Issue #151


by Juan Carlos Lopez

20 Questions with Cover Model Robyn Kimsey

Video Interview with Amateur Figure Robyn Kimsey

Robyn Kimsey, Kat Cody, Karalina Malachaeva, Kristen Davis & Kate Grevey

Strengthen and Lengthen your Iliopsoas
by Tina Jo Orban

Video Interview with Fitness Model Shelby Talon



Strengthen and Lengthen your Iliopsoas
By Toni Orban ACE and ISSA CFT.
August 29, 2017

Low back pain may not be coming from your “back” at all. The iliopsoas (sounds like "eel –e-oh-so- as') (which seems to have become a buzz word in health industry) is a muscle is that proves to be problematic for humans. It is mainly due to lifestyles we have adopted. Sitting, and particularly long term seems to be deleterious to posture, pelvic position and general back health overall. Technically the iliopsoas is a muscle of the lower limb.

We were meant to move. The iliopsoas is actually two muscles that converge and become one.  The psoas major runs from the base of the vertebral bodies of T-12 (Thoracic vertebra 12) downward through L-5 (lumbar 5) and inserts inside the pelvic rim where it meets the iliacus.
This merged muscle than sweeps anteriorly just below your inguinal ligament (think groin) and inserts on your inner thigh up high on a part of your femur called the lesser trochanter (yes you guessed it there is a greater trochanter too). Anyhow, this muscle’s primary job is hip flexion. This is why it is a lower limb muscle. It brings the femur horizontal to the ground. Pulls your thigh up when step, hop skip. It also laterally rotates the hip (femur spins out).  The trouble: The Iliopsoas can be best understood if we go way back to the womb. In the womb the embryos legs are folded forward, and of course this puts the legs and hip in extreme flexion. When babies come out notice they can never really extend their legs straight and they always have that kind of “frog leg” posture.  Once they begin to ambulate (walk) they have what looks like their bottom is sticking out— because it is. They have extreme lumbar lordosis (swayback) due to the tight iliopsoas and hip flexors in general. Which pulls on that pelvis forward. This straightens out as babies continue to walk and ‘loosen” up the muscles that flex the hip.

That said as student (and this is where human being lifestyle comes in to play and how we choose to live (such as sitting at computer for protracted periods like I do when I write these articles) has a deleterious effect on low back. It can also create referred pain to the abdomen and create upper thigh pain. Prolonged sitting leads to shortening of the hip flexors namely the iliopsoas.

With low back pain comes compromised training/exercise. What to do?  Yes, I am always about training the muscles but this article’s focus is about strengthening and lengthening your iliopsoas so as to be free of back pain and anterior pelvic tilt.

As aforementioned the primary movement of this muscle is to flex the hip. It is interesting in quadrupeds this muscle is rarely problematic as the muscle just works to swing the hind leg forward not much gravity to resist. In contrast humans walk upright (well most of anyhow) against gravity the muscles have to balance pulling the femur forward with not too much pull on the pelvis. This what happens though—as you can imagine that when it pulls the pelvis down and forward, it causes anterior pelvic tilt which causes low back pain. It is thus very quite common for people to have low back pain. And this is most likely the cause (unless you have disc problems that is another topic for another article).  So let us talk strengthening the iliopsoas/ You can perform:
High Knee Hikes reps 20 rest one minute.
If you are up for a challenge, you could do this again resistance such as a band for 20- 30 reps (resistance should be tough enough to fatigue but completed with good form and no break until reps are done then rest 1 minute.

Squats Perform your squats as you normally would. This muscle gets worked!

Lunges Perform your lunges as you normally would. This muscle gets worked!

Sprinting, yes you will hit it when you HIIT it! Try the Tabata Method[1] if you are up for it.
Or just do Ten second sprints followed by two minute rests. For 3-6 sets.


Now here is the SECRET: Stretching!!
Keep in mind that there is a myriad of causes of low back pain but if you feel like you cannot extend it your hips very much and you have low back pain and you have low abdominal pain and you feel you can see that you have lumbar lordosis. That is visibly your hips bones are tilted forward and low back sways the likely culprit is a tight iliopsoas.
As mentioned things to strengthen the iliopsoas are simply flexion. Your own bodyweight and or resistance this targets this in the exercises above. Also a simple hike outdoors trains it.

But what you need is to stretch this muscle. And sometimes a good massage therapist (I am currently working on my massage therapy license) can treat what stretching cannot.

The stretch: With one-foot flat on the floor down in a deep lunge and the leg’s knee on the floor pull your ankle of the foot with the knee on the floor toward your buttocks. You can slightly twist your hip outward to stretch it a little more. See image. Hold stretches for 20 seconds. Release and repeat. Never bounce or pull too quickly and breath through the stretching for discomfort.

That sums it so one more word about your back and the iliopsoas. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If possible, try not to sit for prolonged periods. Get up and straighten out your legs at least every two hours of sitting. And make sure to counteract human lifestyle of sitting with stretching!

[1] Tabata is for advanced fitness. It is not recommended for beginners. Source: <https://www.google.com/search?q=tabata+method+
924&bih=583#imgrc=d7R0wphoUzDJLM: August 30, 2017.
References: Bandhayoga.com & Wynn Kapit Lawrence m. Elson The Anatomy Coloring Book 4th edition 2014.

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