Working your Abs and not your Hip Flexors

First, the hip flexors are a group of muscles that bring the thigh and trunk of the body closer together. You use your hip flexors in many daily activities like walking, stepping up, and bending over.. Obviously, we need our hip flexors. But we usually don’t need them as much as we use them in ab exercises.

Here is the problem: When we exercise to target the abs, as we do in Pilates, we do exercises that decrease the distance between our thigh and trunk. Now the hip flexors are a strong group of muscles, and they try to take over. So we end up working our hip flexors more than our abdominal muscles! This is one of the ways that you can do 500 situps and not have a single one of them truly target your abs. The same kind of situps where you put your feet under something that holds them down and do a whole bunch of situps with an almost flat back… you’re using mostly hip flexors.

So how do you not use your hip flexors? The answer isn’t simple. A lot of us have to work on the hip flexor habit constantly. For one thing, you can’t really leave the hip flexors entirely out of most ab exercises. They are still an important part of the picture. The idea is to get the abs involved as much as you can and to keep the hip flexors from taking over.

Our first thing is always “awareness”. When you do Pilates or other ab focused work, put your attention on your abdominal muscles. Start to figure out for yourself what feels like abs and what feels like hip flexors. Over tucking the pelvis can trigger the hip flexors to work overtime.

Low back pain and soreness in the groin area may be signs that you are weak in the abs and overusing your hip flexors. Another clue is not being able to keep your feet and legs down when you do a sit up or roll up. What’s happening there is that the abs aren’t strong enough to do their up-and-over contraction, but we’ve told the body to get the trunk and thigh closer together, so the hip flexors take over and the feet fly up. Tight hamstrings play a role too. Next week, I am going to give you basic “abs” exercises and help you focus on working your core and leaving out the hip flexors.

May 9, 2010 · Monica Dawson · Comments Closed
Posted in: core strength, Injury Prevention