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Fixed my hip tilt and NOW I have pain

I have been lifting, bodybuilding style, for about 10 years now (off and on though). During all this time I have tried to use “good form” as I know it. For example, I don’t believe I’ve ever rounded my back (thoracic spine area) when squatting (or any other exercise for that matter).

When I found T-mag a few years ago, I became convinced that I needed to address some imbalances. I had always had postural problems, as long as I can remember, and bodybuilding had helped but only a little. I took Ian King’s advice and started training lagging body parts first in the workout and first in the week. I also experimented with different exercises. I was specifically working on hip tilt. Eventually, I saw a difference in my lumbar lordosis; where I used to have a strong lumbar curve and forward-tilting pelvis, now it’s a small curve and level pelvis.

This is supposed to be good, but a few months after really seeing a difference in my hip tilt, I began experiencing lumbar spine pain. This was about 6 months ago, and I have had consistent back pain these 6 months. My posture has never been better, never in my whole life. And I’ve never had back or knee pain before, never in my whole life.

Needless to say, I’m depressed about this situation. Here I’ve tried to use good form, as far as I knew, not cheat, not lift too much weight - and now I’m in pain.

Around this same time I was really working on that hip tilt, I was inspired by a T-mag article to go deeper when squatting but noticed I couldn’t do it and maintain good form. This may have been due to addressable weaknesses, but when I tried to address them, I’d get more back pain OR knee pain.

Now that I have back pain, squatting ain’t what it used to be. My strength has gone WAY down. I can’t even squat the bar down to parallel now with good form and control. (I should mention that I’m a woman who srarted with pencil-skinny legs, and I used to squat typically 105-115.) Well before I get to parallel, my hips start to curl under and my lumbar curve disappears. I’ve been stretching and stretching my hams, but still the bad movement pattern persists. I can’t squat and maintain a lumbar curve any more.

(I should note that I CAN extend my spine in other movements, though my mobility is somewhat decreased.)

I know this may be a tough problem to address in a forum, but if anyone has some insights, I’d really appreciate them!

Hey, there, A! I’m working with a physical therapist to address some of my shoulder imbalances and poor biomechanics and was told that I had some lordosis as well. I’ll talk with my PT on Monday and get his thoughts on what’s going on with you, as this is something I’m going to be addressing in the future.

In the meantime, hang tough. I’m sure there are solutions/fixes to your problem.

Thanks, Tampa-Terry! I am learning all I can about back pain and have made some major changes in my workouts.

Good luck with the shoulders - I once had some shoulder pain, a few months after I started lifting. I was able to fix it pretty easily once a trainer (believe it or not!) showed me some rotator cuff/rear delt stuff. I know that all shoulders problems are not so simple, but I hope yours will soon be fine.

One of the hardest things for me is to stop moving in a way that causes pain for the joints. After lifting for years, I’m so accustomed to causing pain to my muscles. My instincts are to keep working out even if my back or knees are hurting, but from what I’ve read so far it seems that it is a bad idea. I was pulling up every leg workout T-mag has ever published, and probably 75% of the exercises hurt my back right now. It’s frustrating!


Independent of the fact that you’re having pain, here’s what comes to mind:

Regarding your squatting strength going way down, give it time. Essentially, by realigning your pelvis, you’ve also shifted the musculature activated significantly. Before, your hip flexors and erector spinae (and maybe hamstrings) were tight, and the abs and glutes were weak. Now, you’ve reestablished the optimal length-tension relationship with all these muscles: EXCELLENT.

However, what you haven’t done is given the glutes (and to some extent the quadriceps, as you haven’t been getting very deep, which will activate the VMO more) adequate training stimulus. The best analogy I can give you is that these muscles are acting in a newbie fashion right now. Most new weight- trainers have optimal bicep L-T relationships, but that doesn’t mean that they have great curling strength or upper arm girth. They can, however, make excellent progress with a well-periodized program. That’s where you’re at right now. Continue to train the abs, glutes, and quads hard in appropriate rep ranges, and you’ll see excellent results in no time. Your body just needs to adjust to these movement patterns.

However, since you’re having pain, a squat analysis is a valuable tool. More to come…

When you that your “hips start to curl under” and "the lumbar curve disappears, I’m assuming you mean that your lower back rounds? Or, are you saying your stomach protrudes and an excessive lumbar lordosis occurs? If your lower back is rounding, tight hamstrings aren’t the problem. Either:

a) the weight is too heavy and your erector spinae and hamstrings are trying to reestablish the synergistic dominance you struggled with before (not good)


b) your core is weak. While the exercises put forth by Ian King are excellent for establishing proper resting posture, they DO NOT CARRY OVER TO DYNAMIC MOVEMENT PATTERNS. In other words, the abs need to be trained hard and you need to groove the movement pattern with lighter weights FIRST. If you need to consciously think about firing your abs while training or competing in a sport, you’re already way behind the curve.

Eric, thanks for the observations! In re-reading my original post, I see I forgot to mention that I’m pretty sure I have a bulging or herniated disk, probably at L5-S1. I’m thinking that alone could be responsible for reduced strength.

When I said my hips start to curl under and lumbar curve disappears, I meant that my lower back (lumbar spine area) rounds. I guess you could say rounds, but to me it looks straight. At the top of the squat, I have a lumbar curve that to me looks normal. On the descent the curve flattens out; you could stick a ruler on my spine there and not lose contact. My chest does not collapse; upper back appears to stay how it’s supposed to, shoulders back, etc.

I think you’re right that the muscles involved are “acting in a newbie fashion right now.” (Probably an injured fashion as well.) And I think you also hit the nail on the head – that the exercises for resting posture do not carry over to dynamic movement patterns. This is exactly what I’m finding! Actually, I do research in motor control, so I should have known. A motor program is going to be affected by initial posture, but it will also be affected by previously learned patterns of coordinated muscle activations. It’s as if I had adapted to a less-than-ideal posture (over a lifetime of having it) and was actually safer doing movements then because of that adaptation.

Lighter weight doesn’t seem to help. I can’t maintain good squat form now just picking up my gym pants. I have tried to train a sitting-BACK motion by supporting my body weight by grabbing a towel wrapped around a vertical pole in front of me. This motion, frustratingly, makes my KNEES hurt. Maybe I need to be patient and do more of this; but the knee pain worries me.

I think my core IS weak. Actually, I lack endurance in movements where abs have to be used to stabilize the spine (like the plank). I am prioritizing this right now.

A little off-topic: I recently saw your old post about increased cortisol levels. The respondents ignored your situation involving a spine injury. I am experiencing the same kind of cortisol-increase right now. Soon after the back pain, I started packing fat on my abdomen for the first time ever. My tolerance for training (i.e., recovery) is extremely low. I am not aware of any mental stress issues, but the spine injury itself is a major stressor.

I’m not saying you all can’t help, but isn’t it best if she sought professional help first?