The Pancake: reflections on mastering the essential anterior pelvic tilt
By Olivia Allnutt
The ‘Pancake’ is an exemplar exercise in flexibility, and much strived for. It involves sitting on the floor with legs spread wide, then bending forward and placing the torso flat on the floor – pubic bone/abdomen/ribs/chest/arms, in that order – via flexion at the hip, not of the spine. An essential component of the pancake is anterior pelvic tilt. It is this aspect that many, many people struggle to master, even people who are relatively flexible in the other muscles involved in the movement, so hamstrings, adductors, etc.
In this post, I take you through ways to develop the capacity to roll the pelvis anteriorly. First, a couple of key global points. Trying to do this from a too-strong stretch position will not be effective in my experience. By too strong I mean, any version where lack of range of movement in hamstrings, adductors, external hip rotators, other muscles/tissues, are stopping the pelvis rolling. So, don’t go as far forward as you can and **then** try and roll the pelvis: instead, stay as upright as you need to so that you can roll the pelvis, and practise the movement there. Focus on rolling the pelvis actively in each position – actively means using muscles in the hips and the groin to do the movement. You can reach out to a pole or rail in front of you, but in my experience relying on the pulling force from the arms/lats (or indeed, a partner’s weight lying on your back) is not as effective as actively rolling the pelvis yourself … until that movement is in your body. To belabour this point: make all pelvic movements via muscular effort of the muscles that attach to the pelvis, not by pulling with your arms/lats, or application of an external force.
Your goal here is to **feel** how to tilt the pelvis, from a position where you can produce some movement: that is, where the stretch sensation is not overwhelming the nervous system and/or just preventing any pelvic movement. In my experience, unless you are already very flexible in the pancake exercise, practising it getting the chest – and only the chest/shoulders, not the abdomen – close to the floor by letting your lumbar spine flex strongly and then trying to straighten the lower back by pulling with the arms is not effective. You might get lower in the pancake, sure, but you will not be feeling how to do the key component, which is the anterior pelvic tilt.
First is a short video of my cold pancake today, to show the result of this work!
The Pancake: reflections on mastering the essential anterior pelvic tiltFind a long post related to this video here on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StretchTherapyKitLaughlin/posts/1847423615340121
Posted by Stretch Therapy on Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Now, six still images taken at a November 2016 workshop at ST HQ, Greenwell Point: this 1–2 partner exercise has many very effective elements.
I’ve long argued that being able to move the pelvis – particularly in anterior tilt, but not only in this direction – is the key to being able to do the pancake: it has certainly worked for me! I do think many other techniques – such as active compression, active reaching with momentum, having a partner’s weight added by lying on your back, etc. – will help ‘get you further down’, but, what I observe when I see people doing many of these is that, often, the pelvis does not move anteriorly. Practising pelvic movements well out of a stretch position, so that movement is possible, is gold, and once available, the pelvic movement can be used in conjunction with all other techniques.