T Nation

Lower Ab Work W/O Hip Flexors


I need ideas for exercise involving the lower portion of the abs for someone that has very strong and over-powering hip flexors-as it is my suspicion than this is the case with 99% of people..

Thus I need exercise that are NOT leg raises etc.

So far I have 2 that seem alright but I need more.

1st is the reverse crunch because the hips are maximally flexed thus it has no choice but to recruit abs. Problem is it's too easy.

2nd is an unnamed exercise that involves lying on your back with your legs straight up and just focus on lifting the pelvis off the floor. the problem is that the legs leaning gives momentum and is thus a hard exercise to perform without using the momentum of the legs.

So does the magical exercise I seek exist?


What is prompting you to focus on your "lower" abs?


I started doing weighted side bends a few months ago, and I feel them in my lower abs, as well as everywhere else.

Also, instead of going straight up with your legs when doing leg raises. I do one leg at a time, and bring my right leg across my body to my left side, and my left leg across to my right side. I feel I get more stimulation out of this.

Do you do any rotational exercises?


I Pretty much awnsered that in the original post. Over-powering hip flexors thus weak lower abs.


Thanks I'll try that. I do try to include some form of rotational exercises (usually woodchops and unilateral cable pulls/pushes) every other program


This IMO is a simple fix that is largely mental and to do with form

What needs to be done unlike many other muscles is really mentally concentrate on using the abs through the whole of the movment. Flex the abs HARD and keep them tense through the whole movement no matter which you are using.

The trick being really aim to pull the shoulder in and down to the crotch and hips,ass etc up and in to the head really SQUEESE that position pulling in tight. The first initial move should be of this arching pulling in activating the core and it should be held and let loose last. Flexing with all you got through the whole motion. You will feel when you cant do that anymore and the hips start doing all the work.

Takes some getting used to the FEEL but really works.

Hope that helps,


A way to make it easier not to engage the lats and hip flexors as much in the leg raise is to the leg raise with your back against an object or a partner so that your upper back is in exactly the same plane (perpendicular to the floor) as the hands from which you are hanging.

Holding your knees up for time in this position is more difficult than doing full leg raises with tension while leaning back.


Hi T-Richard,

Here are some other great exercises to try:

  1. Front Levers (tuck, advanced tuck, one legged, straddle, and standard versions)- see following JPG for visual of standard position (can be performed while hanging from a chin-up bar, or rings)

Good training,



Learn the hanging pike

The curl of the abdomen in any leg raise is the meat of the movement. Without it, you're always going to be using the hip flexors as a primary mover.

Not using any momentum, keeping your head between your arms and your chin towards your chest, and not engaging the lats or leaning backwards is the proper way to a leg raise. Having a partner press the small of your back (or using stall bars) as pictured in the article is a good method to isolate correctly.

If you don't have the strength to do the movement in this manner, hanging knee-ups / tucks, concentrating on the curl of the abdomen (again), is a good substitute. There's also a progression in the article I've linked to.