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.
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.