Do you ever feel soreness in your hip flexors (the muscles that wrap around your hips) when you are doing abdominal exercises? When your core muscles are weak or when they fatigue, the hip flexors really like to jump right in and take over! This means the muscles you want to work are not being used and also means that your usually overworked and tight hip flexors are being overused.
Our hip flexors are often tight for a variety of reasons: working at a desk, exercises that keep the hip flexors contracted (e.g. spinning or cycling) and because we may not be stretching the hips as much as we need to (there may also be factors such as osteoarthritis and circulation issues, so always good to check with your Doctor if you have concerns!).
It is so important to build hip mobility into our daily life and into our workouts. Taking time each day to stand and stretch out your hips will make such a difference in terms of feeling better in your lower back and your legs. Building stretches for the hip flexors into your life will also allow you to move your body more efficiently in your workouts and when playing sports.
Here are some mobility moves that can help ease tightness in the hips and lengthen the hip flexors:
Working on glute strength can also help to open the front of the hips! Moves like deadlifts, glute bridges, and hip thrusts can fire up the glutes and allow the hip flexors to lengthen.
Now, technically speaking, the hip flexors are part of our core muscles so they will naturally assist during abdominal exercises but there are some exercises that will allow you to target your abdominal muscles more effectively. Moves that involve more isometric holds such as planks can help to target the deep transverse abdominis muscle that is like a corset wrapping around our midsection. Here are a few exercises to try (explanations and tips below):
- Bird/Dog with core ball under knee – this is a great stability move that will target your deep abdominal muscles. Be sure to position your wrists below your shoulders and draw your belly button back…move slowly and mindfully!
- Plank with dumbbell transfer – I LOVE this move! You can pick your weight and feel your core working as you pull the dumbbell from one side to the other. Again, position wrists under shoulders and try to keep your body in a long line from the crown of your head to your ankles. Modify by dropping to your knees.
- Stuart McGill’s Curl Up – One of the renowned spine expert Stuart McGill’s Big 3 exercises for building a strong core, this will feel like you aren’t moving much at all if you are used to doing crunches. Lying on your back with one knee bent and one leg extended, place one hand under your lower back and the other arm along your body. Lift the head and shoulder blades off the floor slightly and hold. This is SO much harder than doing crunches!
Let me know how these exercises work for you!