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
Holly

Love the 2 for 1 tip to hydrate and add motion to the day with more bio breaks. In our modern day world I feel like I need to do more activity with intention. Will add this to my list.
Thanks:)

Erica

Thanks for the great movements to find length for this important muscles. Sitting all say is a drag on your spirit and your body. With these simple movements we can undo an i credible about of shortness and stiffness. Thank you!

lauren

thanks for making me think about my own movements as I continue to read about the importance of the QL and psoas. It really helped connect everything!

Beth

Thank you for the great article and reminder that “what you do to one affects the other” specifically the resting influence of the muscle. I also loved the simple things that we can throughout the day to maintain a happy relationship between the psoas & QL. Thanks, too, for including great pictures to help us learn.

Stephanie

Hi Monica,
thanks for sharing the short and “easy to do” practice. I´m teaching yoga classes to office workers and this is a kind of movement, that they could easily practice even during worktime.

Jolene

Great article – I’ve never really thought about the posas being the only muscle that crosses the upper and lower body. I’ve also been looking for ways to release my posas as I sit wayyy too much…

alyse

Could definitely feel my PSOAS after stepping the foot back! Will do this more often and encourage others to do so as well.

Andree

This was a great post! I’m constantly sitting at work and at home. It’s great to learn exactly what is happening inside the body and fixes to counteract the effects!

Megan

I often forget about what my body does during the 8 hours of sleep. 8 hours!! of course if a muscle is shortened this entire time it will be affected all the time. Thanks for the tips, Monica!

Charlene Lowe

Thank you for educating me about the psoas and quadratus lumborum. The 3 step recommendation is accessible and the directions easy to follow.

Kammy fung

Monica thanks to point out the co relationship of the QL and Psoas major. Most of the activities( running, biking, squatting) or non activities (like sitting, or sitting and put weight on side of the body, driving) will impact the hip flexors (psoas major ) and Quadratus lumborum which pairs inside the body front and back of our body and related to the lumber spine and pelvic stability and movement. The tight psoas might change the curve of the lumber spine and the tilt of pelvis which will change the length Quadratus lumborum. The fists at the back exercise can… Read more »

Lindsey Rockett

Thank you, Monica!

Several years ago I received and unfortunate yoga adjustment that injured my left psoas insertion. As a result, the QL on that same side went into overdrive attempting to pick up the, quite literal, slack.

I found that stabilizing/strengthening the psoas, in addition to lengthening as you suggest, was an enormous help to restoring the balance. Same for QL. It was really through exploring their relationship to movement that I discovered how to isolate and treat them.

Ashley Burger

I focus a lot on the psoas, but never thought of incorporating the QL in this thought process. I guess this could be mistakenly movement coupled and lateral flexion could be found in hip flexion. It is important to know how to activate them individually.

Sarah Millar

The relationship between the QL and the psoas is fascinating! Thank you for sharing the actions to reverse the shortening of the psoas major! I look forward to practising these movements myself, and showing them to clients. Perfect for desk-workers, and as you said, these movements are simple and can be incorporated daily!

Carole Giuliani

Thank you for this article. While I was reading I felt like you were talking about me! My psoas is constantly being shortened. I did the exercises you suggested and will continue to do so during the day at my desk.

Alison Quinn

Thanks for illustrating the relationship between the psoas and quadratus lumborum, and the simple techniques described to reset poor daily postural habits! Will definitely have to investigate my go-to sleeping positions!

Helen

I am dealing with the results of repetitive sleeping positions that have left me with shortened and tightened QL and psoas, so I was delighted to come across a blog that explore their relationship! I really enjoyed trying out the exercise detailed here and look forward to reading part 2!!

Stephanie

Was just told about the psoas/QL connection during my Level 1 training in June. Thanks for the simple stretches. These easily fit into my day!

sarah

I’ve been hearing a lot about the QL lately but haven’t had the slightest clue what it was or what it did so thank you for illuminating that. I also didn’t realize that the psoas was the only muscle that connected our upper to our lower half. Thats incredible and yet we abuse it so much by being constantly in hip flexion. I have found that whenever I do any psoas stretching (cresent lunge, warrior 1, back bending etc that it gets very irritated. It also get irritated when I try to use it for any period of time (warrior… Read more »

Isabelle P

Ouf so much responsabily, better start lenghtening it as soon as possible

Tiffany

My two favorite and most problematic muscles.

Katiana Paré

“What you do to one affects the other” is such a good takeaway, most people don’t even know how these two muscles are interrelated. I’m just becoming aware of this myself, I will start taking note of how I fall asleep tonight. Thanks for breaking down this relationship so well.

Alyssa

I never thought of the psoas as the only muscle that connects the upper and lower halves of the body. That is a big job! Still a bit muddy on the Q.L, though…on to Part 2!

Isabelle Deschenes

I think they also are my big issu. As a desk worker i will deginitly try the water/bathroom trick. I will also stretch more for the psoas.

Janie

i have to work on this muscle soo much…

Ann

Your so right, the psoas is such a powerful muscle. I will definitely pass on those great stretches to my clients. Thanks

Kat

Nice simple stretch of the psoas. I have a tendency of making things a lot more complicated then they should be.

Kat

Nice, simple stretch of the psoas. I have a tendency of thinking it has to be something complicated to access deep muscles.
Thanks.

Brittany Brie

-I have always wondered what the mystery psoas muscle was and why it was so hard for me to understand where it was in the body.
-The example given says that we sit and hunch forward in flexion more often causing the psoas to shorten and the QL to lengthen. Does this mean that if someone always has their pelvis in an anterior tilted position their psoas muscles would be lengthened past their resting length and the QL muscles would be shortened?
-I love the three easy tips for people who are constantly sitting at their desks.

bee pallomina

I did not realize the QL and psoas shared an attachment point! Of course that makes total sense. Great info for students with lower back pain with easy suggestions for them to use throughout their day.

Annette Allen

Remembering that the psoas muscle group is the link between our upper and lower body gives me a new way to talk about this in a class where this is the focus. When I can help my clients visualize the muscle they are training and why it is important, they stay more motivated and focused during the exercise/movement, and so do I!

Sally Woods

As a person who works at a desk all day (and works remotely from our home office) and sleeps in a fetal position, I often find that my only significant movement during the weekday is getting up to go to the restroom. But even before reading this blog, I found that standing and pressing hips forward helped to release my lower back. It was helpful to read this and find that that this movement is “globally” helpful, and glad that I’m on the right path! I will now have to look to see what techniques I can use to massage… Read more »

Clayton Weakley

Great Post! This perfectly illustrates the relationship of the QL and Psoas. I liked how you pointed out what we do during the day can impact our bodies. Flexion at the hips all day with sitting, leads to chronically tight/weak psoas – as well as a chronically “tight”/lengthened/weakened QL. Thanks for sharing!

Kelly Paige

This post is very informative! I have lower back and hip pain. I did not realize I spend most of my time shortening my psoas major and QL with my repetitive movement and habits. It was helpful to learn that the psoas and QL are connected and attaching to different areas such as the spine, pelvis, hips and femur. I tried the tips the author provided to lengthen my psoas and QL and will continue to use them.

stephanie blazi

Great article! Do you recommend rolling out the QL to help stretch the psoas?

Carly

Thank you I didn’t thinkabout it before I sleep with one hip in flexion all night and and my other hip extended creating a larger arch in my back this might be why I experience back pain more at night while I sleep

Kimberly Vickery

Great tips. I also find that slighty internally rotating the right hip while performing (“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.”) will draw the lesser trochanter a bit further away from the origin of psoas, giving a little more stretch.
Thank you for the article!

Sharon

Thank you! Delivering a clear message of function and posture awareness…perfect! next class will hear and see some of this! namaste~

Simona

Thank you for the clear explanation and for reminding to stand up and walk around more. We spend so much time sitting, even at the gym! Will definitely suggest this to my students.

Kate Laird

Thank you for breaking this down in such an easy way to understand!

Marthe Boesgaard

I call the Psoas “silent/untouchable” but extremely important hidden muscle. Its strength and flexibility is essential for hip and spine health. Apart from the list of standing actions the article above mentions in order to reverse the shortening of the Psoas, non-standing movements are just as important to be incorporated throughout the day especially for recovering athletes and seniors with balance challenges and specific limitations.

Olivia

Thank you for the clear explanation of this common imbalance. I certainly experience discomfort in my low back regularly, however I am not a sitter nor do I find myself sleeping in a fetal position. I practice quite a bit of yoga and am wondering if there is repetitious movement or postures that could be contributing to my situation. I find that it is most painful to stand up from hips flexed while keeping my spine straight. I appreciate any insight. Thank you.

Ming

great reminders to think about in regards to the psoas!

Dandy

Great article, so many people are sitting at a desk all day long that you are right (and it is kind of sad), just going to the water cooler is movement!! Thanks for the stretching tips, will continue to encourage my peers and students to move and to balance their every day posture with appropriate exercices.

Dominique Pelletier

Thank you for this sharing. Always good remember….This will help me for my next class

Therese

I tend to curl up when I sleep, but have lately been catching this habit and changing my body position to extend my legs and hips…still working on changing behavior. Also, I started using the Alpha Therapy Ball to roll out my psoas and it has made a huge impact on pain relief. Thanks so much for your post.

Dustin Brown

Great post. I can feel that my QL and Psoas are shortened after a long flight. I get straight in with the Alpha ball and some yin yoga. Im interested to read your follow up article. Thank you!

Lyndsey

We have a huge cycle following in our gym and I know that our clients would benefit from these simple techniques. So many times we find that people are unaware of the impact that their daily habits can have if not mindful of their posture or using techniques such as this to correct/reset.

Vanessa Boivin

Great article, thanks for the tips on how to stand more at work, will defionitely suggest this to my clients.

Patricia

I really appreciate these easy to do & remember tips to target stretch the psoas through out a day while upright.

Love the visual anatomical chart, but can’t read the name labels, print is too small 🙁