Pelvic Tilt Exercise for Beginners and People with Back Pain

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

Pelvic Tilt Exercise

Pelvic tilt exercises are often recommended for developing support for the low back, abdominal muscles and sacroiliac joints.

When you first embark on a core stabilization program, your physical therapist or personal trainer may very well give you out with a pelvic tilt exercise of one variety or another. Believe it or not, many neck and back alignment issues actually start at, or are influenced by, the position of the pelvis, which makes the pelvic tilt exercise a key ingredient in a posture improvement program, as well.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that adolescents with scoliosis were able to reduce their Cobb angle (an important measurement of how much side to side curve you have in the case of scoliosis) significantly after 12 weeks of a core stabilization program. Their program included  pelvic tilts plus other common core movements as follows:

  • Cat-camel yoga pose
  • Basic trunk curl (aka, the crunch)
  • Hip bridge with a straight knee extension added once the trunk is in the air
  • Double-leg abdominal lift (a risky exercise, so if you're weak in the abs and you want to try this program, start out either by lifting only one leg or with both knees bent to 90 degrees)
  • Supermans
  • Arm/leg raises
  • Bird-dog with arm and leg raises
  • Hand walkouts 

But it all started with the pelvic tilt exercise.

Pelvic Tilt Exercise — Position Matters

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 be a good choice for you if you are pregnant.

Doing pelvic tilts in the supine position is the least challenging of all, which makes it the best variation for beginners and people dealing with spine pain; when performed while standing with your back against the wall, pelvic tilts become more challenging.

 

This articles describes the beginner's, as well as the more advanced against-the-wall version of the pelvic tilt.

Instructions for the Pelvic Tilt Exercise (Supine and Standing)

  1. Starting position. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    • 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) 
      • back of heels against the wall  (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 and the floor or wall.
      • Check to see if you can 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.
  2. Inhale.
  3. 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 that engages the ab muscles will utilize this as leverage. Continue pulling in, and allow that to tilt the bottom of your pelvis up. This will likely result in your low back gently stretching and reaching towards 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. Don't worry about completing the movement. You'll likely be able to do it even after you've relaxed.
  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 release out 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.

    Source:

    Kwang-Jun, K. et. al. Effects of 12-week core stabilization exercise on the Cobb angle and lumbar muscle strength of adolescents with idopathic scoliosis. J Exerc Rehabili. April 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412502/

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