Get to Know Your Psoas: A Brief Overview
The psoas is one of the most prominent muscles in your body. It connects your abdominal cavity with your lower back. The psoas stretches from side to side, and it is very important for supporting your weight while sitting or standing up straight. However, when too much tension exists in this muscle, it causes pain and discomfort in the area where it attaches to the spine (see figure 1).
1. Tension in the psoas muscle causes pain and discomfort in the area where it attaches to the spine.
In addition, if there is too little tension in this muscle, then it will cause problems such as lack of mobility and even paralysis (see figure 2).
2. If the psoas muscle is not properly developed, then it may lead to weakness and even paralysis.
There are many theories about how to develop a strong psoas muscle. Some say that stretching exercises are best because they allow for greater flexibility in the muscles involved in movement. Others believe that strengthening exercises are better since they strengthen the entire musculature surrounding this particular part of your body.
Another theory is that a mixture of both stretching and strengthening exercises are best since they provide well-rounded muscular development while also preventing muscular imbalances from occurring in the first place (see figure 3).
3. A combination of stretching and strengthening exercises will help prevent muscular imbalances from occurring.
Usually, the psoas muscle has a natural weakness due to its unique orientation in your body. Sometimes people are born with a tight or underdeveloped psoas, but most of the times it is weak because of poor posture or lifestyle choices. Today we will talk about how you can increase the strength of your psoas and how you can prevent it from becoming weak in the first place (see figure 4).
4. Poor posture and lifestyle habits can cause a natural weakness of the psoas muscle.
First of all, you need to make sure that you are engaging in at least five minutes of aerobic exercise on a daily basis. This is because your psoas is responsible for stabilizing your trunk while your legs are in motion. If you engage in regular aerobic exercises, then it can help to strengthen the main muscles that lift your legs while increasing their range of motion at the same time.
Another way to prevent muscular weakness is to avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time. It is best to get up and walk around every so often to give your psoas a break (see figure 5).
5. Sitting or standing in the same position for too long can cause muscular weaknesses in your psoas.
In addition, you should consider engaging in yoga or other types of flexibility exercises on a regular basis. This is because the psoas is a postural muscle that stretches from your lower back to your legs. If your psoas isn’t flexible enough, then it can lead to back pain and other unnecessary complications (see figure 6).
6. A tight psoas can lead to back pain and other unnecessary complications.
Last but not least, you should make sure that your psoas is developed enough to support the rest of your body during physical activity. If it isn’t strong enough to do so, then this can cause the lower back muscles to take up the slack and this can lead to unnatural stress on this part of the body (see figure 7).
7. Muscular imbalances can lead to unnatural stress on your body.
These are just a few suggestions on how you can prevent muscular weakness in your psoas. As with all things, there isn’t just one way of doing things as different people will have different needs. In any case, if you start engaging in some or all of these types of activities on a regular basis, then it should keep your body feeling fresh and limber for years to come.
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The psoas is a large muscle in your body that connects your trunk to the top of your legs. This is why it is commonly referred to as the iliopsoas muscle. In most people, the psoas is at least partially responsible for flexing and rotating the hip joint.
While it does have many functions, the psoas is typically categorized as a postural muscle that helps to stabilize the trunk of the body. Whenever we take a step, run or even just sit in a chair, our psoas is helping to keep our core (abs and back) stabilized.
The psoas can be difficult to target when doing isolated exercises as it is constantly working in conjunction with other muscles. For example, it is highly involved in flexing the hip when we walk or run. As a result, psoas strengthening exercises should focus on movements that do not involve the hip joint as much.
In addition, an overdeveloped psoas can lead to back pain, so it is important to develop the muscle without overdoing it. The following are some suggestions on how to safely and effectively strengthen your psoas.
Cat/camel is a great exercise for lightly stretching and strengthening your psoas. While this exercise primarily focuses on the lower back and spine, your psoas gets a workout as well.
Begin by lying on the floor or sitting in a chair. Next, alternate between gently arching your back and bringing your stomach muscles in as far as they’ll go. Try to feel the stretch in your lower back when you arch it and feel the contraction in your lower back when you flatten your back.
While you are performing this exercise, focus on breathing into your lower back and vice versa. In other words, as you inhale gently arch your back and when you exhale gently round your back. Don’t strain yourself and pause the movement if any sharp pains appear. Perform this exercise in a relaxed and controlled manner.
2. Back Extensions
Next, you’ll perform a back extension. You can do this with or without an exercise ball. I’ll describe both methods below.
2a. Back Extension With Exercise Ball
To begin, place an exercise ball on the ground and position yourself on top of it with your legs fully extended and your butt nearly touching the floor. Place your hands straight ahead of you for support.
Next, keeping your legs straight, slowly raise your upper body and then slowly lower yourself back down. You should feel this exercise focusing on the muscles on the small of your back.
2b. Back Extension Without Exercise Ball
You can also perform this exercise without the exercise ball. For this method, you will need to place your hands on an elevated surface, such as a desk or table.
Follow the same directions as above, but make sure that your butt never touches the floor at any point in time. This targets your core muscles a bit more.
3. Knee Hug
Next, you’ll perform a knee hug. Lie down on your back and loop a yoga block or book under your knees. Make sure the object you use is flat, so that it does not dig into your knees when you perform this exercise.
Bend your knees towards your chest and loop your arms around them, grabbing opposite sides of your legs. Hold the position for 30 seconds or as long as is comfortable. Pause and repeat.
This exercise helps to develop strength in your lower back.
4. Fire Hydrant
The fire hydrant is a classic exercise for strengthening the core muscles, especially those found in the lower back.
Begin this exercise by lying on your side. Next, raise your upper leg directly behind you while keeping it straight. Finally, slowly lower your leg back to the starting position. Repeat this motion with opposite legs.
Make sure that you do not rock or twist your body when moving your legs. Also make sure that you do not experience any sharp pains when performing this exercise.
5. Knee Extension
The final exercise for your psoas is the knee extension. While the exercise targets your psoas, it also involves another muscle group: your quadriceps. As with all the exercises in this series, you can modify this exercise to suit your needs.
To begin, loop a resistance band or rope around the bottom and top portions of each leg. Bend your legs and anchor them against a sturdy object. Make sure that there is little slack in the band when your legs are bent.
Straighten your legs, but be sure to not lock your knees. Hold the extend for just a moment and then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position.
Make sure you keep your body straight when performing this exercise and pause the motion if you feel any sharp pains.
Strengthening your psoas may enable you to achieve deeper hip thrusts and perhaps help your glute muscles to grow bigger. However, don’t overdo it. Your psoas is designed to function primarily as a hip flexor, so it is not meant to be a muscle that you regularly exercise. This means that you should limit the number of times you perform these exercises per week and don’t hold your breath while performing them.
Now that you’ve performed all of these exercises, focus on your diet and nutrition. Your psoas is strong, but without proper fueling, it will never reach its full potential. For advice on nutrition, check out the following articles:
How to Eat to Build Muscle Mass as Fast as Possible
The Truth About Protein, Amino Acids and Your Body
The 7 Best Types of Protein for Muscle Growth and Health
Why Dieting To Lose Fat Can Actually Help You Build Muscle
Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work, part 1
Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work, part 2
By implementing these exercise and eating into your weekly schedule, you’re well on your way to developing a strong, powerful psoas that will help you achieve that sought-after “curved waist” appearance.
Sources & references used in this article:
You Know What Happens When You Psoas-sume: 1211 by C Manzo, S Kakar, JG Hashash, S Hapak… – American Journal of …, 2016 – journals.lww.com
Primary pyogenic abscess of the psoas muscle. by GW Simons, JR Sty, RJ Starshak – JBJS, 1993 – journals.lww.com
Drive safely through the pelvis–know your pelvic roads: Paravaginal and paravesical space by K Silva, WI Gankanda, SN Samarakkody… – Sri Lanka Journal of …, 2019 – sljog.sljol.info
The psoas book by L Koch – 1997 – books.google.com
Psoas by K Krautkramer – The North American Review, 1998 – JSTOR