The Belly That Might Not Actually Be A Belly, By The 4 D Trainer in Clapham
Anterior pelvic tilt (tilting forward of the hips) or Kim Kardashian bum (“KKB” as I sometimes refer to it as) is a postural problem that affects almost anyone who spends long periods of time seated. The appearance of an anterior pelvic tilt (shown below) is when your bum sticks out and your stomach protrudes. The unfortunate news ladies and gentlemen is that this is a musculoskeletal issue, no amount of fat loss will get rid of the appearance of a pot belly.
But, fear not – we can rebuild you. So what do we need to do? We need to work on stretching the muscles that have become inactive/a little sleepy.
– Glutes: These are your main hip muscles which basically make up your bum.
– Hamstrings: The muscles on the back of your thigh.
– Abdominals and obliques: Part of your core, they aid in stabilizing the torso and hip
All these muscles work on rotating your hip backward:
The glutes – which sit on your hip – pull on your thigh bone. So when the thigh bone is fixed/immobile, the hip gets pulled back/rotated backward. We’re focusing on the gluteus maximus (aka bum) pictured in the diagram.
The abs pull upward on your hip upward from the front, which rotates your hip upward/backward.
The hamstrings can pull down on the hip, which will rotate it backward.
Since these muscles all rotate your hip backward, when they become weak/inactive your hip rotates forward, and your butt sticks out. Not Cool.
Now you might be wondering, if these muscles are rotating your hip backward, surely there are muscles that rotate the hips forward! And you would be correct. When those muscles become tight and overactive, they exert an unequal pull on the hip forcing it out of alignment.
A quick heads-up on muscle. Muscles are elastic tissue that stretch and contract to generate force. Muscles often work in opposite pairs, for example: the bicep works to pull the forearm, while the tricep works to extend it.
Quick example of muscles working in pairs: when the bicep is contracting, flexing and becoming short, the tricep is extending, stretching and becoming long. If the tricep was really tight and couldn’t stretch all the way, then we couldn’t flex our bicep all the way. This doesn’t just affect movement, but passive posture. For example, if your bicep was really tight while your tricep was really weak you would end up with a slightly flexed elbow when in a rested position.
Muscles that are overactive/tight in the case of anterior pelvic tilt
– Hip Flexor: a mysterious muscle group that does most of the work when you do situps. The main player here is the psoas which connects from your spine to your thigh.
– Rectus femoris (quads): the muscle on the front of your thigh – part of the quadricep group.
– Spinal Erectors: a bundle of muscles and tendons running the length of your spine — not advisable to stretch.
The main ones we’re going to focus on to stretch are the hip flexors and quads. The lower back we don’t want to stretch since that can create instability and lead to injury.
Muscles in more detail
Muscles often become tight and short either from being overactive or from being kept in the flexed/short position frequently. For example, when you sit down, your hip flexors are flexed and short. Keep them in that position long enough, as in a typical work day, and they lose their flexibility, become tight and you get anterior pelvic tilt (APT)
What causes muscle overactivity and anterior pelvic tilt?
Muscle overactivity commonly comes about as a compensation for other weak muscles. When one muscle group is weak and underactive, the other tends to pick up the slack and become overactive. The resulting imbalance often leads to pain and even injury. A great example of this is the relationship between the glutes and lower back: the glutes play an important role in stabilizing the hip and core. When they become weak, the lower back has to compensate and take on a role it wasn’t meant for. Lower back overactivity resulting from weak glutes is a major cause of back pain and tightness.
In next week’s blog I’ll be explaining how to stretch the dormant muscles and strengthen the muscles around the hip.