Psoas/Iliopsoas Stretches

| August 12, 2013 | 4 Replies

The iliopsoas area’s most important muscle is psoas and this muscle can be the reason for inflexibility in that area, bad posture and lower back pain (more info). Unfortunately, because of their location in the human body, their tendency to stiffen is greater compared to other muscle groups, and that predisposition becomes even greater due to prolonged sitting postures in which many people today are forced to implement at their work. Therefore, a selection of psoas stretches has been developed by specialists to deal with this issue.

Iliopsoas Area

Iliopsoas Area

The Area

First of all, let’s cast some light to the position of those muscles, which are situated at the lower abdominal area of the human body, on the sides of the lumbar region; psoas minor and psoas major start from the front side of the lower spine and go down to the upper part of the thigh bone! These two muscles along with the iliacus muscle constitute the Iliopsoas Muscle. Their main function is the contraction of the hips and thighs, enabling the hip flexion; therefore, it becomes evident that a stiffened iliopsoas muscle can compromise the movements of the hips and thighs, hinder walking and running, have an impact on the coordination of the core muscles (abdomens, obliques and lower back) and even result in problems in the lower back area. Have a look at the photo for more information on the specific area!

Psoas/Iliopsoas Stretching Exercises

Below we describe a few effective Stretches for the iliopsoas area. Notice that you should first read our Guide on Stretching before attempting to utilize these stretches!

  • An active/static stretch (more info on active stretching): stand with your legs slightly apart, placing your left leg in front of the right leg; bend your left leg while twisting your right leg to the inside; now, without letting your feet lose contact with the ground, turn the upper part of your body to the right; then, lift your right arm while leaning back at your hip; you should feel a gentle stretch in your lower left hip area; hold it there, relax and repeat with the other side.
  • Another one: kneel on one knee, placing one leg about two feet in front of the other one, in a position that it forms a 90-degree angle; now, lean slightly forward, trying to maintain your back straight without curbing! You can keep your arms in your hips (photo 1)  but it would focus much better on psoas if moving your arms over your head; you should feel the stretch at that point; hold it, relax and repeat the movement with the other leg.
  • Also try a lying static stretch: lie on the floor with your legs initially straightened; now, bend your right leg while maintaining the other one extended; grab your right leg (or knee, if you can reach it without overstretching) with your hand and gently pull it backwards until you feel a slight stretch in your hip; hold it there, relax, lie on the other side and repeat (photo 2). Focusing on the sides of your body you can also lie on your sides and perform the same stretch.
  • Finally, a passive example (more info on passive stretching), a bit more complicated, which requires a towel or a bathrobe stripe; lie pronely to the edge of a bed or a sofa, with your elbows under your shoulders, putting your outside foot on the floor while flexing the other leg; loop your bent leg with the towel, crossing it over your shoulder; now, gently pull the towel with your hands up toward your head, and you will feel the stretch; repeat with the other side (photo 3).

There is also a great variety of more complicated postures and yoga poses (for example, pigeon psoas stretch (photo 4), bridge yoga (photo 5), upward dog and many more), which however are contraindicated for beginners unless they are performed under guidance and supervision by a certified trainer.

Generally, when speaking of static stretching (either active or passive), hold your stretches for about 20 seconds, repeating for 3-4 times on each side and performing this program for 2-3 times a week to get a decent result. Obviously, you can also apply dynamic versions of static stretches (they are recommended for warm up), active versions of passive stretches and so on!

Benefits

Here is a list of the most important advantages (details for the general benefits of stretching can be found here) that a psoas/iliopsoas stretching routine can render:

  • It prolongs muscle fibers, improving your motion range and allowing for effortless mobility of your hips and thighs
  • It limits psoas muscle pain
  • It hampers the lower vertebrae from moving forward, resulting in less likelihood of encountering back pain
  • It decreases the risk of an injury in the area
  • It lowers the risks of quadriceps strain and facilitates standing up from a seated position
  • It improves your alignment and posture

What To Consider

Here are some factors to ponder before beginning psoas/iliopsoas stretching:

  • Do not skip a brief warm-up
  • Avoid overstretching your muscles which will impede your progress
  • Perform your stretches with precise and gentle movements
  • Psoas/iliopsoas muscles are situated in an area of the body that makes proper stretching a tricky task, so be totally concentrated and devoted when carrying out your routine
  • Psoas/iliopsoas muscles are not so “consciously” used by your brain, so try to “isolate” them when executing your stretches
  • Don’t hold your breath

In addition you should never neglect the general guidance we’ve given regarding stretching)

Photos & Videos

To better understand the exercises we mentioned before and also to discover a few other psoas stretches, we will share a few photos and a video:

psoas stretch exercise

Photo 1 – Kneeling Psoas Stretch

lying psoas stretch

Photo 2 – Lying Psoas Stretch

psoas stretch exercise

Photo 3 – Passive Psoas Stretch

Pigeon Pose

Photo 4 – Pigeon Pose

bridge pose

Photo 5 – Bridge pose

 

Our Opinion

Although many people ignore the importance or even the presence of the psoas/iliopsoas muscles in their body, it is absolutely vital to combat those muscles’ tendency to stiffen, which makes them prone to low back pain or injuries; that especially applies for persons who spend hours in sitting postures, either at their job or their home and car. Consequently, a regular psoas/iliopsoas stretching routine can greatly contribute to the aversion of uncomfortable conditions, given that it is performed properly and after consultation with your physiotherapist or trainer.

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Category: Stretching specific Body Areas

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