The pelvis is one of the most important parts of the body and yet it’s also one of the least controlled and connected areas on most people when first starting out. Serving as the junction where our legs meet our trunk it plays a key role in almost every movement we do day to day, but over time we’ve lost our connection with it and have used it mostly just as something to sit on. In this post we’re going to look at what movements the pelvis does, why it’s important, and how it affects many of our other movements.
I like the analogy of the pelvis to a bowl. I didn’t make this up, but I heard it somewhere and thought that it made lot of sense.
Picture your pelvis as a bowl with water inside. If we tilt the bowl forward the water pours out the front, and if it we tilt it back the water pours out the backside. When we tilt the bowl forward this is called anterior rotation (anterior refers to our frontside) and if we tilt the bowl back we call this posterior rotation (posterior refers to our backside). The pelvis can also move laterally as if hiking ones hip up and you can picture this as dumping water out of either side.
Often when we’re considering pelvic movements we’re most concerned with how it moves relative to the spine, because movement of one creates a change in the other. In a squat for instance, we talk about the neutral spine position and this ties directly into the pelvic position as well. If you’re torso (spine) leans forward at all in a squat, and it will, and your pelvis doesn’t rotate along with it, this will cause flexion in the lumbar spine which is a loss of neutral spine. This same effect can be seen even better in a deadlift where our torso is often severely leaned forward as we send our hips back to hinge. Again, if the pelvis doesn’t rotate along with it, spinal flexion in the lumbar occurs.
When we’re under load and these changes in relation of the pelvis and spine occur we put ourselves in a compromised position. What was once a load evenly distributed across our entire spine has now shifted and could be displacing a disproportionate amount of load on one or two very specific areas. It’s not to say that any time this happens an injury will occur but the more often it happens, the odds are that it will. This is why awareness and control of the pelvis is important. This change in shape while under load also makes us less efficient in our movements and less able to produce strength, power and speed.
We’re not suggesting that you should only ever move in neutral spine or that your pelvis must remain neutral in everything you do. There are some movements that we do where we’re intentionally trying to move the spine and pelvis separately, such as the Jefferson curl. In these movements we’re prioritizing mobility and control so intentional movement is necessary. Our main concern is when the pelvis is moving unnoticed in relation to the spine, because this shows a lack of control and awareness which could lead to trouble.
There are tons of tools you can begin using today to become more aware and build coordination, and most of them don’t require special equipment or even a gym space. The Jefferson curl we mentioned above can be done anywhere and doesn’t require weight. Focusing on trying to curl each individual vertebrae can help build more control, both on the way down and up. This same method can be used with spinal segmentations and hip-back extensions. Start paying more attention to how you sit throughout the day. Are you on your sit-bones or are you dumping water out the back? Pay more attention to how you walk, run, jump, land, etc. The more awareness you can start to build throughout your day the more control you will have when under stress and high intensity.