Over the past few weeks you may have heard me talk about not using your hip flexors, switching off your thighs and hips or releasing tension through the hips…. why? It’s all about using the core more and the hip flexors less.
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. Technical bit here: the hip flexors are the illiacus, psoas major, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius muscles.
Now these are a very important group of muscles but they can tend to take over when we do core work. In some exercises duch as curl ips, roll ups and leg lifts the hip flexors can want to do the work, which means the abdominal muscles do less! Hence some people can do sit ups all day – it doesn’t mean their core is strong 😉
So how do I stop using my hip flexors?
A lot of us have to work on the hip flexor habit constantly and to be honest you can’t leave the hip flexors entirely out of most abdominal exercises. The idea is to get the core involved as much as you can and to keep the hip flexors from taking over too much. Think core more, hip flexors less.
Body awareness is the key here, think about what muscles you can feel active/tight when doing exercises. Try to switch off the hip flexors, relax through the bum, thighs and legs. It may mean taking an exercise down a level in order to perfect your technique. Try not to grip through the floor and draw the core in a little more. Soreness in the groin area (especially after classes) can be a sign that you are weak in the abs and over-using 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.
These Pilates exercises can help increase awareness and set the foundation for the balance between the core and hip flexor use:
In knee folds, using the core muscles to stabilize the pelvis and lifting from your centre not your hips, also. In knee folds try to keep your big muscles, like the quadriceps of the thigh, out of the exercise as much as possible. Keep space in the hip area.
Half Roll Back: As you begin to roll back, You might sense a point where the hip flexors want to take over. You can feel that at crease of your thigh. As you roll down, the hip flexors will have to do some stabilizing, but try to maintain a focus on rolling down and controlling with the core. Again keep that space in the hip area, think length.
The full hundred calls for the legs to be extended. The hip flexors often see that as a call to over-work, so try taking it down a level and keep the legs bent with a focus on just using the core.