Thursday, 10 October 2013

Anterior Pelvic Tilt in Dancers

Correct alignment is crucial to dance technique. A common alignment issue in dancers is an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt - tilting the the pelvis forward. No two individuals will have identical spinal and pelvic alignment, and so it is perhaps useful to think of there being an  range that can be considered optimal rather than one set alignment that is perfect. The anterior pelvic tilt pulls the body out of correct alignment (outwith the optimal range), resulting in flawed technique and impaired performance. Your lower abdomen will protrude and your backside will stick out. Over and above the artistic flaw, anterior pelvic tilt impairs turnout and prevents proper muscle recruitment, can cause hip pain, back pain, knee pain and flat feet.

The hip flexors connect the femur to the hip and lower back; tight, short hip flexors cause the hip to pull forward. Any misalignment of the hips will effect the back, and anterior pelvic tilt will give a pronounced curvature of the thoracic spine. This in turn may then produce upper back pain, shoulder and neck pain, headaches and migraine.

Healthy hips are essential in dance, the turnout and all subsequent movement of the lower body originates here. While pelvic motion is central to many of the basic movements of dance (for example the battement de vant, a la seconde and derrière all display differing degrees of pelvic motion), the body should have a neutral home alignment. The internal rotation of the hip displayed with APT goes on to effect the lower limbs, producing subsequent internal rotation of both the femur and tibia, reducing turnout. This can cause or exaggerate existing over-pronation of the feet, causing foot, ankle and knee pain. Incorrect alignment further predisposes the dancer to injury.
So in summary, you don't want to have an anterior pelvic tilt.

When correcting a dancer showing anterior pelvic tilt, you may find that telling them to level their pelvis or stand with a neutral pelvis results in them still tilting it forward. Retraining of alignment and having the dancer learn to recognise the feel of correct neutral alignment is important. They will often feel that the tilted position is natural, and the neutral position is not. This can be addressed through strengthening the lower abdominals, hamstrings and glutes and working to loosen tight hip flexors and erector spinae. Gradually standing with neutral pelvic alignment should not feel as unnatural.

The Role of Technique Class in Correcting ATP

Have the dancer focus on pelvic alignment as a priority until it is corrected. Motor control and bodily awareness will improve quickly if they are mindful of correct neutral position throughout barre and centre work.  Barre work may be especially useful in allowing the dancer to develop a sense of control with altered pelvic positioning. Make use of the mirrors as much as possible and ensure the dancer understands the visual as well as the physical sensation of correct and incorrect alignment.

Draw attention to issues caused by the pelvic position, such as pronated feet. Encourage the dancer to feel the correct foot position when the pelvis is neutral, so that changes to overall alignment of the body are considered simultaneously.

Strength Training to Correct ATP

I don't believe that the low intensity, bodyweight only exercises often prescribed to dancers to correct muscle imbalances of weaknesses are close to being as effective as incorporating weight training. When you've been training with improper alignment, you've put hours of high intensity dancing in that have recruited the wrong muscles and neglected others. To correct this, the neglected muscles need to be activated regularly and pushed to address the imbalance. The best method for this is reguar strength training that focuses on maintaining correct alignment.

Bodyweight Glute Bridges - initially emphasise a posterior tilted pelvis in these. They are a great way to train the dancer to neutralise the pelvis, and to strengthen the opposing muscles.

Weighted Glute Bridges - when the dancer is managing to perform bodyweight glute thrusts with correct alignment, moving onto weighted hip thrusts will further strengthen weak hamstrings and glutes.

Deadlifts - an absolute staple for strengthening the posterior chain, however few dancers tend to be familiar with traditional lifts. Poor grip strength may initially be an issue, therefore gradually progress weight until technique the dancer has mastered the technique; focus on correct form and pelvic alignment are crucial.

Hanging Leg Raises - I've found dancers, despite displaying low levels of upper body strength, often enjoy a cross-over in training to gymnastic movements. When performing hanging legs raises, emphasise a neutral, if not a posterior pelvic tilt, to ensure the lower abdominals are fully engaged. Depending on initial strength levels (including upper body and grip strength) the number of reps the dancer is able to perform may initially be limited.

Stretches to Correct Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Stretch the hip flexors - encourage the dancer to utilise foam rollers on these and to stretch the hip flexors regularly.

Do not over-emphasise hamstring flexibility. Dancers have abocve average flexibility levels, not least in the hamstrings. It is not useful to overdevelop flexibility and elasticity on a muscle that is lacking in relative strength. Focus on strengthening the hamstrings as opposed to increasing flexibility.


References:

Bronner, S. and Ojofeitimi, S. (2011) Pelvis and hip three-dimensional kinematics in grand battement movements. JDMS 15(1).
Clippinger, K. (2007)Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology.
Contreras, B. (2012) Don't Be Like Donald Duck. www.t-nation.com
Deckery, JL. (2007) Analysis of pelviv alignment in university ballet majors. JDMS.
Fitt, SS. (1998) Dance Kinesiology.
Gamboian, N. (1999) Effects of dance technique training on pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis alignment during quiet stance and dynamic dance movement. JDMS. 3(1).
Laws, K. (2002) Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement.

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