What is your Psoas and why should you care?
Written by Heidi Fearon

Ever had that feeling that your glutes just aren’t firing for you? Wonder what it is that turns them off like a light switch and sends you into your back muscles? A tight Psoas could definitely be the culprit.

What is the Psoas? It’s a super thick muscle that connects from your lumbar spine to your femur (see below). Its primary action is hip flexion (pulls your torso toward your thigh) and secondarily, it assists in lateral rotation of the hip.

How does my psoas have the power to turn off my fabulous booty?

It’s a nuerological thing called Reciprocal Inhibition. To prevent injury, our intelligent body ensures that we don’t have two opposing muscles contracting at once. So when one muscle, the AGONIST, contracts, it sends a neural message to the ANTAGONIST, opposing muscle, to relax. The glutes are the antagonist to the psoas. So say you sit a ton, or love hip flexion exercises (think toes to bar, box jumps, even running), if not done correctly they will tighten your psoas.

You may really have strong glutes and be asking them to fire under heavy loads, but your neural anatomy simply won’t have it because your psoas is in a contracted state.

There are other postural problems that happen when your psoas is chronically tight. It creates an excessive anterior pelvic tilt. While this tilt may enhance your booty, it increases the lumbar curve of the spine and puts pressure on the anterior spine, squeezing the lumbar discs posteriorly.

How to help:

  1. Yoga as demonstrated above by Nichole with Crescent pose and other Psoas specific yoga postures done in the Invictus Yoga class.
  2. Mobility work! Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD.com is a brilliant resource for finding tons of great psoas-related mobility exercises.  One of my favorites is this:  lie down on your back, place a lacrosse ball inside your Anterior Sacro iliac Spine, and then mash it in with a kettlebell as you bend and extend the leg of the hip you are working.  Make sure you breathe and find several spots between your iliac spine and your navel.
  4. Sit less (possibly the most important thing you can do for your health and wellness)
  5. Practice regular back extensions

Hope to see you all this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. for another Invictus Yoga session.

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stephanie mccormack
stephanie mccormack
June 11, 2012 10:04 am

Great reminder for me to stretch/mobilize my psoas more!