Thursday, 16 March 2017

The pelvis and its role in functional movement

What is functional movement?

Functional movements are movements based on real life situational biomechanics. For example, squatting and lunging. Your body is an integrated system. This means your muscles do not work in isolation. They work together with other muscles to produce movement. For example, the biceps muscle flexes the elbow, but there will be other muscles acting as synergists (pecs and deltoid muscles) to help control the movement. Other structures in the joint such as ligaments also play a role in helping to create movement by providing stability through certain movement patterns. A dysfunction in these movement patterns can cause a decline in athletic performance and therefore injury and pain.

back pain

4 important sling systems of the pelvic region

1.      Anterior oblique system – external and internal obliques and opposing groins, along with the intervening abdominal fascia. This is involved in stabilisation of the lumbar spine, thoracic spine, rib cage, pubic symphysis, and hips. It also helps with whole body pushing movements and helps transfer forces between the upper and lower body (Lee, 1999).

2.      Posterior oblique system – the lats, thoracolumbar fascia and opposing glute maximus and medius. This involves stabilisation of the lumbar spine and sacro-iliac joints. It helps to turn out the kinetic chain, helps with whole body pulling movements and helps transfer forces between the upper and lower body. This system is most commonly seen in gait because of its fight to control rotation of the pelvis which occurs in the gait cycle (Lee, 1999).

3.      Lateral system – gluteus medius and minimus, groins and opposing QL (lower back muscle). This helps to provide lateral stability in the pelvis, for example, walking and climbing stairs etc. It deals with single leg movement patterns and whole body frontal plane (sideways) movement. It also helps transfer forces between the upper and lower body. A weakness in this system can lead to hip pain, knee pain, ACL injuries and ankle sprains (Lee, 1999).

4.      Deep longitudinal system – spinal erectors (lower back), thoracolumbar fascia via sacrotuberous ligament, biceps femoris (hamstring), head of fibula, peroneals and tibialis anterior (shin muscles). This system helps to create stability of the lumbosacral complex and the foot and arch complex. It helps to control supination and pronation of the foot from heel strike through to mid-stance of the gait cycle. During high intensity activity, it provides a communication for proprioceptive information about ground reaction forces (Lee, 1999).

As a population, the focus is more pointed towards “posterior chain” work because of tight hip flexors and quads. Sometimes, this isn’t the case with athletes and the development of exercise programs should be dealt with more profoundly. Understanding the mechanics of the body is an important part of creating better exercises for better pain free movement.
The components of fitness are extremely important for optimum health. Many people workout to become stronger for their sport, run quicker, lose weight, improve mobility, increase stamina and for the general feel-good factor. These are all great reasons to train, but there is so much more to training then this. We need to think about training our neuromuscular system! What about balance, co-ordination, agility, power and reaction time? These components are just as important as strength training or endurance training. If you do strength training in the gym or you do long runs and keep getting aches and pains, maybe you need to think about adding in some of these to help improve your overall health and fitness.


Lee, Diane, “The Pelvic Girdle: An approach to the examination and treatment of the lumbo-pelvic-hip region”: Churchill Livingstone, 1999, Toronto, Canada

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