Do your Hip Flexors hurt during ab exercises? You’re not alone!

by Ema Hevey

Hip flexor pain can be very common during Pilates and other forms of exercise that place a lot of emphasis on core strengthening and activation.

The issue primarily arises for people who are either new to Pilates or have never been trained on how to do ab work effectively and

accurately, which is nothing to feel bad about but it is something to pay attention to.

While I can’t say for certain what’s going on without seeing you in person, pain in the hip flexors is often due to overuse of the hip flexor muscles (mainly the psoas major) and underuse of the deep core stabilizers (primarily the transverse abdominis).


Many people think their hip flexors are weak, when in fact they are not weak but rather overused and tired because their deeper core muscles aren’t pulling the weight that they should.


Although the Hip Flexors are a group of muscles (as viewed in the diagram below) the most commonly involved muscle in a hip flexor strain or overuse is the Iliopsoas .

The iliopsoas muscle originates from the lower back and pelvis and inserts into the thigh bone (femur).

The best thing you can do to correct this is to (surprise, surprise) strengthen your core muscles using methods such as Pilates!

The key is to start at the beginning, learn about the way your body works and begin to find the connection to your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor so that you don’t have to rely on your poor hip flexors to do ALL the work. If you dive into more advanced work you will likely repeat old movement patterns that continue the pain and overuse.


In the meantime, The following photos demonstrate a few simple things you can do to alleviate the pain and help you find that connection deep within your core:

  1. Leave your feet on the floor with knees bent instead of “tabletop” position when completing a series such as your Chest left series.


  1. Rest your feet on a surface such as the footbar when in the Reformer studio or a chair or couch if at home. This will mimic the tabletop position but without the strain.


  1. Try raising one leg at a time in tabletop and as you do so try to lift by use of the lower abdominals rather than letting the hip flexors do the work for you. Practice single leg lifts until you are able to do both without discomfort.


  1. Squeezing a Pilates ball between the knees can help to alleviate hip discomfort by utilising adductor (inner thigh) strength instead.


NOTE: When in Tabletop position ensure your feet are in line with your knees or perhaps even a little bit higher so that your legs are at no greater than a right angle position. This allows the femoral head (thighbone) to fall heavy into the hip socket and therefore avoids any extra tension being placed upon the flexors.


Along with strengthening be sure to balance it out by stretching the area after completing any form of exercise where they may have been in use. Some Hip flexor stretches may include:


  1. Kneeling lunge stretch


  1. Supine knee stretch with foam roller or pilates ball underneath sacrum


  1. Knee stretch laying on one side



Most importantly, remember that your friendly studio instructors are here to help and correct so please do not hesitate to pop a hand in the air and see us for some personal attention during our virtual Pilates classes. Don’t ever force the issue, I guarantee you it won’t cure itself.

Happy workouts and here’s to a stronger and better you!



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