Neutral Pelvis2

Some instructors grapple with how to focus on one concept and end up teaching several different exercises that don’t have anything to do with this concept. The rule of thumb is: teach lots of exercises in all different movement planes, and only reinforce “the concept of the day” in the exercises that require it. The rest of the time, just help people move and have fun.

If we take “neutral pelvis” as our key concept, we need to remember to build in time to introduce it and get people to understand what it means. Then we have to figure out a way for them to experience and practice the concept. The more methodical you can be, the more successful your participants will feel.

Help people understand what a neutral pelvis is and why it is important

Before teaching exercises that require a neutral pelvis, you have to teach them what the heck this means. Build in a few moments at some point in the first 15 minutes of the class and teach people what it is and how to find it. The easiest way is when people are on their backs with knees bent and feet flat. You can ask them to place their fingertips on their ASIS (aka “hip bones”) and simply rock these bones forward and back. After 4 to 6 reps, ask them to land somewhere in the middle between the two tilts and tell them “this is neutral pelvis”.

Then make it matter. This is the step that gets missed all too often, but it is the best opportunity to create meaning around an instruction you give. Why should you care about this? Research shows that when you help people understand the why behind something, they are way more open to it and willing to try. And most importantly, willing to try again.

Once your class has found neutral pelvis, tell them that this is a really important piece of building a strong core. Tell them that it takes time to master and that you will be reminding them about it over and over. Tell them that it should always feel comfortable in their backs. And finally, explain that even though neutral pelvis is the most effective position for working the core, sometimes they may feel as if nothing is happening!

Help people experience and feel neutral pelvis

This is the fun part and the confusing part all rolled into one. Because of this paradox, I am going to offer you a way that has worked for me every time. Take a look at this class plan and take note of the timing as well as how many times we revisit the concept of neutral pelvis in different ways.

You can use and modify this class plan depending on your group.

Class Plan to introduce concept of neutral pelvis

Do a warm up that mobilizes the major joints (10 min.) — do not mention neutral pelvis once!

Pelvic tilts – to mobilize hips

Hip sways – to mobilize the hips, pelvis and spine

Thoracic rotation – to mobilize the thoracic spine

Sagittal and lateral arm arcs – to mobilize the shoulders and shoulder girdle

Pelvic tilts + sagittal arm arcs – to integrate the mobilization of the hips, pelvis, spine and shoulders

Introduce the concept of neutral pelvis (5 min.)

Say: “We have done a little warm up and now I want to introduce one of six key concepts that are essential to optimal movement and a strong core. It is called neutral pelvis and it is one of the building blocks we will return to over and over again.

What I would like you to do is put your hands on your hip bones (show everyone what you mean). Next, you are going to start to tilt your pelvis forward and backward so you feel your lower back pressing into the floor and then arching away from it.”

Let the group practice pelvic tilting 6 to 8 times and then say:

On the next round I would like you to tilt back and forth and then land somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.”

Pause and give them a moment to do it. Then say: “This position between the two extremes of tilting is called neutral pelvis. And, like I said before, this is essential to optimal movement and a strong core.”

Then say: What we are going to do for the rest of the class is a whole range of exercises. Some will need a neutral pelvic placement and others not. I will make sure to tell you when a neutral pelvis is needed. One last note: neutral pelvis takes a number of tries to master, so don’t worry if you don’t quite get it today. You will get lots of practice, and when it all starts to fall into place you will start to notice a real difference in how you feel around your midriff.”

Practice the concept of neutral pelvis in some exercises in your sequence (35 min.)

Bridge – mention neutral pelvis

Bridge with sagittal arm arcs – mention neutral pelvis here

Bridge with pelvic rotation – mention neutral pelvis on the way up into the bridge position and then tell your group that now they are going to unlevel the pelvis and NOT keep it neutral; this helps them start to make sense of the difference between neutral and other positions for the pelvis

Ab curl  x 8 – mention neutral pelvis and get people to look at their pelvic area to see whether it looks level; this is super helpful because the visual reinforces the sensation

Ab curl + hip fold x 4 each side – mention neutral pelvis as they come up in the ab curl and as they hold the hip and lift the leg; it is often in lifting the leg that the pelvis becomes uneven. (This is due to a lack of stability in the lumbar area; you don’t need to say a word about this, just get your participants to pay attention.)

Oblique ab curl x 6 each side – mention neutral pelvis and expect to see people have challenges staying in position; say nothing and just keep reminding they to observe and feel

Side lying hip abduction 2 sets x 10 each side – mention neutral pelvis here and take a couple of moments to get your participants to check if the hip bones are stacked on top of each other; people do pretty well in the side lying position so just observe and keep asking them to monitor themselves

Kneeling side bend x 4 each side – only mention neutral pelvis if it looks like people are straining

Kneeling rotation x 4 each side – only mention neutral pelvis if it looks like people are straining

Kneeling extension  x 4 – only mention neutral pelvis if it looks like people are straining

Quadruped arm + leg reach x 4 with each pair of opposite limbs – mention neutral pelvis and expect people to have challenges in this position

Cat/Cow x 6 – do not mention neutral pelvis; just let people move

Prone spine extension x 6 – instead of asking people to hold neutral pelvis, try asking them to pull their lower abdominal wall away from the floor so they feel the muscles tighten

Prone robot arms x 6 – like prone spine extension, ask people to pull their lower abdominal wall away from the floor so the muscles tighten

Cat/Cow x 6 – do not mention neutral pelvis

½ Roll back x 4 – do not mention neutral pelvis; instead, ask people to pull their lower abdominal wall toward the spine so the muscles tighten

Neutral bridge x 4 – mention neutral pelvis

Neutral bridge with sagittal arm arcs x 4 – mention neutral pelvis

Cool down/repeat the warm up (7 min.)

Pelvic tilts – to mobilize the hips. Do not mention neutral pelvis at all here

Hip sways – to mobilize the hips, pelvis and spine

Thoracic rotation – to mobilize the thoracic spine

Sagittal and lateral arm arcs – to mobilize the shoulders and shoulder girdle

Pelvic tilts + sagittal arm arcs – to integrate the mobilization of the hips, pelvis, spine and shoulders

Pelvic tilts – get the group to do these slowly and feel for whether the tilts are bigger or smaller or just the same as at the beginning. All three are correct!

Reinforce key concept of neutral pelvis (2 min.)

Ask the group to stop tilting somewhere between the two extremes.

Ask them what the position is called.

Ask them why it is important.

Make sure to repeat their answers out loud in case some people have difficulty hearing. If you get silence simply say the answer out loud so everyone can hear it.

Celebrate your class’s success! (1 min.)

Say what is in your heart and make it genuine! Tell them all the things they did well and help them know they are on the right track. Ask for feedback and if they have questions.

 

Question for you!

How do you introduce neutral pelvis to your clients? Please share your answers in the comments section below.