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How to Do Pelvic Curl in Pilates: Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes

Pelvic curl helps in strengthening your abdominal muscles. (Image via Pexels / Anete Lusina)
Pelvic curl helps in strengthening your abdominal muscles. (Image via Pexels / Anete Lusina)
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Soniya Y

A pelvic curl is an exercise aimed at working your abdominal muscles. It is performed on a mat or other flat surface and involves a series of movements that train your core.

If done properly, this exercise can strengthen the muscles in your lower back as well as your pelvis, hips and knees. Once you master a pelvic curl, it may feel uncomfortable to go back to not doing it.

That's because pelvic curls have such an effect on your posture, which causes an immediate sense of relief. That feeling encourages you to stick with it and build up your pelvic tilt and pelvic curl strength over time.


How to Do the Pelvic Curl with Correct Form?

The pelvic curl is a foundation exercise, which means it's the starting point for a lot of different progressions and variations. It's the ideal warm-up activity, as it increases body awareness and prepares the body for tasks ahead.

With pelvic curl exercises, you focus on:

  • The spine's mobility and articulation
  • Stabilisation of the pelvis and lumbar spine
  • Control and activation of the abdominal and hamstring muscles

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To do the pelvic curl:

  • Lie back on a mat or exercise blanket, keeping your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Put your arms down at your sides, palms facing the floor.
  • Tilt your pelvis forward so that it's in a neutral position. Inhale, and prepare for exercise; exhale and set the core, then begin to curl up off of the mat while stretching your hip flexors (the muscles in front of your hip bones).
  • Inhale as you hold at the top of this position; make sure you're feeling a stretch in your hip flexors, and hold there before lowering yourself back down to the mat.
  • Once you reach the bottom position - where your tailbone touches - exhale as you lower yourself one vertebra at a time till you're back in starting position.

If you have tight spots in your back, it can be challenging to bridge. It may feel as if you can articulate through some parts of the spine but other parts feel more like a plank of wood. Keep practicing, and with awareness, you will begin to mobilise the tight parts of your spine and feel as if the back can move more freely.


Tips and Techniques for Pelvic Curl Exercise

  • Lie down on your back; bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Align your ankles, knees and hips to form a straight line. This position will start in neutral spine—the natural curves of your spine are present so your lower back is not pressed into the mat.
  • Engage your abs by pulling your belly button toward your spine, and keep it in that position as you press the lower spine into the floor. In this position, your back is very long on the floor, and your pelvis is tilted so that the pubic bone is higher than the hip bones.
  • Inhale as you raise your legs and tailbone up toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale, lifting your hips and lower back next. Let go of your breath as you roll your spine down to settle between your shoulder blades. Roll one vertebra at a time, working down from your upper back to your lower back.

Benefits of Pelvic Curl

If you are performing the pelvic curls correctly, your abdominal muscles should be doing most of the work.

Pelvic curls differ from bridge exercises in that your glutes and hamstrings should play less of a role in this exercise. That is because glutes and hamstrings are responsible for bending your back forward. The goal is for the back to be alone for the ride and only bear minimal weight during this exercise.

The pelvic curl is a movement that can be used to coordinate breathing and movement, to learn how to move your spine in full control and to prepare for the exercises that follow. Pelvic curls may also be used in physical therapy and rehabilitation from back injuries.


Common Mistakes

Avoid these mistakes to get the most out of this workout while avoiding injury:

Too Much Arching

Only arch your back till your shoulder blades begin to lift off the mat. Stop right there. Arching beyond that will begin to put strain on your neck, and you will risk excessive back arching.

Going too quickly

This should be done vertebra by vertebra, up and down. The emphasis is on physical awareness and control.

Shoulder and Neck Tension

Throughout the workout, keep your shoulders and neck relaxed.


Precautions & Safety

Unless you have problems laying flat, or you have a recent lower back injury or steoporosis, this exercise is suitable for most people. Consult your doctor, physical therapist or Pilates instructor to determine which modifications are necessary. Early pregnancy is fine, but later on, you might not feel comfortable lying on your back. If you feel any discomfort, stop doing this exercise.


Bottom Line

The pelvic curl is a great exercise for the core, hips and glutes working to stabilise the pelvis (usually with problems of rotational or lateral flexion) while mobilising the lower back.

There are numerous variations of this exercise; many of them very similar, but all are focused towards resolving particular mobility issues.


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Edited by Bhargav
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