Plank pose can help to strengthen your abs and take pressure off of the hip flexors.
The hip flexors, located near your hips on the upper thigh, help to bend your torso forward. Without you fully realizing it, the hip flexors can easily become activated when performing abdominal exercises, which can cause them to become short and tight. If you feel pain near the top of your thighs, there's a good chance tight hip flexors are to blame. Focusing on your form during abdominal exercises can help to release the hip flexors.
Know Your Anatomy
The hip flexor muscle group consists of the iliacus, rectus femoris and the psoas. When the hip flexors become tight, the pelvis is pulled forward and the lower back can become overarched, which results in your body being out of alignment. The detrimental effects can show up in various ways, such as an inability to lift your knees to proper height while sprinting or weakness at the bottom of a squat or lunge. You may not being able to balance on one leg, or your deadlift form may become compromised. Ignoring the pain or tightness in the front of your upper thighs or continuing to overwork the hip flexors can hinder your everyday movements, such as walking, bending over or carrying groceries. Eventually the tightness can cause a strain or tear in the muscle group.
Strengthen Your Abs
Strengthening your abs, especially the transversus abdominis, can help to lessen the engagement of the hip flexors. Performing the abdominal vacuum exercise can help you to activate the transversus abdominis. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart; place your hands on your hips. Inhale slowly for five to eight counts; allow the air to completely fill your lungs. Hold the air in for one count and then quickly pull your abs in toward your lower back as you exhale all of the air out of your lungs. Maintain the abdominal hold for 10 to 20 counts and release. Perform three repetitions.
Do the Plank
Plank pose and its variations call upon the transversus abdominis to stabilize your body. Start with the basic plank by coming to the top of a pushup position. Place your hands flat on the floor directly under your shoulders. Extend your legs straight behind you with your toes curled under. Pull your stomach in, slightly tilt the tailbone and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Come to a plank pose again and this time lift your left foot off of the floor and raise it to hip height. If your balance is stable in the three-point plank, take it a step further by lifting your right hand to shoulder height. Hold the two-point plank for 20 seconds. Repeat for three to five rounds on both sides.
Warm Up First
Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise before performing abdominal strengthening exercises. Stretch your hip flexors after every workout session. Perform an abdominal workout that includes exercises for the transversus abdominis at least three times per week; allow 48 hours rest between sessions for recovery. Consult with a trainer, physician or physical therapist if your hip flexors continue to be tight or if you experience any pain in the hip area.