May 30, 2021 10 min read
The psoas muscles — not a muscle group you typically hear being trained in the gym. Despite the lack of attention it may get among gymgoers, the psoas muscles are among the most important muscles in the entire body as they are the primary hip flexors.
Better psoas health relies on proper care and training, which include both dynamic stretches and bodyweight exercises. Showing attention to these submerged muscles can result in larger gains for your more exposed ones.
Psoas is a muscle group comprised of three individual muscles: the psoas major, psoas minor, and iliacus. The muscle group lies deep within your core muscles and acts as the connector of your torso and lower body. This tapered muscle is small in size but responsible for huge roles.
Known as a flexor muscle, the psoas muscles allow for contraction which results in movement or bending in the hips and lower body. Anytime you bend over, walk, or sit, your psoas muscles are being used. It also stabilizes your lower back.
The psoas muscles originate from your spine and insert into your femurs. These muscles are the only muscles in the body that connect the legs and the spine.
Not only do the psoas muscles support many main movements of the body, but they also allow for internal processes to occur, such as the circulation of blood. These muscles also help in the breathing function of your lungs.
The psoas muscles, also known as the iliopsoas muscles, can become tight and shortened after contracted for lengthy periods of time, which can be caused by stress, poor posture, or excessive exercise of certain types.
This shortening can cause anterior pelvic tilt or lordosis of the lumbar vertebrae. If you often have low back pain, or pain in the hamstrings, knees, or hip joints, your psoas may be responsible.
Since the psoas group is deep within your core muscles, it can be difficult to tell if your psoas is lacking. Here are some common ways in which your body is signaling psoas distress:
Since the psoas muscles are responsible for several crucial bodily functions, putting some time into keeping these muscles healthy will only improve all other aspects of your fitness and health. Luckily, there are many ways you can strengthen and stretch your psoas for a better range of motion and potentially gain pain relief.
For those who experience psoas pain, getting relief is imperative. While severe cases of psoas injury may require physical therapy, there are many exercises that can be done on your own to improve psoas health. The majority of these exercises can easily be done at home, between meetings, before bed, or even be an addition to your current gym routine.
Lunges are great for engaging those quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. However, they are also an effective psoas exercise when done correctly. You can use them as more of a stretch rather than a repeated strength exercise if you want to focus on the psoas muscles. Here is how to use a lunge to work the psoas:
Bridges are among the top exercises for building the gluteal muscles. You can tailor this popular movement to work the psoas by tweaking the steps just a bit:
The psoas muscles are part of the core, after all, and sit-ups are great for gaining overall core strength. They are simple to do, but in case your form needs checking, here is how to do a sit-up:
The boat pose, known as navasana in yoga practice, may seem simple since it requires no explosive movements. However, it requires extreme balance and core strength, so you’ll be surprised at the difficulty. Stretching exercises such as the boat pose can be great for pain relief. Here is how to do the boat pose:
If you can’t do this pose with perfectly straightened legs, opt for a more comfortable bend in the knees. The importance of the pose is the posture of your back, not the perfection of the “V” shape.
Leg lifts come in several variations, all of which have varying difficulties. For now, here is how to do the simplest version of a leg lift:
Eventually, you can do both legs at the same time when you find that one leg is no longer challenging. Variations of this movement include hanging leg lifts or leg lifts on a knee raise station.
The Frankenstein walk is actually a popular part of many cardio warmups. It is simple to do and effective for working the psoas muscles.
Repeat this exercise in a seamless “walking” fashion for several reps.
This exercise somewhat mimics the boat pose in that the formation of your body is very similar. However, much more movement is involved and you’ll need a stability ball. Not only will this movement aid in strengthening the psoas, but you’ll also feel a serious burn in the abdominal muscles.
Kettlebell workouts can be a great option for those working with limited equipment. The kettlebell swing is an explosive movement that really involves your entire body. When done correctly, this exercise can build incredible core and leg strength, thus improving the psoas muscles.
Leg swings are a good workout for your inner thighs and make a great psoas stretch. Like Frankenstein walking, this exercise requires no equipment and can easily be done at home. Here is how to do leg swings:
You can also vary this movement slightly by swinging the leg out behind you and then in front. So rather than a side-to-side motion, you’ll be doing front to back. Try both for an all-around stretch.
Bulgarian split squats are becoming an increasingly popular glute workout. In total, this compound movement works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core. They can be done weighted or simply with bodyweight and are easy to do at home. Here is how to perform the Bulgarian split squat:
Your psoas muscles are one of the most important muscle groups in your body. Not only do they support strong muscular function overall but they also help several internal organ functions take place efficiently, resulting in an overall much healthier body.
Anything that requires hip flexion and hip extension, which is almost any movement, will benefit from a healthy psoas group. While some cases of impaired psoas muscles may require a physical therapist, there is a lot you can do in your current routine for both improvement and prevention.
Training these muscles will up your game in the gym drastically and, more importantly, contribute to good health and wellness.