Pilates Exercises to Help Overactive Hip Flexors in Reverse Abdominals

How To Help Overactive Hip Flexors in Reverse Abdominals

teaching skills Jan 21, 2020

Reverse Abdominals (also known as Reverse Knee Stretch or Kneeling Abdominals Facing Back) is a fantastic abdominal strengthener. The arms, shoulders, and hip flexors get quite a lot of work, too.

It should be in just about every new student’s program unless contraindicated. It feels really unfamiliar the first time you do it, which makes it the ideal exercise to intentionally confuse the body and through that confusion develop different (better!) movement patterns. I use this exercise with almost everyone to get their core in better shape.

If a student feels like this exercise is easy, then this could be a red flag that something is going wrong. A common mistake is to let the hip flexors take over for the abdominals, which will make it feel quite a bit easier. Here are some tips to help your student use their abdominals:

  • Draw the abdominals deep up into the body while your knees come underneath you. In the Flat Back Variation, pull your stomach inward and do even more of that in the Round Back Variation. 
  • Keep the range of movement very small. Don’t overdo it. Less is more, remember?
  • Place one hand or forearm underneath your student’s belly and ask her to pull away from your hand as she initiates the movement.
  • If your student is very hip flexor dominant, then it might be helpful to encourage her to work in a reverse imprint (flattened versus neutral lumbar spine). That might be the only way to get them to use their abdominals. Or just practice the Round Back Variation, they’ll feel that for sure.
  • Which brings me to another observation: if your student can’t seem to “get” the exercise - it happens quite frequently with this exercise - then the reason for that might be that her body just doesn’t know how to recruit the right muscles. In this case, either drastically reduce the spring tension or try a different variation, such as Round Back.


Are you going to practice or teach Reverse Abdominals this week? What are your favorite tips for this exercise? 

The Reformer chapter is live! Have you checked it out, yet? In the Pilates Encyclopedia, we look at every detail of Reverse Abdominals, from head to toe, to help you get the maximum benefit from this exercise.

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