Ever ponder what muscles are involved when you’re standing straight up? What muscles are primarily involved in keeping you upright?

You have a couple dozen soft tissue postural supporters running from your feet up your body to your head, which work in conjunction with one another to maintain your vertical posture and stabilize your joints.

With more than 600 individual muscles in the human body, there is only one that connects the upper and lower halves of your body. It is the psoas, and it has an important job to do. The psoas major’s origin is at the anterior surfaces of the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae and the lateral surfaces of T12-L5 and the intervertebral discs in this region. It inserts on the lesser trochanter of the femur. The psoas major contributes to spinal flexion, hip flexion and unilateral side bending of the torso.

The quadratus lomborum (QL) originates at the iliac crest and the iliolumbar ligament and inserts at the 12th rib and the transverse processes of each lumbar vertebrae. The QL’s responsibility is to unilaterally flex the torso (side bend) and to elevate the ilium. Bilaterally, it also extends the lumbar spine and fixes the 12th rib during forced expiration.

The psoas runs from the 12th rib to the inside of the femur.

The psoas runs from the 12th rib to the inside of the femur.

Take a moment to think about the movements you make during most of your day. While you’re awake do you sit a lot, at work or in the car? Does your workout routine consist primarily of running, cycling and squatting? When you’re asleep do you curl up in fetal position with your knees hugged in? There is a trend in these movements. Your psoas is shortened and since the psoas and QLs origin point is shared, what you do to one affects the other. When you flex or hunch forward you now influence the resting length of the QLs. This repetitive motion throughout your day can affect proper movement and optimal muscle function.

There are a few actions you can take to reverse the shortening of the psoas major and these simple movements can be incorporated throughout your day.

First, stand up from your seat. If you find you sit a lot, break it up by standing and walking to the bathroom or water cooler. Actually, walking to the water cooler and drinking more water will result in more restroom visits, so it’s a win/win situation!

Second, place your hands on your low back, engage your abdominal muscles and press your hips forward. You don’t need to take a deep backbend, just enough to lengthen through the frontline of your body.

Finally, step the right foot back and press your hips forward. This movement puts the right hip in extension and also helps to eccentrically contract (lengthen) the psoas muscle.

Check back soon. In my next article I’ll guide you through self-massage techniques using the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to help release tightness in the psoas and quadratus lomborum.

Enjoyed this article? Read Psoas Spiral Your Way to Happier Hips!
Monica Bright

Monica’s passion in life is to teach. She holds an M.A. in Elementary Education and has spent a career of more than 15 years teaching young students, thus acquiring the skills to disseminate information in a clear and concise manner. With a dance background of more than 20 years and studying extensively in the area of biomechanics in movement and anatomy, Monica has a passion for the human body and understands the human form on a considerably deeper level, which you will find apparent in the intelligent sequencing of her classes.

81
Leave a Reply

 
80 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
16 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
80 Comment authors
Kristi Ablett

I often don’t consider suggestion a standing backbend for clients, but I will definitely add this to my list of go-to strategies for people to fit in throughout their day!

Genevieve

Thank you for the explanation and the movements that can be done to lengthen the Psoas. I sit for work most of the time and I’m also a side sleeper, so my psoas is often shortened. I’m getting better at anatomy and learned the ‘hip flexor’ isn’t really a thing, rather it’s the QL. Both contribute so much to our stability!

Elsa Moreau

The psoas the only muscle that make the connection between the two half of my body ! I never realised that. Thank you

Jan Baiton

Interesting post, clearly written. Very helpful, as someone who does a desk job.

Isabelle Audet

Very interessing facts and thanks for the tips and actions to take in our daily life.

Florian

Good job for this article.
Do you have any informations about QL/psoas controlateral relation ? (ie left QL and right psoas synergia or relation)

Tune Up Fitness

Hi Florian, thanks for your comment! You should check out Jill’s Psoas class on Union.fit. You can get the replay here.

Rose Moro

Thank you for the wonderful anatomy lesson the the tips on keeping the psoas and QL healthy.

Denise Hopkins

I love this clear and concise way of describing the anatomy and functions of these muscles. I have a student whose right ASIS is constantly elevated higher than his left. I will try having him roll out his QL to release the tension. My sense is it will help to release his hip. Thanks for this!

Sheila Ewers

Great tips for keeping healthy length and mobility in Psoas and QL. Thanks!

Julia Skinner

This week I have been experiencing pain from around my low back to the front of my hip, down my leg to my ankle, and up the same side of my body to my neck. After reading this I realized that the only time in the last couple days that I have not experienced this pain was while I was walking. Thank you for this insight, I will work on the other stretch mentioned and look forward to reading the next post.

Kimberly McWilliams

Great cues Monica, I can incorporate them into my classes, thank you.

Vivi Sørensen

So important to keep the psoas major from shortening, thanks for this.

Rob

Nice article!

Super easy to implement tips and nice overview of the connection of the psoas and QL to posture

Leanne W.

These are great, easy tips that anyone can (and should) do throughout the day. Best of all, they can be done anywhere. I’m going to make a point to incorporate them every day.

Sharon

Great tips! I’ve been sitting too much today and just extended my hips while engaging my abs! It helped relieve my discomfort.

Rudie Jimenez

Great tips we can all use and benefit from. Thank you especially for the hip extension one, and for stating it does not need to be a deep back bend.

Mike

Love the win-win suggestion for more water and bathrooms breaks! Not to mention you’ll be more hydrated. Also great simple movements to incorporate very quickly.

Karin Steinbach

my psoas and I appreciate your article! Thank you!

Megan

I really appreciated reading about how the QL and the Psoas were so closely intertwined. I struggle with a tight Psosas and see now that I most likely also have a QL I need to be lengthening and strengthening as well. Thank you for the quick tips I can easily incorporate into my work day 🙂

Susan

Thanks Monica for clearly showing and concisely explaining the psoas and QL. The 3 tips are simple and easy to do. Literally within a few minutes each day you can hit the reset button!

Christine (CJ) Lamborn

Great info and love your options to stretch… easy enough to do by anyone, anywhere!

Claudie

It’s so true that many many people sit and sit again! They just don’t know how bad it is until it hurts! Thank you for bringing back the subject on the table. People must know those tips so they can limit the damages.

Madi

It’s true that many of us living “modern lifestyles” of extended sitting spend a lot of time in psoas flexion and mild QL extension–which often contributes to low back pain–and would benefit from extending the psoas and counter-stretching a seated position. Yet we tend to fear back bends because they can also cause pain. It’s important that we know how to counter-stretch correctly so as to not dump overextension into the lumbar spine. Let’s spread the YTU standing diaphragm-based backbend technique!

Alicia

This was a great post to point my students to when they have questions about these two muscles. I think they get a lot of attention in yoga classes so they seem to be muscle names that the average yoga student is familiar with. I love the reminders of how often these muscles are in a shortened position and agree that the best remedy is not to wait until you are officially exercising to stretch them out but to get a little reverse movement in throughout the day. Curious to hear your thoughts on strengthening these muscles on top of… Read more »

Marie-Eve Pelletier

Great article to understand and integrate the importance of the psoas and the way that many hours sitting work can impact this muscle! Thanks for the idea of getting water often ?. Drinking more water is althought something people should do to!

Alyssa P

As a teacher of movement, I know the psoas is a chronic tight place in a sedentary culture … but sometimes I forget just how much we do that keeps it that way – really mind blowing. I also love the standing with one leg back technique – it’s simple enough to do pretty much anywhere without people really noticing – even in a bathroom in the office (ha ha). Lastly, it’s very helpful to see the correlation between the insertion points of the QL and psoas in relation to their attachment points and then think about how intimately they… Read more »

Jan hollander

Very helpfull this artical for me,having had major isuses in this area .it made me realize that i have to still be proactive in this thank you foer the exercises most helpfull

Amanda

The eccentric stretches you suggested for the psoas felt great! I have been sitting and working for the past few hours and I needed the reminder to stand up!

Getting a good visual for where the psoas is in relation to the QL and the rest of the body helps me with my proprioception. Thank you!!

Tari Surapholn

The common source of back pain is the the tightness QL. If you’re in the position of sitting or lean forward for a long time without stretching, the QL will be getting more and more contractions.
Because the QL connects the pelvis to the spine so the more QL contracts, the less mobility of extending from lower lumbar and pelvis and cause back pain.

Dawn Williams

Thanks for the article. I took an online class in stretching the psoas and as we all sit so much, it has been a lifesaver for me. However, I need to remember the tips you give; get up and walk, stretch, drink fluids, walk more. Here’s to our psoas and QL!