Why the Psoas Isn’t the Devil

Why the Psoas Isn’t the Devil
Hey, it is Rick here.

I am always reading other fitness professionals blogs and learning.  One blog I have been reading of late is Mark Young’s.

I connected up with Mark to see if he would do a guest blog post and he was happy to do so.

He did one on psoas.  As you know psoas is a huge issue when it comes to muscle imbalances in the lower body.

Take it away, Mark.

If you hadn’t noticed, the last couple of years have seen the hip flexors (particularly the psoas) become demonized to the extent that clubbing baby seals would probably win you more love than suggesting that someone deliberately strengthen the psoas.

While I’m the first to agree that the psoas can contribute to the dreaded anterior pelvic tilt and the problems associated with it, we should still consider that not everyone on the planet has this particular postural deviation.  In fact, some actually have a psoas that is underactive.

Symptoms of an Underactive Psoas

In this case, the lack of strength or activation of the psoas can cause the rectus femoris to contribute excessively to hip flexion (since the psoas isn’t doing its job) and result in overuse injuries to this muscle.  As the rectus femoris becomes overused trigger points or ischemic tissue can build up and result in referred pain patterns.  To take it one step further, if the rectus femoris is over active it can also pull the patella more forcefully into the groove at the base of the femur resulting in anterior knee pain.

Dealing with an Underactive Psoas

The first step in dealing with knee pain is to identify all possible causes (which is obviously beyond the scope of this post), but if your investigation leads you to the psoas, here is a quick fix for you.
Step 1: Foam roll the rectus femoris making sure to stop on any “hot spots”.  If the pain is a 10 out of 10 you should rest on it until the pain subsides to a level of 5 or 6.  Sometimes if the ischemic tissue is close to the knee you may feel a referred pain in the knee itself when rolling.  This should be considered normal.  Failure to deal with to restore proper muscle length and quality will prevent optimal resolution of the problem.  In other words, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!

Step 2: Activate the psoas.  Personally, I prefer to have my client lie on their back with their toes curled upward towards their shin and loop a resistance band over the toes and around a piece of equipment.  Then I have them pull their knee towards their chest making sure to go past 90 degrees and hold for 2-3 seconds at the top to fully engage the psoas.  Perform 10 repetitions per leg.

Generally, I’ll have a client do this during their warm up and between all knee dominant movements in a workout (if necessary).  If your assessment is correct, the results are often immediate.

Summarizing the Psoas

Perhaps the biggest take home point from this is that we need to pay close attention to our assessments and not just protocols based on the most common scenario.  And if you do find the offender to be the psoas, don’t be afraid to make it strong.

Mark Young is an exercise and nutrition consultant from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  You can check out his website and sign up for his free information packed newsletter at http://www.MarkYoungTrainingSystems.com .

The other thing Mark has done is started a Christmas Giveaway.  Over the next few weeks, he will be giving away a bunch of stuff.  He asked if I could help out and I was happy to do so.  I gave a 4 DVD set of Muscle Imbalances Revealed for his giveaway.  So if you want to win some great stuff, like Muscle Imbalances Revealed, head over to his blog.
If you like the above blog post, I have another one for you on poas that you can read by clicking here.

Rick Kaselj, MS