I know for a fact I’ve said it myself – “Why Do My Hip Flexors Hurt When I Do Abs?”
Initially, I faced this problem whenever I used my legs during ab work, e.g. hanging leg raises, V-ups, bicycle crunches.
But then I appeared to feel it whenever I flexed the upper body too.
However, after many hours of research, I was really pleased to find out that it’s not just me who has sore hip flexors during and after ab work.
So, here’s what I discovered.
Why Do My Hip Flexors Hurt When I Do Abs?
Your hip flexors may hurt because your abs are weak, so your hip flexors are more dominant, and bear the brunt of the work. So, it is advisable to deactivate the hip flexors prior to ab work. Alternatively, your hip flexors may actually be weak, so you will need to work on strengthening them.
You Have Weak Ab Muscles
I’ve never really been a fan of crunches.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of them over the years.
But, the more I read about crunches, the less impressed I became by many people’s “go-to” ab exercise.
For me, they actually do far more harm than good, especially when it comes to the health of your spine.
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With that being said, when I did crunches many, many years ago, I always concentrated on perfect form, and really feeling the “burn” in my abs.
10-15 reps would take me about a minute to do, and I was done for that set.
So, it always amazed me when I heard of people doing sets of 50 or 100 crunches, and performing 500-1,000 crunches a day.
However, the one thing that experience has taught me is that anyone who is cranking out these types of numbers is doing very little ab work.
In fact, it is likely that they’re using their hip flexors, as opposed to flexing the abs.
If you are someone who can crank out literally thousands of reps when it comes to ab exercises, the likelihood is that you’re not actually using your abs at all.
Unfortunately, this could lead you being very hip-flexor dominant whenever you do ab work.
The more you’re using your hip flexors, the more likely they are to hurt or feel sore during or after your ab workout.
And if you haven’t guessed it yet, this lack of actual ab work is making your abs weak.
So, it may be time to try some alternate exercises in order to strengthen your ab muscles.
My initial recommendation would be to work on core stabilization exercises such as, planks, bird dogs, and glute bridges.
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You Have Weak Hip Flexors
This probably seems a little strange, and even contradictory.
I mean I’ve just mentioned that the reason your hip flexors hurt when doing abs is because your abs are weak.
And this makes you hip flexor dominant.
But, the opposite could also be true.
Your hip flexor pain could well be a case of simply having weak hip flexors.
This was definitely what the [problem was for me.
However, it took me many years, and even a lower spine injury, to finally realise it.
In actual fact, I also had weak glutes and hamstrings.
And unfortunately whenever the glutes and hamstrings aren’t engaged properly during ab work, the hip flexors tend to take over.
It’s important to remember that the hip flexors are used to lift the leg and bend at the knee.
So, irrespective of what type of ab exercise you’re doing, they are involved in one way or another.
That being said, how many of you can honestly say that you regularly perform some type of hip flexor work?
I’m guessing not many.
Don’t be like me, and eventually succumb to an injury because of weak hip flexors.
The hip flexors may only be a small group of muscles, but they are extremely important in the overall functioning of the body.
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Deactivate The Hip Flexors Before Ab Work
I’m pleased to say that my hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings have now “caught up” with the rest of my lower body.
I’ve spent a number of years now with a big focus on these areas.
However, that doesn’t mean to say that I no longer feel my hip flexors whenever I’m working abs.
Something else I found extremely useful was to actually deactivate the hip flexors prior to doing abs.
The easiest way to achieve this is by activating the opposing muscle group.
In this case, this happens to be the glutes.
Once again, it probably sounds a little strange to be working on your glutes before you do abs, but trust me it works.
The human body is a complex thing, and there are so many muscles that are interconnected in some way.
But, I’ve found that if I deactivate my hip flexors first, I can really feel my abs working much better when doing my ab workout.
Rather than me going into the ins-and-outs of hip flexor deactivation, you’ll want to check this awesome video.
You do this and you’ll get some proper ab activation going.
So, no more sore hip flexors, and your abs finally get a fantastic workout.
Learn The Right Time to End a Set
You can have everything I’ve mentioned so far completely on-point.
Your abs are strong.
You regularly work your hip flexors and have no weakness in this area.
An ab workout begins with you deactivating the hip flexors, so you really feel the abs working.
However, you still end up with sore hip flexors during your ab workout.
The main reason this may happen is simply because you’ve gone on for too long during your set.
If you’re working your abs correctly, just like any other muscle of the body, they will fatigue at some point.
When it comes to other exercises, we may typically use certain training protocols to prolong a set.
Perhaps you employ a rest-pause.
Maybe you perform a few forced reps.
You may even get a few extra “cheat” reps in.
However, this is not something I’d advise when working your abs.
The likelihood is that once your abs start to tire you’ll rely on the hip flexors more to complete the set.
The Worst case scenario, you start to use the lower back to crank out a few extra reps.
It simply isn’t worth it.
Once your hip flexors take over, much like I’ve mentioned, you are no longer working the abs.
And if you allow your lower back to take over, then you’re simply asking for an injury.
So, it’s extremely important for you to learn when the set is over.
For me, much like every other exercise I perform, I like to stop just short of failure.
I always leave at least one or two reps in the tank.
This ensures that I’m using strict form and it will help me avoid an injury.
The abs are no different.
Give them the respect they deserve.
Activate the Hamstrings During Your Ab Workout
This is yet another way to deactivate the hip flexors.
However, rather than doing this prior to your ab workout, you can do it during.
By activating the back of the lower half of the body you automatically deactivate the hip flexors.
This simply means that your abs will end up doing most of the work.
And this is exactly what you want.
The easiest way to activate the hamstrings will require a medium of heavy band.
Simply tie the band around something secure and then loop the band around the back of the ankles.
This will apply adequate tension to activate the hamstrings.
Your hip flexors are no longer involved while working abs.
T-Nation have written a fantastic article about turning off your hip flexors to build abs.
And here’s a sample video to show you how to use this technique to activate your hamstrings (turn off your hip flexors) while performing Swiss ball crunches.
So, hopefully you now know why your hip flexors hurt when you do abs.
As you can see this may due to a number of reasons.
If your abs are weak then your hip flexors take over.
There will usually be some hip flexor involvement with various ab exercises, so if your hip flexors are weak this could cause an issue.
So, it’s important to equally work on strengthening both areas.
You can also deactivate the hip flexors either before or during your ab workout, which will ensure that your abs are doing the work.
Finally, learn when your abs are fatigued and it’s time to end the set and rest.
If you follow all these steps, those sore hip flexors will be a thing of the past.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.