Hip Flexors & Abs

October 2, 2013

Hey there! It’s been a little while since I put up a blog post. I was inspired this week with several people all having the same thing going on… Lazy abs…

Lazy abs is a common thing I see happening in many people, both people who have been active in sports requiring a flexed hip position for years and people who have been quite sedentary for years.

This ‘”Lazy abs” is not necessarily because of weakness of the muscle, but over time without proper use the abdominal muscles will become weaker.

So… what exactly is it that I see happening?

…The tendency of the brain is to call on whichever muscle will respond quickest and with the most power and/or endurance to get the job done. I term this, “habitual patterns of contraction”.

When it comes to core stabilization, which is important in any activity (even sitting at your computer, imagine the additional importance when you add the force of a kick or the impact of running to it!), it is all too easy for the iliopsoas muscles (your main hip flexors) to contract and cheat you of that stability (abs and back muscles) around your spine.

Contraction of iliopsoas in fact pulls on the front of your lower spine, which leads to excessive lumbar curve and compression of the low back. If one side tends to work harder than the other (and this is usually the case) this can also lead to a forward rotation to that hip bone resulting in an imbalance in the joints and muscles of the whole pelvis, hips, and back.

Why do I see this happening often in people who have been active in sports for years? Well, in those sports that require a flexed hip position (can you think of any that don’t?) the hip flexors not only tend to become shorter, they also tend to become stronger. If a poor habit of cheating core stability by using the hip flexors is continued over years it just becomes a stronger pattern, like anything else.

This differs from someone who is largely sedentary and has shorter hip flexors simply from being in a seated position for so many hours each day. These people will not only have chronically shorter hip flexors, but also weaker muscles, both the hip flexors and the abs.

This video describes a simple exercise to help you differentiate between the iliopsoas muscles and your abdominal muscles, particularly the transversus abdominus (the deepest ab more responsible for spinal stability than spinal flexion like the sexy six pack rectus abdominus).

In the exercise we are using our hip flexors only to stabilize the hip against the weight of the leg, and we’re calling on the abs to both stabilize the low back and tilt the pelvis. This encourages immediate and stronger contraction of the deeper ab muscles.

Let’s train our brains to use those abs!