This post will be a more concise version that will focus on 3 things: a low level workout to do every day to counter moderate to bad cases of APT, a warm-up for when you lift heavy, leg days or full body, and what you should be adding into your training to fix your level of APT. Before I go on, I must stress a couple of things. One is that a slight level of APT is normal and optimal. It is theorized that this is so because it puts the glutes and the hamstrings at a slight stretch, which is more optimal for force production through those muscles. So don’t freak out if you have a slight degree of an anterior tilt; around 15 degrees is what you want. From now on, when I mention APT, it will be assumed that it’s a moderate to bad case. Second thing I’d like to stress that it is fine to lift when having a bad case of APT. You just have to be careful about extending through the hips, not overarching the lower back and pushing through the heels. That being said, use your judgment. If what you’re doing is hurting you, you should probably stop and figure out why.
Low Level workout to do everyday:
Why: Vern Gambetta introduced the concept of the 24 hour athlete. It basically goes like this: you can have an athlete for 1 hour a day and have everything perfect in that one hour. But he has 23 other hours to undo all the good he’s done in that one hour. Think about how it applies to you (and if you do any kind of lifting, I would qualify you as an athlete). On a typical 3 day program, you have 46 hours to undo everything that you’ve worked so hard in the gym for. This everyday workout will keep you in check, and it is low level enough that it won’t interfere with your heavy lifting, and will feed into it in some ways.
1a) Rectus Femoris stretch – 2-3×20-30s each leg.
Start off with a low bench and slowly work your way up higher. Think about tightening up through your abs and glutes (keep your back straight) and try and stay as upright as possible. Advanced variations would be to try and touch your butt to your heel.
Some people will report knee pain with this. Make sure you start off with a low box and use a lot of padding. If it still hurts your knees, a regular hip flexor stretch will work.
1b) Glute bridge with posterior pelvis tilt – 2-3×20
Make sure your back is flat after every rep. Think about imprinting your lower back into the floor before squeezing through the glutes. This posterior pelvic tilt may hurt some people’s lower back. If it does, keep a neutral spine throughout the movement.
2) Dead bugs – 4-5×8-12
This is to strengthen the lower abs and external obliques to a high degree, as they will tilt the pelvis towards a more neutral position. Make sure the lower back remains absolutely flat to the floor during the entire movement, and no movement comes from the neck to the hip region.
3) Plank – 4-5×40-50s
Now we take everything that we’ve worked on in the last two movements and put it to use in a more “functional” position. Staying in the plank position forces us to stabilize in the sagittal and transverse plane. Make sure your body stays in a straight line, don’t pike the hips up – push them through, keep the abs normal and don’t intentionally tighten them up and try to relax in this position while staying aware of your body. If you’ve never planked well before, the previous two exercises will help in being more aware on what muscles to work (the abs and glutes), and as you get better and more aware of the right alignment, you will learn to relax in the plank position. If you think this is too easy, keep in mind that this is on your rest or recovery days. Leave your heavy ab training for the gym – this is just to remind your body about what’s right and what’s wrong.
This whole thing should barely take your 15 minutes to complete. There’s really no excuse for not doing this on a daily basis, especially if you know you have APT.
Warmup before heavy lifting:
This is a warmup that I think is optimal – will get you warm, get you used to moving, incorporate basic human movements, and will develop your mind muscle connection towards using the muscles that are right now not used to being worked.
1) Foam roll your quads and other areas of your body.
2a) Rectus Femoris stretch – 2x20s each leg
2b) Glute bridge with neutral pelvis – 2×15
Don’t practice a posterior tilt here. Keep it neutral and focus on squeezing your glutes the whole time.
3) Leg swings (front and back and side to side) – 1×12-15
Keep the torso stable and practice only moving at the hips. You may need to lower the height of the swings in order to do this but it will open up with time. On the side to side swings, make sure you lead with the heel and don’t let the leg open up.
4) Fire hydrants – 1×10 each side both directions
6) Plate loaded front squat – 1×8-12
I like the plate loaded front squat instead of the goblet squat but you can use either one. The point is to stand up and squeeze the hips through at the top and shove the knees out at the bottom. Focus on keeping your toes more straight than during your normal squat sets to work on your mobility.
I love this warmup and use it myself, and prescribe it to all my clients. As I said above, it gets everything nice and loose, focuses on activation of dormant muscle groups, and involves lots of specific patterns that will be loaded during weight training.
What to do during your workout:
1) Lots of lower ab and external oblique work.
Now before a bunch of people go nuts on the leg raise, let me be absolutely clear with this. The leg raise is a very advanced exercise and if you don’t do them right, you’re feeding into your APT. Start off with the reverse crunch (Page 2). Use the progression in this article to get you up to leg raise standards, then go nuts. I love the reverse crunch because it forces you to posteriorly tilt the pelvis to perform the exercise. If this hurts your back, or you just don’t like crunches, the dead bug progressions will do the job.
2) Lots of hip extension/hip hyperextension work.
A lot of people perform low bar squats. While a good exercise, it’s pretty bad for a person with a bad case of APT. This is because the low bar squat is done with a low bar position (duh). This position does not allow you to stand completely up at the top, which does not let your hips to full extend and will always have the hip flexors shortened. Now I’m not saying that the low bar squat is a bad exercise, it’s just the nature of the beast. This forward lean allows you to involve the hamstrings and lower back to a higher degree. But if you stand up completely straight, you will dump the bar behind you. If you’re including the low bar squat in your routine, you need to have copious amounts of hip flexor stretching or hip extension work to make up for it.
Hip extension work would include deadlift variations, lunge variations, high bar squats and front squats. These all allow you to reach complete hip extension. I love front squats for a number of reasons and this is one big reason. Dan John’s cure for hip flexor tightness is to perform lots of front squats.
For a list of hip hyperextension work, check out this article by Bret Contreras. Lots of good options to use. Make sure you’re completely locking out the hips at the top and squeezing those glutes. Practice your lockout in your warmup. Your aim is to get to the level where you can squeeze your glutes so hard that you can cramp them.
3) Lots of stabilization work.