Strong lower abs are notoriously elusive, like a World Series win for the Cubs. (I’m from Chicago, so bear with me.) If you struggle to tighten and tone your lower abs, don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. In an ideal world, your abdominals should be working all the time and with every exercise you do, but for most of us this is not the case. The question is why?
Tight hip flexors are a key culprit. The bottom half of the abs and hip flexors are supposed to work together as a team. For most people sitting and poor posture cause the hip flexors to become tight and overwork, which shuts down your abs. When you go to do an exercise that works the lower abs, you will often only use the hip flexors. To get to the abs, you need to release the hip flexors. Releasing the hip flexors will help them to work properly and allow the lower abdominals to work, making it easier to use them in an exercise.
Hip flexor release
- Tape two lacrosse balls together, lie on your stomach, and place the double lacrosse ball just below your hip bone. Lean a tolerable amount of weight onto the lacrosse balls.
- Bend your knee back to a 90-degree angle and swing your leg side to side in a tolerable range of motion.
- Repeat this in 30 second to 2 minute intervals. Make sure you do both sides.
After you’ve released both of your hip flexors, the next thing you need to do is to activate your inner thighs. You might be thinking to yourself, “Inner thighs? What do my inner thighs have to do with my abs?” Surprisingly, a lot.
Activating the inner thighs and pelvic floor muscles will help get the lower abdominals in the right position to contract and stabilize the core and pelvis. This way, when you go to do a core exercise, everything is in the right spot and working properly.
Inner thigh squats
- Place your feet shoulder width apart, with your toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. Your weight should be placed through your heels.
- As you begin to squat, bring your hips back like you are sitting in a chair that is far behind you. While squatting, try to move your knees out. Go as low as you can, then push back up through your heels.
- Repeat for three sets of 10.
The final step is to strengthen your lower abs. There are so many different abdominal exercises you can do at this point. Kegel ball squeezes with knees to chest are great when targeting the lower abdominals.
Kegel ball squeeze with knees to chest
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place a small medicine ball in between your knees. (Use a pillow if you don’t have a medicine ball).
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles (kegel) and squeeze the ball.
- Now, slowly bring your knees to your chest so your feet are off of the floor.
- Hold for three to five seconds and repeat for 3 sets of 10.
Applying the process of releasing, activating, and then strengthening to your core work out routine will enable you to finally make your ab exercises count.