Tucked vs. Neutral Pelvic Alignment in Exercise

Understanding pelvic alignment in exercise should be a priority for anyone seeking to maximize the effectiveness of the other athletic moves they do. The alignment of the pelvis affects everything above and below it, from the alignment of the spine and neck to that of the legs and feet. It also impacts gait.

Tucked pelvic alignment is associated with poor posture, back pain, and ineffective movement patterns. When we over tuck the pelvis, we engage a vast set of muscles, including our hip flexors, glutes (butt muscles), and quadriceps in a way that creates an inefficient, and potentially injurious, alignment of the pelvis.

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Watch Now: How to Find Your Neutral Spine Position

In Pilates instruction, there are differing views about whether to do certain exercises with a flat back or a neutral spine. Some Pilates exercises are done in a way that allows the back to lengthen along the mat in response to the engagement of the abdominal muscles creating a slight tilt of the pelvis.

But this is not the excessive tuck that is getting in a lot of people's way. There is not much debate about the potentially negative impact of an overly tucked or misaligned pelvis. Here is how to recognize if your tuck is excessive.

Neutral Pelvis

woman laying with a neutral pelvis position

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

In the photo above, our model has a neutral pelvis. Neutral is generally the most efficient and natural alignment for the pelvis, whether you are standing, sitting, or lying down.

To see that our model's pelvis is in a neutral alignment, notice that if a plate were set on their lower abdomen, it would lie flat, not tilting down or up. If the model were to take this position standing, you could imagine that their pelvis was a bowl of water and that the water would sit evenly and not slosh around the bowl.

The Overly Tucked Pelvis

Tucked pelvis

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Here our model has over-tucked their pelvis. This is a common habit in exercise, but ultimately it is very limiting. It is a position that does not stabilize the pelvis nor work the abdominal muscles in optimal ways.

You can see that if a plate were set on our model's lower abdomen, it would not lie flat. Rather, it would tilt toward their belly button. In order to get their pelvis this tucked, our model has engaged their hip flexor muscles in a way that inhibits freedom of movement. There is too much tilt to the whole pelvic structure.

This position might look familiar. Lots of people end up here when they try to do exercises like crunches or the Pilates roll-up and chest lift. This position makes it harder to get up, and harder to work the muscles you really want to work, like the abs.

Tucked Pelvic Alignment

Take note, especially if you have trouble doing the Pilates roll-up. If you attempt to do the roll-up with an overly tucked pelvis, your effort will likely be futile.

In this position, your hip flexors are bunched up at the front of your thigh at the hip crease, your quads are overly involved, and there is no way you can get your upper body up-and-over with your pelvis tucked. Not only that, but you might be able to imagine how the exertion of hip flexors can make the legs want to fly up, a common problem in roll-up moves.

Learn to work with differences in pelvic alignment for exercise by taking the time to focus on your pelvis before beginning each move. Practice finding your neutral alignment. Then, go to the roll-up and do it without a tuck. Once your abs get stronger, keeping a neutral alignment will become much easier and start to become a habit.

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  1. Cho M. Effects of pelvic adjustment on pelvic posture and angles of the lower limb joints during walking in female university studentsJ Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(4):1284-1288. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.1284