You have, no doubt, come across this muscle ‘the Psoas’ but I wanted to talk about it as it plays such a significant role in the functioning of our hips, and it also effects how well our glutes can do their job as well, which means, overall that it has a massive impact on how well you can sit in the saddle.
The Psoas (So-as) is one of the busiest muscles of the body as it is the one with the most bony attachments. It attaches to the last thoracic vertebrae, all of your lumbar vertebrae, your sacrum, the top of the femur and the top ridge of your pelvis.
It is responsible for bringing your upper body towards your knees, and is the muscle you will recruit in the final stages of a sit up (rather the 6 pack portion of your abs).
Because it has so many vertebral attachments, it has a stabilising role to the spine and it effects the relationship between your lower back and your pelvis. When we start talking about alignment and the ability to be in neutral spine, this over achiever has a lot to answer for.
What your Postural Appearance says about the state of the your Psoas
Do you walk with your bottom stuck out behind you? Maybe you have seen someone and think of it as having a ‘duck butt’. This occurs when your Psoas is too short and tight. It pulls on the lumbar vertebrae, giving you too much of a hollow in your lower back causing your bottom to stick out.
If your psoas is stretched, it cannot maintain a correct curve in the lower back and you lose the shape of neutral spine. This gives you the appearance of having a flat back and a flat bottom. Both of these scenarios can create pain in the lower back and around the hips as the pelvis is being pulled out of alignment, and when the pelvis sits in either one of these positions, it’s not hard to imagine how getting a good seat becomes incredibly difficult.
If, like me, you have scoliosis or an actual leg length discrepancy, the tension in each Psoas from side to side can be different; with one being short and tight, and the other being long and stretched. This makes management a bit trickier, but certainly not impossible.
Pelvic Muscle Recruitment
The Psoas not only effects our postural positioning, but also the way in which the muscles of the pelvis are recruited. Situated between the layers of the psoas muscle is the lumbar plexus; a concentrated bundle of nerves that fire up the abdominals, the pelvic floor, muscles of the hip (rotators) and muscles of the thigh (quads). Any irritation in the muscle itself, ie too short or too stretched, will impact how this lumbar plexus is able to communicate with the muscles in its care. Getting the Psoas sorted is really a top priority job.
So what can you do?
If you do suffer with a tight Psoas, this stretch can be really helpful and I would recommend doing this before you ride.
Gather some pillows or a bolster and place them on the ground.
Sit down in front of your pillows with your legs extended out in front of you.
Keep your hamstrings on the ground and slowly lean back. There will come a point when your hamstrings lift off the ground. At this point, grab your pile of pillows and place them underneath your shoulders and your head. If your psoas is really tight, you may not get very far before your hamstrings leave the floor and you might need a lot of pillows!
Once your shoulders and head are supported, allow the ribcage to gently sink towards the floor. Do not force anything just allow gravity to do its job.
If your Psoas is too tight you should feel a stretch anywhere from the lower back down through to the hip.