Your hip flexors are muscles that bring your legs and torso together. If your hip flexors are tight you can still do an ab workout while taking it easy on them. Stretch your tight hip flexors so you don't develop low back problems. Use a pillow under your buttocks for a deeper hip flexor stretch and focus on correct muscle use during your ab workout.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Before you start your ab workout, stretch your tight hip flexors. Since your hip flexors close the angle between your thighs and tummy, stretch them by opening your hip angle and feeling the stretch at the bend of your hip. Grasp behind your right knee, drawing your right thigh toward your tummy. Keep your left leg straight and press your left hamstring toward the floor. Avoid locking your left knee. Notice the stretch in the front of your left hip. Breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right leg. For a deeper stretch, place a pillow under your buttocks and repeat the stretch. Tighten your abs to help avoid arching your low back.
Abdominal compressions target your deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis. Contracting this muscle helps minimize your waist circumference and flattens your abdomen. Kneel on all fours and straighten your entire back parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders over your wrists and your neck neutral. Relax your belly down toward the floor and inhale. Purse your lips, scoop your navel up toward your spine and exhale completely. Repeat for 20 repetitions. Once you have learned how to compress your abdomen into your spine, purposefully keep your tummy compression throughout your ab workout and throughout the day.
Standing Side Flexions
Side flexions engage your obliquus abdominis and obliquus abdominis internus, which run around your waist at a downward angle. The opposing muscles in your back, quadratus lumborum, are also strengthened. These muscles help you bend your spine sideways and rotate your torso. Stand with your feet pointing straight ahead, hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand, by your left hip, and place your right hand at the base of your skull, elbow open. Stand tall and compress the front of your abdomen. Inhale and lower the dumbbell down by flexing your spine to the left. Exhale and contract your right oblique muscles to straighten up. Continue until you feel muscle burn. Switch sides.
Supine Pelvic Tilt
You can focus on your rectus abdominis, responsible for the six pack, without using your hip flexors if you perform an isometric crunch with a supine pelvic tilt. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together and your knees bent and open. Place your finger pads at the base of your skull and open your elbows. Slightly tuck your chin to straighten your neck. Compress your rib cage down to raise your torso. This is an isometric crunch position which you will hold. Inhale to prepare. Exhale and tilt your pubic bone toward your bellybutton. Inhale and relax the pelvic contraction, exhale and contract again. Continue until you feel an abdominal burn.
- YMCA Pilates Instructor Manual; YMCA of the USA
- Women's Strength Training Anatomy; Frederic Delavier
- ACE GetFit: Supine Hip Flexor Stretch
Lynne Shaw has been a professional writer for more than 15 years. She additionally enjoyed a long career in news/talk radio production and anchoring. Her articles have appeared in numerous national and regional publications. She is a contributor in "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman's Soul."