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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: hip flexor tightness

It is that time of the year again. Everyone wants to lose weight and trim their waistlines. Abs, abs and more abs, right? I am all about some core training, but I am always concerned with some of the ab variations that I see commonly used at the gym and in group fitness environments.

Many exercise enthusiasts have tight hip flexors and poor abdominal control. Sprinkle in a history of low back pain or a prior disc injury along with straight leg abdominal exercises and now you have the perfect recipe for a possible back injury. Why is that? Well, the psoas originates from the lumbar spine and attaches to the lesser trochanter on the hip.

psoas

In the picture above, you can see how the muscle impacts the spine and hips. As you lower your legs toward the ground during an ab exercise, there is a reverse muscle action that takes place and resultant anterior shear force exerted on the lumbar spine. When the abdominal muscles cannot resist this motion, the lumbar spine hyperextends.

Many people will even report feeling a pop in the front of the hip while doing scissor kicks, leg lowering or throw downs. In many cases, this may be the tendon running/rubbing on the pectineal eminence. Unfortunately, long lever and/or ballistic abdominal exercises with inherently poor core stability/strength, fatigue and gravity working against you will create significant load and strain on the lumber spine. Ever wonder why you wanted to put your hands under your back while doing 6 inches? Your brain is trying to flatten the spine using your hands as it knows the hyperlordotic position is uncomfortable and threatening.

In light of this, I put together a little video for PFP Magazine revealing a safer way to work your abs and prevent undue stress and strain on your back. Check it out below.

Keep these modifications and progressions in mind the next time you hit the gym or a boot camp class focusing on core/ab training.

The longer I work with clients, the more hip issues I see.  Generally speaking, I find the major issues to be related to decreased mobility, poor stability and muscle imbalances.  These may occur in isolation or combination.

It is a no-brainer that most people have tight hip flexors and external rotators given all the sitting that takes place in our computer age.  This inherently creates weakness and tightness.  I feel that a natural propensity to be positioned in hip external rotation may actually reduce the firing of these muscles which in turn allows for more valgus moments at the knee and reduces lower limb stability.

Typically, female athletes fail to adequately fire the gluteus maximus (hip extension and external rotation) and prefer to dominate movement with the quads.  So, how do we begin to change this?

Well, first we must focus on better hip mobility.  I believe we must work to gain better hip extension by stretching the hip flexor group.  I also believe we need to do this dynamically and not just passively.  A dynamic approach also allows us to improve knee stability on the opposite side as we work on hip mobility.  It will also allow us to resist internal rotation of the femur and the valgus moment at the forward knee.

Look at the images below:

bosu-split-squat-diagonal-chop-1

bosu-split-squat-diagonal-chop-2

I am demonstrating a BOSU split squat diagonal chop.  This is the first of a series of BOSU exercises I am doing for PFP Magazine.  The upward chop forces hip extension on the right side and the downward motion reinforces firing of the left glutes to reduce internal rotation and valgus.  What a perfect combo right?

To read more about this exercise, click here.

Now, you should start on the floor with just the arms and progress from there.  This is a great prehab exercise or warm-up activity, but it cna also be used for strengthening too.  I hope you find it as beneficial in your routine as I do.