By: Kris Thompson
If you’re prone to lower back pain but all the foam rolling and stretching isn’t really helping, the culprit could be tight psoas (pronounced SO-as) muscles. Everyone can benefit from stretching out this muscle even if your back isn’t currently hurting, this could help prevent such pain and help you continue making gains in the gym.
What’s a psoas?
The psoas is a thick muscle that attaches from your lumbar spine (low back) to your femur (see picture below) and is a big player in the hip flexor muscle group. It’s the primary connection between your legs and torso, affecting your posture as well as stabilizing your spine.
Because the psoas muscles play such a big part in hip flexion, weak psoas require the surrounding muscles to compensate and potentially become overused and that’s when pain can occur. Spending a lot of time in a position where this muscle is shortened or contracted can also cause pain. What does this “position” look like, you ask? SITTING! Sitting is one of the worst things we do to our hips because they are constantly in a state of flexion.
Another thing that can happen due to a constantly contracted psoas is “reciprocal inhibition.” This is the process in which the muscles on one side of a joint relax to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. So if our psoas is contracting it means our big, amazing, butts aren’t firing. You hear your coaches talk about using your posterior chain, your derriere is a big contributing factor when it comes to moving heavy loads. And you may have a super strong booty but it won’t fire and help move big weight if your psoas is working because your body is telling your behind to hold off until your psoas is relaxed.
So what can you do to help fix this problem?
Here are a few stretches and mobility exercises to get your psoas feeling better and in turn will help with some back pain AND get you moving heavy ass weight!
This is probably my favorite stretch for the psoas, you want to focus on staying upright as much as possible and really sinking your hips straight down. Think about getting into a long lunge and get comfy because you want to shoot for four minutes straight in this position (each side).
You’ll position lacrosse ball on your psoas then take a kettle bell and place it over the top of the lacrosse ball, it doesn’t feel great during but your hips will thank you afterwards. After you get that lacrosse ball situated you’ll want to flex and extended at the hip a few times then move the lacrosse ball up or down your psoas then repeat. It’s really important to breathe while you’re doing this and because of the location of your psoas over your organs you might feel a little nauseous. You’ve been warned. You can also take a deep breathe in and on the exhale try and relax and let that lacrosse ball sink in a little deeper.
Banded Hip Extension Stretch
This is similar to the dragon pose but the lunge isn’t as deep and we’re getting some help from a band. For this one you’ll want to stay in this position for at least two minutes and cycle between contracting and relaxing your butt.
Now go and get your hips feeling supple and healthy. If you’re interested in more stretches, or more information on anything else in my blog post please feel free to contact me: [email protected].