Welcome to the fifth blog post in our series on running. My name is Michelle Ball, and I am a Gokhale Method® teacher living in Tasmania. I am also a lifelong runner and am passionate about sharing the benefits of healthy posture with the running community, be that beginners, seasoned runners, or anyone in between. Even if you don’t run, but do want an active and pain-free body well into old age, this blog post is for you!
What is an anteverted pelvis?
Pelvis refers to the bony pelvis, and means basin, or bowl, in Latin. Anteverted means tipped, turned, or inclined forward, from the Latin ante to go before or in front, and vertere to turn. So we are referring to a pelvis that tips forward.
The angled belt line of the Ubong tribesman on the left shows that his pelvis is anteverted—mildly tipped forward. Contrary to popular belief, an anteverted pelvis does not cause excessive lumbar lordosis (sway back) when there is a healthy angle at the L5-S1 junction. His back remains surprisingly straight by conventional standards.
(a.) An anteverted pelvis facilitates heath posture. The commonly advocated “neutral pelvis.” (b.) is actually mildly tucked and does not allow the correct lumbo-sacral angle and stacking of the spine. (c.) A markedly tucked (retroverted) pelvis leads to a tense, compressed lumbar area, or to slumping.,
How an anteverted pelvis benefits the spine:
As you see in the image above, an anteverted pelvis (see example (a.)), is the foundation for a healthy, straighter, more vertical spine, which does not sway or round. It provides the correct orientation for the sacrum to support the L5-S1 disc, which is wedge-shaped, and then for the L5 vertebra and those above to stack well. A tucked pelvis, over time, will likely cause the L5-S1 disc to suffer wear and tear, bulging, or worse, and put pressure on the sciatic nerve roots.
(a.) An anteverted pelvis preserves the wedge-shaped L5-S1 disc. (b.) A tucked pelvis cannot accommodate this and the lower discs will suffer undue pressure and bulging toward the nerve roots.
Like the Ubong tribesmen and people throughout the nonindustrialized world, these elite runners show both an anteverted pelvis and an upright torso. Unsplash
Running leaning forward
Some running coaches teach a forward lean of the torso, which I agree reproduces some of the benefits of a healthy L5-S1 angle for runners who are currently stiff at that joint and therefore slightly tucked if they remain upright. Leaning forward helps compensate for any lack of L5-S1 angle, and harnesses power from the energy of impact when the back leg pushes off.
Leaning forward is strongly advocated in the ChiRunning technique, which was developed by Danny Dreyer. You can watch Esther in conversation with Danny here, where he explains his approach.
Danny Dreyer advocates a forward lean when running, with shoulders, hips and ankles aligned. This is a useful technique to help orient the pelvis, especially if the L5-S1 angle does not allow for the torso to be upright. It also provides additional momentum.
World-renowned Kenyan runners often run with a good L5-S1 angle that anteverts the pelvis, combined with only a slight forward lean. Flikr
An anteverted pelvis also confers mechanical advantage to the buttock muscles. With the behind behind, they can contract powerfully to pull the legs back and aid propulsion. Under-developed glutes are a common casualty when the pelvis is tucked.
You can see here that I am running with my pelvis anteverted, and a slight lean forward, both of which put my glutes behind to help power my stride.
It is important that, in an effort to get your behind behind, the anteverted pelvis is not mimicked by simply sticking your bottom back with tension (sway) in the lower back. The pelvis needs to settle into anteversion naturally, with healthy articulation at the L5-S1 joint, relaxed back muscles and hip joints, and healthy alignment throughout the body. Gokhale Method teachers have the techniques and expertise to help you get there without inadvertently creating more postural problems.
This runner has her behind behind her—but, as the creases in her top confirm, she is tensing her back into a sway and lifting her front ribcage to get there. Pexels
This footballer has his behind behind with an anteverted pelvis that articulates at L5-S1. His torso remains largely straight, which enables him to twist with good length in his spine, rather than compounding compressed discs and nerves. Pixabay
I find it interesting that a forward-leaning stance which aligns the torso with the extended back leg and supports pelvic anteversion is also a key ingredient in learning to glidewalk. Glidewalking is taught in detail in our Gokhale Method® in-person Foundations and Pop-up courses, and our online Elements course. Glidewalking produces a natural, smooth and powerful gait, which in particular strengthens the glutes and the feet. Students who have learned glidewalking find their running improved by the Downtime Training™of simply walking—but walking well.
Good hip health
The anteverted pelvis is part of nature’s blueprint for healthy human posture and sound biomechanics. It is no surprise therefore that it confers many benefits throughout the body. An anteverted pelvis gives the best fit and function for the hip joints, avoiding the misalignments that occur with tucking. Poorly aligned hips can cause bursitis, labral tears, and osteoarthritis within the joints, and soft tissue issues such as muscle strains, tendonitis, and ITB (iliotibial band) problems further down.
Jogging or walking with a tucked pelvis encourages tight hip joints, internal rotation of the feet, legs, and hips, rounding of the torso, and forward head carriage. Pexels
Pain in the knees, lower legs, and feet
When runners get pain in their knees, lower legs, or feet, one of the last places they are likely to look for a remedy is their pelvic position. They are far more likely to blame their shoes! While the right shoes are important, (see Running P3: How to choose running shoes), it is often a revelation for runners to realize how the angle of the pelvis affects their gait.
One serious problem with tucking the pelvis that hits runners particularly hard is excessive heel strike. While this may also occur in walking with a tucked pelvis, running or even slow jogging will mean that an unduly forward thrusting front leg will suffer more impact. This may result in not only wear and tear, but immediate and painful damage, as the femoral head (top of the thigh bone) is jammed back into the hip socket, and the knee joint of a more forward and likely more straightened leg is jarred. Sticking the heel forward is like ramming the brakes on while still stepping on the gas! The answer to a thudding heel strike is not to buy excessively padded shoes, but to antevert the pelvis.
A tucked pelvis points the thighs forward, resulting in an excessive heel strike and jarring through the front leg knee and hip. sportssurgeryclinic.com
This runner has her behind behind, but the orientation of her pelvis comes from a
swayed lumbar area, not from L5-S1. The front of her rib cage and chin are pulled up.
She is about to heel strike—bad news for her straightened front leg and hip joint. Unsplash
Doing a much better job, an anteverted pelvis:
- Puts the muscles and soft tissues, especially the glutes, in a position of mechanical advantage, without threatening the lumbar spine
- Enables better weight distribution and therefore bone health
- Places the thigh in a healthier position to absorb forces in the hip socket
- Allows landing with a bent front knee, with better shock absorption
- Facilitates a light heel/midfoot landing, avoids excessive heel strike, is more energy-efficient
This runner has good form. Her behind is behind because of a pronounced angle at L5-S1 (anteverted pelvis). Her back remains largely straight, her shoulders back, her neck tall. She will land without unduly jarring her joints. Unsplash
Support for the pelvic organs
An important benefit of an anteverted pelvis is that the bones of the pubis are able to play their part in supporting the pelvic organs. Organ prolapse and incontinence can affect everyone, especially as we age, and is also a common problem in our culture for women during or after pregnancy. When the pelvis is tucked the organ support is overly reliant on the soft tissues of the pelvic floor, such as the Kegel muscle.
(a.) With an anteverted pelvis, the pubic bone is positioned to support the pelvic organs. (b.) With a tucked pelvis, the Kegel muscle is obliged to assume this role.
There is nothing worse than getting a run in and having to use the bathroom, especially if there is not one available! Heather A. Dunfee is a physical therapist in the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, and a certified Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist. She does not refer specifically to the anteverted pelvis, but she is clear that tucking the pelvis is bad news:
For runners, good alignment can help your core to better absorb impact, preventing leaks. For example, a slight forward lean helps to put your deep core "canister" in the best alignment to do its job. Think about stacking your rib cage over your pelvis, something that comes naturally when running uphill. . . Hills are great because they force the body into a position of rib cage over pelvis and untuck the bum.
Here are previous running posts you might like:
Running P1: Introduction, Esther Gokhale
Running P2: Meet Your Feet, Michelle Ball
Running P3: How to choose running shoes, Michelle Ball
Running P4: Taking care of your knees, Michelle Ball
If you would like to find out more about how the Gokhale Method can help support you, sign up to join one of our upcoming FREE Online Workshops.