STRUGGLE BUS QUESTION:
"I can't flex my hip without cramping like crazy in my hip flexors. I am obviously compensating for my weak low abs with my hip flexors. Help!"
STRUGGLE BUS ANSWER:
Have you ever wondered why I can do strict toes-to-bar, or why I have so much hip flexion mobility? It's because I use my low abs. Let me explain.
Your hip flexors attach to your spine. If your core is weak, then you will resort to compensating with your hip flexors to achieve spinal stability. This makes your hip flexors tighten up! So that explains why you are not very mobile and why I can fling my legs up to my ears.
KEY POINT: Any limitation to hip mobility typically boils down to lack of stabilization through the core. So other areas become tense to try to provide the stability needed during movement. So by fixing the core, you will improve your stability restrictions and the hips should loosen up.
Have you ever wondered why I can hold L-sits and my strict toes-to-bar for over a minute, without my quads (rectus femoris) or hip flexors cramping? It's because I use my low abs!
If you are cramping up in your quads and hip flexors, it's because you are compensating with them for your weak low abs.
Here are 2 exercises you can do to solve this problem:
EXERCISE 1: HOW TO FIND YOUR LOW ABS
Can you engage you core?
In this video, I show you how to engage your low abs, external obliques, TA and pelvic floor. Then I show you variations you can do: heel lifts, hip flexion, heel slides.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingers above your hip bones so you can feel the muscles engage. To engage the pelvic floor muscles, pull up inside as if you were stopping the flow of urine (you can also pretend you are trying to suck a tampon up deeper into your vaginal canal). To engage the transverse abdominus muscles you can picture a line connecting your hip bones and try to connect them or draw gently your navel in towards your spine. Make sure that your rectus abdominals stay relaxed (this is all about the deep abs, not the superficial ones).
When you lift your leg: Here's my secret: I think of lifting my leg using my low abs and transverse abs (and I also think of activating my pelvic floor). I have way more active ROM when I use my core. If I only lift using my hip flexors, it's much more difficult for me. So if you are cramping up in your hip flexors/quads and you are "Pelvis Presley", it's because you aren't using your core to lift your leg.
So pretend the only thing that is allowed to lift your leg is your low abs (pretend your hip flexors are paralyzed).
EXERCISE 2: LET'S MAKE THIS MORE CHALLENGING!
Now we will use a resistance band to strengthen your low abs. Start on the floor. Progress to the foam roller. Don't fall off the foam roller! The foam roller forces you to stabilize with your transverse abs. Pretend your hip flexors are paralyzed so the only way you can flex your hips is by using your low abs.