Deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt can cause a lot of problems for your lower back and hinder your performance, so it is important to know how to fix it if you're struggling with this issue.
So what is deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt, and how do you fix it? Deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt is when your pelvis is tilted forward when you're in the deadlift position. You can fix it by doing deadlift variations such as trap bar deadlifts, doing corrective exercises like the cat-camel, and remembering to keep your hips close to the barbell as you deadlift.
While it is possible to deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt, it is not ideal. Aside from the risk of injury to the lower back and hamstrings, it can put your muscles in a less than optimal position and make the lift harder to execute.
In this article, I will discuss what a deadlift with anterior pelvic tilt is, the risks involved, and how to correct it.
What Is Deadlifting With An Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
Deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt is considered bad form and needs to be corrected. When I say anterior pelvic tilt, I am referring to an excessive anterior pelvic tilt.
An anterior pelvic tilt is excessive when you are at a point where your pelvis cannot tilt anteriorly anymore. When you have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt, you may chronically experience tight hip flexors and/or tension in your lower back.
When you have an anterior pelvic tilt when you deadlift, it looks like your lower back is over-extended or over-arched. It also makes certain muscles become overly shortened or overly lengthened during the execution (meaning they get excessively tight or excessively stretched).
Muscles that are overly shortened and tight in an anterior pelvic tilt include the hip flexors and back extensors. Muscles that are overly lengthened and stretched in an anterior pelvic tilt include the hamstrings and abdominals.
This shortening and lengthening of the muscles does not put us in a good position to be able to deadlift efficiently and can increase the total risk of pain or injury.
In an ideal world, we would want more of a neutral pelvic tilt and a neutral spine. This looks like more of a flatter lower back when the pelvis and spine are neutral in the deadlift.
It is also important to keep in mind that a neutral pelvis and spine are not a single point but more of a range. This means that anywhere between a flat lower back and a mild arch in your lower back is acceptable.
Can You Deadlift With An Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
You technically can deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt, but you should not. This is because anterior pelvic tilt changes the position of your skeleton so your muscles are in a less than optimal position for them to work effectively.
Specifically, an anterior pelvic tilt puts your hamstrings and glutes in a worse position for them to work during the deadlift. This can influence where your sticking point is when you execute.
From my experience, people who deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt will often have a sticking point from upper shin level to about knee level.
We talk more about how to address a deadlift that’s weak at knee level in Is Your Deadlift Weak At The Knees? (Try These 5 Tips).
Want to improve your deadlift technique?
Why Does An Anterior Pelvic Tilt Happen In The Deadlift? (7 Reasons)
Here are 7 reasons why an anterior pelvic tilt happens during deadlifts:
- Over cueing chest up
- Not knowing how to brace
- Center of mass over the forefoot
- Poor abdominal and hamstring control
- Too much anxiety over back rounding
- Over cueing hip hinge
- Misunderstanding back angle in deadlifts
1. Over Cueing Chest Up
“Over cueing chest up” is a common error people make when trying to set up for their deadlift.
The problem with this is that it overextends your lower back and anteriorly tilts your pelvis, and you may not be able to engage your lats, core, or glutes properly, which can lead to lower back injuries.
For more on the most common deadlift mistakes and how to fix them, check out Top 19 Deadlift Mistakes (How To Avoid & Correct).
2. Not Knowing How To Brace
If you do not know how to brace, you are likely to try to over-extend your lower back and keep an anterior pelvic tilt in an attempt to keep your back flat.
Bracing involves creating intra-abdominal pressure with the Valsalva maneuver to create rigidity in your core and posture. The Valsalva maneuver entails attempting to breathe out with closed airways. This will consequently keep your spine flat and fixed through the execution of the deadlift.
To learn more about bracing and breathing properly in the deadlift, check out How to Breathe Properly In The Deadlift.
3. Center of Mass Over the Forefoot
If you are keeping your center of mass over your forefoot, you are likely to push your ribcage forward. This results in an over-arched lower back and anterior pelvic tilt.
4. Poor Abdominal and Hamstring Control
The hamstring and abdominal muscles are important for tucking the pelvis under. Your training may emphasize the back muscles, which results in undertraining the abdominal and hamstring muscles. This means you do not have the strength or control to tuck your pelvis under.
If you need to strengthen your core muscles, try these 9 best ab exercises for powerlifters.
5. Too Much Anxiety Over Back Rounding
It is commonly drilled into people that you should not round your back when you deadlift, particularly your lower back. As such, it is understandable that you may feel anxiety over the back rounding.
But focusing too much on keeping your back straight when deadlifting could unconsciously encourage you to anteriorly tilt your pelvis and over-extend your lower back.
Deadlifting with a round back is okay in some cases. We discuss this in more detail in Is It Okay To Deadlift With a Round Back? (Powerlifters Say Yes).
6. Over Cueing Hip Hinge
The deadlift requires good mobility through hinging at the hips. However, over-cueing the hip hinge can overly shorten the hip flexors.
This leads to an anterior pelvic tilt and over-extended back.
7. Misunderstanding Back Angle in Deadlifts
There are a lot of misconceptions with regards to the back angle in the deadlift. A common error is thinking that the back angle needs to be upright, so you end up encouraging uprightness during the deadlift setup.
By encouraging yourself to be upright, you may either start with your hips too low or end up anteriorly tilting your pelvis and arching your lower back.
You may also want to check out these articles about the back angle and hip position in the deadlift:
- Best Deadlift Back Angle For Your Size & Build (With Pictures)
- The Best Hip Position For Deadlifts For Your Size & Build
Are There Risks Associated With Deadlifting With An Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
Yes, there are risks associated with deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt. However, it is not easy to quantify the risks of deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt as many other factors influence your risk of injury. Deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt is not a guarantee that you will get injured either.
Here are some problems associated with deadlifting with an anterior pelvic tilt:
- Strained hamstrings
- Strained lower back
- Knees caving in
With an anterior pelvic tilt, you put your hamstrings in a longer muscle length during the execution of the exercise.
During the bottom half of the range of motion when the barbell goes from the floor to the knees, the hamstrings need to lengthen. If they are already more lengthened because of the anterior pelvic tilt, you may be putting them more at risk of muscle strains, particularly if they are weak.
With that said, having sore hamstrings after you deadlift doesn’t always mean they are injured. Learn more in Hamstrings Sore After Deadlifts: Is This Good Or Bad?
Strained Lower Back
In an ideal world, your lower back muscles would maintain engagement isometrically, meaning that the length of the lower back muscles does not change throughout the execution.
If you put yourself in an anterior pelvic tilt, you are likely going to get a change in muscle length in your lower back muscles throughout the execution, which may be more stressful on those muscles.
That extra stress may increase your risk of straining or overusing your lower back muscles.
If you experience back pain from deadlifts, check out How To Fix Back Pain While Deadlifting (A Physio Explains).
Knees Caving In
When you put your pelvis in an anterior pelvic tilt, you lengthen your hip adductors (inner thighs), which need to shorten in order to extend the hips.
This means that during the execution of the deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt, you may risk having your knees cave in if the load or set is difficult enough.
How Do You Fix An Anterior Pelvic Tilt In The Deadlift?
To fix an anterior pelvic tilt in the deadlift, there are 3 main strategies you can use, of which some strategies may be more relevant to you than others.
The 3 main strategies to fix an anterior pelvic tilt in the deadlift are:
- Corrective drills and exercises
- Deadlift cues and execution
- Deadlift variations
Corrective Drills and Exercises
Four corrective drills and exercises that can help with an anterior pelvic tilt in the deadlift are:
- 9090 hip lift
- Wall reference bear plank
The cat camel is a great exercise to help fix anterior pelvic tilt. It helps you to understand how to move through an anterior and posterior pelvic tilt.
You can also enhance this exercise drill by running a resistance band across your lower back and holding it between your hands and the floor.
Here is how to do a cat camel:
- Start on all fours with your hands and knees shoulder-width apart.
- As you inhale, round your back, push your ribcage to the ceiling, and lower your head.
- As you exhale, arch your lower back and lift your chin and chest up to the sky.
9090 Hip Lift with Foam Roller
This exercise helps you manage the posture of your ribcage and pelvis. It has a particular focus on activating your hamstrings to tuck your pelvis under as well as teaching you to keep your center of mass over your heels more.
Here is how to do a 9090 hip lift with a foam roller:
- Start by lying on your back with a foam roller placed between your knees.
- Bend both your hips and knees to 90 degrees and place your feet flat on a wall with pressure on your heels.
- Reach upward towards the sky and drag your feet downward slightly by pressing your heels into the wall to activate your hamstrings. Aim to flatten your lower back to the floor.
- You should feel your pelvis tuck under slightly if you focus on keeping your glutes off the floor while keeping your tailbone slightly in contact with the floor.
- Take a full deep breath in through the nose and fully exhale out through the mouth.
Wall Reference Bear Plank
The wall reference bear plank helps manage the posture of your ribcage and pelvis with a particular focus on activating your abdominals.
Here is how to do a wall reference bear plank:
- Position yourself in a bear plank position with your feet up against a wall and your hands on the floor.
- Make sure your hips are over your knees, your shoulders are over your wrists, and your hips are in line with your shoulders.
- Squeeze your glutes and press through your palms to raise your knees up by 2 to 3 inches. Your hips, knees, and shoulders should be 90 degrees.
- Take a full deep breath in through the nose and fully exhale out through the mouth.
Deadlift Cues and Execution
Here is a list of cues and execution tips that can help you get into a better position for the deadlift if you start with an anterior pelvic tilt:
- Bring your ribcage to your thighs
- Keep your hips closer to the barbell
- Learn to breathe and brace at the top
Bring Your Ribcage to Your Thighs
Thinking about bringing your ribcage down towards your thighs helps you hinge your hips but engages your abs at the same time without causing you to over-arch your lower back.
Keep Your Hips Closer to the Barbell
Keeping your hips closer to your barbell can help activate your glutes and hamstrings, which can tuck your pelvis under towards a more neutral position.
Learn to Breathe and Brace at the Top
Learning to breathe and brace with the Valsalva maneuver (as I explained above) can help you maintain a neutral and rigid posture when descending to reach the barbell.
There are many other deadlift cues that can not only help with anterior pelvic tilt but make your deadlift stronger overall. Learn more in Top 10 Deadlift Cues For Stronger Pulls (With Pictures).
Outside of corrective drills and exercises that you may do in your deadlift warm-up, you may want to choose some deadlift variations that may help your anterior pelvic tilt.
Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is a great variation if you deadlift with anterior pelvic tilt. It takes the load off your lower back and places it more on your legs. It also teaches you to sit your pelvis downward as opposed to pushing your pelvis backward. This will help train you out of anteriorly tilting your pelvis in a deadlift-type movement.
How to do a trap bar deadlift:
- Place the trap bar in the center of your feet.
- Squat down and grip the bar handles with your hands.
- Keep your chin down so your head is in line with your back, take a big breath in, and brace your core.
- Drive your heels into the floor and stand up with the bar.
- Exhale as you reach the top.
Tempo deadlifts are a great way to focus on technique. They normally entail a slow controlled descent but can also be performed with a slow controlled ascent.
This slow and controlled tempo allows you to think about how you position your hips when you are executing the movement. You will need to use lower percentages (50 to 60% of your 1 rep max) and stay away from lifting close to failure in your sets.
It is possible to deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt, but it’s not recommended. You can injure your lower back or hamstrings or leave gains on the table by deadlifting this way.
It may not be obvious why you deadlift with an anterior pelvic tilt. As a general rule, it is most efficient to go for the low-hanging fruit and try cueing yourself out of the anterior pelvic tilt before you consider adding corrective exercise drills in your warm-up.
If corrective exercise drills are working but are not enough, then you should consider using deadlift variations that can help, such as trap bar deadlifts and tempo deadlifts.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com