Not-So-Gross Anatomy: Hip Flexors & Spinal Stabilizers

Thank you for checking in on the last installment of Not-So-Gross Anatomy. This week we are looking at the hip flexors and spinal stabilizers. This may not sounds like a sexy topic, but trust that this chapter has plenty to pay attention to. After some anatomy, we will put those muscles into action today with movement.

Ok, maybe not exaclty like this movement, but keep reading.

Let's start with spinal stabilization. Keeping the skeletal system upright relies on the muscular system, connective tissue, and nervous system to get these bones to stack into an upright fashion. Keeping the spine stabilized calls upon a select group of muscles, many of which you do not see in magazine articles or stream workouts about. The muscles that b3 is about to give some needed credit to spinal stabilization are; the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, multifidus, and depending upon your gender - the pelvic floor muscles.  

Last week we introduced the transverse abdominis (TA). The TA is located deep and secures around the midsection. The muscle fibers run horizontally and the transverse originates along the illiac crest, to costal cartilage of ribs 7-12, the thoracolumbar fascia, and the lateral half of the inguinal ligament. The "TA" inserts into the xiphoid process, the linea alba, and the pubic crest.

The TA wraps the torso.

The TA wraps the torso.

I will translate into laymen's terms. It wraps around your midsection from the back around to the front and connects from sternum to pubic bone. It is the deepest muscle that we are talking about today. It's the spare tire that helps brace the midsection and spine when bracing or "bearing down".

The multifidus buttons up the posterior of the spine.

The multifidus buttons up the posterior of the spine.

The multifidus (muhl-tiff-eh-dus) is a long muscle that originates along the back of the sacrum, along the fascia of the errector spinae, the mammillary processes of the lumbar vertebrae, the transverse processes of the thoracic vertebrae, and the articular processes of the last 4 cervical vertebrae. The insertion points are along the spines of each vertebrae from L5 all the way to the axis (C2). The mutifidi (plural) extend, flex,and laterally rotate the spine. They stabilize the spinal column by lengthening or shortening.

Sealing the top of the core is the diaphragm.

Sealing the top of the core is the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a muscle that helps stabilize the top of the core. It also helps allow you to inspire and exhale. Kind of a biggie there...

The diaphragm originates along the sternum, the costal cartilage of the ribs, and the first lumbar spine. It inserts into the central tendon that fuses with the wall of the heart and lungs.

The pelvic floor muscles of men are slightly different than that of the female counterpart. The pelvic floor group has the ability to help tighten some areas, solidify your base of support, and also bearing down.

Left pelvis is male. Right is female. Pelvic floor muscles shown

Left pelvis is male. Right is female. Pelvic floor muscles shown

How to get this group some needed attention can happen through many different options. The diaphragm can be trained by working on breathing techniques such as "belly" breathing, crocodile breathing techniques, and squats.  The pelvic floor can be conditioned through kiegel  exercises, bridges, tabletops and squats. The multifidus can be trained through planks, back extensions, lateral flexions, oh yeah, and squats. The transverse abdominis can be trained through planks, various bracing patterns done through most functional patterns, and I bet you've guessed it....squats.

Hmmmm, I wonder if we should be doing squats????? But before we just start squatting the world away, let's look at the hip flexors a bit more.

If Chubbs from Happy Gilmore knows anything, he knows it has something to do with the hips....

Hip flexors is a catch-all for a group of muscles that flex the hip (or assist) depending upon the planes of motion. Psoas major, psoas minor, illiacus, tensor fascia latae, sartorius, rectus femoris, glute medius, glute minimus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, pectineus all have a role in making the hips flex. The psoas major, illiacus, and rectus femoris are the prime movers of the hip flexion pattern and depending on the planes of movement, the adductors, the TFL, and glutes contribute more or less to assist.

Psoas major, minor, and illiacus.

Psoas major, minor, and illiacus.

The psoas major does a heck of a lot more than just flex the hip. It stabilizes the spine, it laterally flexes the trunk, and it pulls on the spine to increase lumbar lordosis. It's origin lies along T12 and all lumbar vertebraes bodies, disks, and transverse processes. It inserts along the top of the femur and shares the tendon with the illiacus. Some anatomy books will reference the psoas and illiacus together as the illiopsoas. The illiacus originates along the illiac fossa.

The rectus femoris has two origins: the acetabulum (posterior head) and the anterior inferior illiac spine (anterior head). The insertion point is the tibial tuberosity via the patella tendon.


Why is this important? Try walking, sitting, standing without this group....I triple dog dare you.

Squat, lunges,  step up variations, bird dogs, tucks, and just about any single-leg pattern is going to challenge the hip flexors. Make sure to work through multiple planes of motion to effectively train the hip flexor group. 


OK - on to the movement patterns to help with the important muscles that may not "look" important but are critical for the human body to function with efficiency.



We hope that the last couple of months have provided a starting point for your anatomy and functional anatomy application of movements to train specific muscles and muscle groups.

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