Pelvic Tilt Exercise for Beginners with Back Pain

A woman performs the pelvic tilt exercise.
A woman performs the pelvic tilt exercise. Forgiss

Pelvic Tilt Exercise

Pelvic tilts are often recommended for developing support for the low back, abdominals and sacroiliac joints. This exercise may be the one your physical therapist or personal trainer starts you off with when you take on a spinal stabilization program.  And, as many neck and back alignment issues actually start at, or are influenced by the position of the pelvis, it's key for posture improvement, as well.

Pelvic tilts can be done in several different positions, including supine (lying on your back with your knees bent,) prone (lying on your stomach,) and in the all-4s position where you're supported by both hands and knees and your spine is parallel to the floor.  (The hands and knees position may make a good choice if you are pregnant.)

Doing pelvic tilts in the supine position is the least challenging, which makes it great for beginners; when done while standing with your back against the wall pelvic tilts become more intense and challenging.  This articles describes the beginner's version as well as the more advanced against-the-wall version of the pelvic tilt.


Instructions for the Pelvic Tilt Exercise

  1. Starting position-- Lie on the floor with your knees up/feet flat. (For the advanced version, stand against a wall.) The following body parts should be touching the floor or wall:
    • bottom of the feet on the floor (beginners) or back of heels (advanced)
    • backside
    • mid/upper back and shoulders
    • back of head
    Keep a space between the floor (or wall) and your low back, as well as your neck. Can you slide your hand between your low back and the floor or wall?  If so, then great, you are ready to go! If not, try to re-position your pelvis so that there's a bit of space between your low back and the floor.
  1. Inhale.
  2. Initiate the pelvic tilt movement as you exhale. When you let your breath out, your abdomen should come toward your back. (This happens naturally during exhalation.) An effective pelvic tilt will utilize this leverage that is when the abdomen pulls in. Continue the pulling in, and allow that to tilt the bottom of your pelvis up. This will result in your low back gently stretching and reaching or actually touching the floor or wall. 
  1. Inhale to come back to start -- Allow the spine and pelvis to return to their original position while you take air in again. Note that movement in this phase takes less muscle work than the previous movement of bringing your low back to the floor or wall. 
  2. Be aware of how forcefully you do this movement -- Try one or two pelvic tilts to get the hang of it.  Then perform one to check your tension level. If you're using a lot of muscle tension, try to ease up on that.  You will likely still be able to complete the entire movement with reduced tension. 
  3. Specifically, check the tension in your hip joints -- The hip joints are located at the place where the legs connects deep into the pelvis (at the hip socket, which are located at the top of your thigh bone, at the sides of the pelvis.) Because we want to work the abdominals in this exercise, try to ease any tension you may notice at the muscles that cross over the hip joints (the quadriceps). When performing the pelvic tilt, try to pull the pelvis from the abdominals, rather than pushing the from the butt.

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