Many don’t really see the importance of our five letter muscle that is the primary controller of flexing our hips: Psoas. Most endurance athletes, football players, martial artists, soccer players, and any sport that speed is a necessity will experience this injury at least once in their lifetime. Even bodybuilders and power lifters can experience this injury when hips are externally rotated within a deep squat motion. Many times you hear it being referred to as a “pulled groin” muscle. I’m going to touch base on this injury when it comes to ways of strengthening, mobilizing, and increasing stability.
One of the best ways of increasing this muscle without too much compounding of sheer weight is using bands. You can use a short mini band and position yourself in a supine (lying on your back) position. Also you can have both legs inside of band (right above the ankle).
Two motions to perform:
1). Allow the leg we are strengthening to move straight up and down with control. You will not need to cover much distance but you do want to maintain resistance during the entire motion.
2). Now in the same position slightly externally rotate foot and repeat the same motion above.
3). This next position we will need to secure band on a stationary object and keep foot at a neutral position but approximate the leg pulling across midline at a 45 degree angle in an upward motion.
All these motions are still focused on controlling all phases of flexion. Perform this 2 times per week with a 20 rep count for each motion. This will also create more stability over time and prevent the occurrence of psoas injury.
Mainly focusing on stretching. The one that many of us athletes will perform is called the runners stretch. Two different ways to perform this maneuver:
1). We position front leg with hip externally rotated and leg staying firmly against the floor while other hip and leg is in full extension on the floor. This is a very challenging stretch for those who lack flexibility, but is a solid “two-for-one” stretch since we are also stretching the piriformis muscle (main extensor muscle of the hip) at the same time.
2). Now same as with the first position with our back leg and hip in extension, but now we are planting our front heel firmly down. This position allows us to be able to shift our weight forward to allow more of a deep stretch of the psoas muscle in our hind leg.
Another great stretch that is more passive is what some refer to as the “butterfly stretch”. First, start off sitting down on the floor. Bring the plantar surface of both feet together and allow hips to relax. You will feel a slight stretch but not as aggressive as the first two. You can make it more of a challenge with a friend or someone you trust to apply some pressure on both sides. Keep in mind the pressure applied needs to be a gentle amount at first to be sure you can handle.
Both strength and mobilization will help better the environment for stability, but we always need to keep in mind that the hip joint is a multi axial joint that moves in all directions (just like the shoulder). So doing exercises that do involve some of our intrinsic muscles such as, adductors and abductors, will initially allow a more stable environment. Most gym facilities do possess these types of machines. Now for my personal take these exercises do not need to be done in an explosive or speedy-like fashion. It will do more harm than good with hitting a stack of 50 fast reps. Attempt to control both eccentric and concentric phases and allow full range of movement. This will allow those muscles to truly do the majority of the work in these particular exercises.
Ask someone you know who has had this particular injury. They will explain to you that you can barely lift your knee about a few inches from neutral in a typical case. Or if you try to explode in a sprint that will feel almost like you have zero strength in that hip. The purpose of this article is to allow more of the understanding of the Psoas muscle which is no bigger than a 7-11 taco, but if not properly managed can be debilitating to any athlete.