Good morning everybody, hope you all are well on your way to another amazing week! I wanted to share the next blog because I am often approached in the gym with questions regarding the best ways to target your "lower abs", especially now that the weather has been so unseasonably warm. The following is something you all should know when it comes to the burn you feel when doing certain exercises. For those of you who already train with me, this information will reinforce our approach to not spend all of our time focusing on exercises that involve leg movements. While a portion of our training includes exercises such as bicycle kicks, flutter kicks and leg raises, we spend the vast majority of our time doing other things. Hope this information provides some much needed clarification for those of you who were still unsure.
Myth #7: When I do leg raises, bicycles and flutter kicks I feel my lower abs.
What you should know: You are actually feeling a muscle behind your lower abs called your psoas.
Many so called lower abdominal exercises involve leg lifts, bicycle kicks, or require you to bend at the hip (such as a sit-up). Your rectus abdominus muscle originates at your pubic crest (you can feel your pubic bone just above your pubic area) and travels upward, attaching to the lower part of your ribs and breast bone. It does not attach to your legs or hips, so it cannot move your legs.
You may feel certain exercises in your lower abdominal region. Chances are, you are feeling a combination of your abdominal muscles and the deeper muscles of your midsection. During leg raises, knee ups and bicycle kicks, the abdominal musculature must hold your pelvic bone steady. If your pelvic bone were to rock freely with your legs your spine would have to bend vigorously and that could lead to low back pain and possible injury. Just as holding weight in front of you would make your shoulders burn, your abs burn as they attempt to hold your pelvic girdle steady during these leg movements. However, this still does not explain why the majority of sensation is in the lower part of your abs.
A powerful hip flexor known as your psoas lies just beneath your lower abdominal area and is responsible for lifting your legs. Your psoas is the prime mover (most responsible) for leg raises, knee ups and bicycle kicks and this is likely the cause of the "burn in the lower abs". This is not an ideal way to increase strength in your midsection, and may be too effective for strengthening your hip flexors. Over development of your hip flexor musculature may reduce hip flexibility, causing posture problems and low back pain. Because more than 80% of the population has or will experience low back pain, these exercises are not recommended for everyone.