
If you have anterior pelvic tilt or didn't pass the prone hip extension in the last video, or if you regularly walk or run, I highly recommend performing a single leg balance test.
Lift up your leg, and observe the knee area of the leg which is on the ground. If the knee goes inward, this is a problem. If the leg rotates inwardly, this is also a problem. Both problems may indicate weak or deactivated glutes.
To see if the glutes are a culprit, try squeezing the glutes. If the leg becomes like the picture below, you have some deactivated glutes. (Also, just because you passed the prone hip extension test, doesn't mean you will pass this test.)
If you have deactivated glutes in standing, simply squeezing them and making sure your knee is stable is a great warm up exercise.
Eventually, you should be able to stand without trying to squeeze your glutes. Your knee should be stable.
If you have been or are prone to knee problems while running, and you didn't pass the single leg balance test, you will also likely need to work on using your glutes to propel your leg back.
You need to walk very slowly while doing this exercise. Walking literally at a 1 to 2mph pace is perfect. If this isn't easy for you, you need to slow it down.
Overtime, feeling the glute should be possible at your normal walking speed. If you run, you should be able to feel the glutes propelling your leg back. It will take some time to build up to this, but if you practice this, you will get it.
Besides focusing on our glutes while walking, we should make sure our alignment is as neutral as possible.
I've recently began having clients use the stick while walking on the treadmill, and it's worked really well. Clients can really feel what neutral feels like.
I've even had clients raise up the front of the pelvis turning on the obliques, squeeze the glutes for the leg that's going back, and use the stick on their back. While it's a lot to concentrate on, you should be able to accomplish this with practice.
You can do all the right stuff in the gym. However, if you walk and run in anterior pelvic tilt, it's going to take you a lot longer to get out of it. For some of you, being in APT is normal for your sport. That's fine, but you should still be able to do all of these exercises well.
Flat Butt Syndrome Fix
The anterior pelvic tilt look is still in.
Unfortunately, anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is a glute killer. The biggest problem is that the glutes are responsible for posteriorly tilting the pelvis. If you go into anterior pelvic tilt, you deactivate your glutes.
By definition, APT puts your glutes in a lengthened position. Because the glutes are on stretch, they are more likely to be deactivated.
Want to see if your glutes are really deactivated?
Simply lie face down on the ground, press your hand into your glute, and lift up your leg. If you feel a protrusion of your glute throughout the whole range of motion, you're glutes are not deactivated. (Don't cheat it by squeezing your glutes, they will fire automatically if they are not deactivated.)
If you don't feel any protrusion, your glutes are deactivated. Also, if you only feel a protrusion at the top of the range of motion, your glutes are deactivated.
Remember, in APT, position is everything. If we are going to work the glutes properly, we need to make sure we are in the best position to do that.
Begin first by flattening your low back to the ground. Take notice of your pelvic line.
Before lifting up, flatten your back using your obliques. Now, squeeze your glutes before you lift up. As you lift up, keep your glutes squeezed. At the top, squeeze your glutes and pause for one to two seconds. As you lower, you can relax your glutes, but try to keep a near-vertical pelvic line.
The most important thing is respecting the vertical pelvic line. As you lift up, this vertical line should remain vertical relative to the body.
As you can see, the pelvic line stays vertical with the body.
It should not look like this:
Since getting out of anterior pelvic tilt is all about maintaining a neutral (or posterior) tilted pelvis, we need to follow a few guidelines when doing our vertical line hip lifts. These are:
1. Don’t go into a range of motion which compromises your vertical pelvic line.
In other words, you should not lift up past the point where your vertical pelvic line is no longer vertical. If you do, you are going into an anterior pelvic tilt. I realize I’ve said this in half of the articles I’ve written already, but you are not going to get out of APT while going into APT.
2. Don’t lift any weight which compromises your vertical pelvic line.
If you lift a heavy-enough weight, your pelvis will go into APT. Don’t let it. Instead, you should use as heavy a weight as possible while insuring you don’t lose your vertical pelvic line.
If you follow these guidelines, your glutes are not only going to become activated, they are going to help get you out of anterior pelvic tilt.
The next exercise which I see almost always butchered is the birddog.
The birddog is a tough exercise.
The reason it’s hard is because it’s damn-near impossible for someone with anterior pelvic tilt to go through a full range of motion with a neutral pelvis. How can you tell if you have a neutral pelvis in the birddog?
You should be able to get the apex of your thumb (or about one inch) to touch the stick while you lift up your leg.
Once again, do not lift your leg past the point where you can’t touch your thumb to the stick. If you have anterior pelvic tilt, most of you will likely benefit by starting out by using a very small range of motion.
Once again, before you lift up your leg, squeeze your glutes on the leg you will lift up. Keep it squeezed all the way up and hold at the top while squeezing your glutes. When lowering, you can relax, but don’t lose your neutral pelvic position.
If you didn't pass the prone hip extension test, you should only do bent knee dead bugs. The bent-knee position will diminish your dominant hamstrings. It's also possible that you have tight quadriceps, so using a bent-knee position will also help stretch them out.
For those who have very tight hip flexors, quadriceps, or low back, if you go above 45 degrees, you’ll quickly lose spinal stability.
What this means is you need to do your stretching of the hip flexors, low back, and quadriceps before you do these exercises.
Many individuals will also benefit by doing exercises like the dead bugs before birddogs or hip lifts.
Feel free to load up the hip lift with weight as long as you can maintain a neutral pelvis. You can also add ankle weights to the birddog, but make sure you can first hit a full range of motion birddog first.
If you did pass the prone hip extension test, and can do a bent-knee birddog with a full range of motion, then you can do the straight leg version.
The glutes are the biggest muscles in the body. When the glutes are activated and strong, they help you lift more, look awesome, run faster, and perform better with fun-like activities in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, the hip lift and birddog are some of the most poorly performed exercises I see. Just about everyone I see who performs them is not keeping a neutral pelvis. I encourage you to be extra-strict with your form, squeeze those glutes, and add some load as long as you have perfect form.
At some point, we’ll all likely have some low back pain. While there are many different causes as to why this happens, it’s often due to a overworked stiff low back.
If you have anterior pelvic tilt, the low back is by definition shortened. It doesn't mean however that your low back muscles can't fully stretch.
But, if you have anterior pelvic tilt, and you find the low back muscles can't fully stretch, you need to do something about it. First, let's see if your low back muscles are able to stretch the way they should.
To do this, we'll use the prone rock test.
With the prone rock test, you need to see if your spine is rounded like a turtle shell. If you see any flat spots in the low back, you have a tight low back.
If you don't have a tight low back, it doesn't mean the prone rock test is useless. You can the prone rock position to deactivate the low back muscle.
Did you notice that Ariel has a hinge point in his thoracic spine? While this deserves attention, if we saw a hinge spot in his low back, we would make sure that if we stretch this, we make sure that there are no hinge spots during our stretch.
Anytime you stretch, there should be a smooth curve in your low back, just like a turtle shell. This might mean that you need to limit your stretch at first. If you are doing this by yourself, you will need to make sure that when you stretch, you don't observe any hinge points.
Gradually, you will be able to go through a larger range of motion while insuring there are no hinge points.
What if I'm hypermobile in the low back?
If you are very hypermobile, you still need to make sure your low back forms a turtle shell-like curve. Check this using the prone rock test.
It is possible that you may simply be hypermobile in the hips and thoracic spine while you are limited in the lumbar spine or low back.
Assuming you may be hypermobile like the picture above, you may still want to do less of a stretch to inhibit the low back muscles.
The reason why is that in anterior pelvic tilt, the low back muscles are overactivated. To deactivate it, we can do a static stretch of the low back. You don't need to do a stretch as much as the woman demonstrates above, but going to about 70% of a stretch will allow you to deactivate the low back.
While you can use the prone rock test as way to stretch your low back, you will inevitably encounter clients who have knee problems while in the prone rock test.
In that case, you can use a hip flexed chair stretch
This is a great way to stretch the low back (or deactivate it) without irritating the knees.
Since Ariel demonstrates the same hinge point in his thoracic spine in the picture above, I've had Ariel extend or straighten his upper back slightly to smooth out his thoracic spine.
Some individuals will not be able to feel a stretch using the chair stretch above. If that's the case, I recommend using an assisted low back stretch.
You should first make sure there is padding under the mid back and the glutes. This will help flex and target the lumbar spine. Push down (or pull) on the legs making sure you can feel the stretch in the low back.
This stretch is a great way to practice turning on the obliques too. Squeezing the obliques will help to posteriorly tilt the pelvis which is a great way to get out of anterior pelvic tilt.
One of the most convenient ways to stretch the low back is getting into a crouched rounded back position.
Again, make sure you feel the stretch in the low back area. To deepen the stretch, take some deep inhales and exhales.
Upon inhaling, you should try to make sure your low back (and really whole back) is expanding. When you exhale, use your obliques to make help induce a posterior pelvic tilt.
If you find this position is uncomfortable, keep practicing. It's likely that your low back, and possibly whole back is stiff. Breathing and simply being in a flexed position can help to release the tension.
Low back stretching is controversial and for good reason. If you don't have anterior pelvic tilt and are hypermobile, stretching your low back is not warranted and can be dangerous.
Make sure you never stretch into pain and do not have any hinge points when stretching. Do not stretch within thirty minutes upon waking up, as this can compromise your spinal stability.
You will find however that if you do have anterior pelvic tilt, and you have a positive prone rock test, stretching your low back will help you get out of anterior pelvic tilt faster.
Sitting Now? Do This.
Are you sitting down right now? If you are, you probably need to do this stretch. And, if you have anterior pelvic tilt (APT), you definitely need to do this stretch.
I’m not talking about this stretch though:
The typical hip flexor stretch has the pelvis go into anterior pelvic tilt (essentially dumping the front of the pelvis downward or the middle torso extended back.)
Going into anterior pelvic tilt (APT) to get out of APT will not get you out of anterior pelvic tilt. You must maintain a neutral pelvis.
To do this, we need to make sure our pelvis is neutral. Enter the stick.
Using a stick on your back to make sure your low back can touch your thumb is a great way to stay neutral:
You need to make sure that you don’t stretch beyond the point where you cannot touch your low back to your thumb.
Some of you will not even feel a stretch without losing low back to thumb contact. But don’t get discouraged that you don’t feel a stretch.
As long as you keep practicing, your flexibility will improve.
How far should you stretch? There’s no magic answer, but as long as your leg can go behind you, that's great.
(You can confirm tight hip flexors by doing a Thomas Test or a SEA test. However, if you have APT, it makes sense to do hip flexor stretching regardless because it will tend to help get you out of APT faster.)
Some of you will not be able to even get into position without your low back losing contact with your thumb. If this is you, we need a different method.
For those of you who can’t touch their low back to the thumb, you will need to hug the knee.
Lie down on a bench. Begin with hugging both of your knees. Let one extend, but make sure your pelvic line stays vertical like this:
Squeeze your obliques and keep the front of your pelvis tucked up to keep your pelvic line vertical.
With anterior pelvic tilt, the obliques get overly lengthened. We know from research that a muscle which is overly stretched does not produce as much force as a muscle which is at an “ideal” length. (1)
We need to shorten our obliques if you have APT. Everybody talks about stretching, but shortening your muscles is just as important.
Remember, in anterior pelvic tilt, the muscles which are too short and which should be stretched are the hip flexors, lumbar erectors, and possibly the quadriceps.
The muscles which are too long and which should be shortened include the obliques, glutes, and hamstrings.
A way to prevent going into an anterior pelvic tilt when you are lying on your back is to use your obliques to try to posteriorly tilt your pelvis. This means you will use your obliques to keep a vertical pelvic line.
I’d actually rather err on the side of getting too much of a posterior pelvic tilt rather than going into APT. If you get in a posterior pelvic tilt, you can still effectively stretch the leg that’s down.
What’s great about a posterior pelvic tilt is that your obliques are shortened which we need.
If you go into APT just a little, your obliques are being stretched out too much. So, anytime we go into APT, they are overly lengthened.
Okay, now that you are hugging your knee, got your obliques activated, and have a vertical pelvic line, what do you do with the down leg?
You need to push it downward into the bench by using your hamstrings. If you some of you have long or heavy legs, you will feel a strong stretch by doing this. If however, you have short or light legs or simply can’t bring it down to feel a stretch, keep practicing.
This is where a partner or any kind of weight on the thigh can help. You can have a partner simply push down into your thigh slowly and gradually. Do not lose the vertical pelvic position!
Or, you can use a strap or weight belt to weigh the leg down. Make sure you don’t go too heavy or you’ll risk losing your vertical pelvic position.
The sweet spot for this stretch is keeping the vertical pelvic line, and feeling the stretch.
Here’s another tip: A stretch doesn’t need to be a 100% but it should be at least 80-90% of your maximum stretch before pain. (2)
Unless your hip flexors are very lengthened (like below 10 degrees below parallel on a Thomas Test), you can do well by stretching your hip flexors.
Stretching the muscles which cause APT effectively gives you easier access to get a neutral pelvic position. What is really happening is the APT-causing muscles provide less tension to cause APT. This is why if you include strength training combined with stretching, you will see faster results.
Hip flexor stretching is important for getting out of APT. If you make sure you have a vertical pelvic position, you will increase your flexibility, and get out of APT.