The Psoas muscle is often left tight and shortened after a post workout stretch. My goal today is to change that. And even if you don’t have a formal exercise routine, you are going to want to listen up because chances are you have a tight Psoas too.
The Psoas, pronounced “So-Az” is located in the pelvic region. It connects your lower back to your upper thigh (femur). It is responsible to hip flexion. Running, walking, stairs, and sitting all shorten the Psoas. Anyone from an endurance runner to the most sedentary couch potato can suffer from overly tight Psoas muscles. A tight Psoas can cause lower back pain, hip pain, leg pain and IT issues. A strong and lengthened Psoas promotes good posture and allows for a strong core.
Most americans spend a lot of their day in the seated position. In this position your Psoas is shortened and weakens overtime. A muscular tightness or weakness of the Psoas can cause an overarching of the lumbar spine, unhealthy anterior pelvic tilt (think Steve Urkle) as well has hunching of the shoulders.
If you spend a lot of the day sitting at work or driving in the car, stand up and stretch regularly. Try and break up your sedentary sessions. If possible, work from a standing desk. If you are a runner you need length to create power. When the Psoas is very short, it is unable to lengthen to then contract during your stride. This lengthening and shortening is what creates power. If you do in fact have a short Psoas muscle avoid hills for a while and engage in Psoas stretches daily.
So how do you know if you have a shortened Psoas? Lay on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Draw your right knee into your chest pulling it towards you, if your left hip is lifting up off the ground your right Psoas is tight and vice versa.
If you failed the test, do not fret, there is hope! First, take my tips above about avoiding extended periods of sitting and lay off hill work while running. In addition, ditch the crunches. When we do sit ups and crunches we almost always engage our Psoas and Hip Flexors. This goes for many other abdominal exercises that are done in the supine position. Just pay attention to your body and if you feel engagement in the pelvic region, lay off temporarily.
Start with these stretches:
Supine Bridge with Pelvic Tilt: Lay on your back with your feet on the floor hip distance apart. You want your heels to be in hands reach while your hands lay by your sides. Lift your hips off the floor while tucking your pelvis. Squeeze your Glutes together and continue pushing the hips high. You want your Glutes to be contracted. You may also feel a stretch in the low back (bonus!).
Low Crescent Lunge with Pelvic Tilt: From a kneeling position bring your right foot up between your hands to create a right angle with your right knee. Lift the chest up creating a neutral posture. Tuck the pelvis under, tilting your hip bones toward the ceiling. If your Psoas is really tight you will feel a stretch here in the front of the left leg. If you need a little more stretch you can shift some weight into the front foot while maintaining the pelvic tilt. Switch Sides!