I originally posted this back in November of 2009, but many of you have joined us since then, I felt it was worthwhile to revisit.

The coaching staff at CrossFit Intrepid has posted about the importance of proper warm-up as well as given some of you homework to attack particular areas of inflexibility. Upon my return from the Mobility certification, I shared with you a few stretches that we have also utilized either in the warm-up or at the end of the WOD. However as the vast majority of us are stuck in a seated position for the greater part of our waking hours, we would benefit from stretching one area in particular — the psoas.

You’re probably familiar with the psoas as an expensive cut of beef. You see, the psoas of cattle is sold in the market as filet mignon. It is one of the largest and thickest muscles in the human body, attaching at the superior end at either side of the lumbar spine and inserts at the femur. Sitting for 8 plus hours a day will cause this muscle to be in a shortened position, which over time will cause problems. I can personally attest that when I’ve been sidelined by horrible back spasms that this sucker has played a major role. Once the psoas is at that state, it is too late to stretch and you’ll need to just take it easy to avoid further aggravating it.

So how do we go about being more proactive with our psoas flexibility? First off, the samson stretch we commonly do during the warm-up is a good start. Taking it to another level, Kelly Starrett has a different application of the PNF stretching technique (you know — the wonderful 5 seconds resist, 10 seconds of deeper stretching you all love). This time he applies it to the psoas in a stretch you can easily do at home.

There’s also a great article over on Stronglifts.com that gives some tips you can put to use at the office:

  • Sit Back in Your Chair. This will stop you leaning forward as much, and thus your Psoas won’t be in as shortened position in comparison to when you sit on the edge of your seat.
  • Stop Hooking Your Feet under Your Chair. You put yourself in more hip flexion and therefore, more Psoas activation. Set your feet flat on the floor, or a raised platform if you are a shortie.
  • Stand Up When Performing Exercises. You sit all day at work and keep your Psoas shortened. Do the opposite in the gym. Instead of the bike, get on the treadmill. Sub in Overhead Press instead of Seated Press.
  • Stop Sleeping on Your Stomach. When you are on your stomach, your back goes into hyperextension. This is exacerbating what a tight Psoas already does to your back (anterior tilt). Change it up.
  • Move More. Not staying in a seated position all day will go a long way to stopping you developing a tight Psoas. Get up more frequently, stretch more often, change positions… just keep moving!

Luckily with CrossFit we don’t have to worry about standing up while performing exercises! As you can see in the Stronglifts article, the single leg bridges we often have you do are also helpful in stretching the psoas. Since the glutes are the antagonist muscles to the psoas, strengthening them can also help the situation.

WOD 03.21.11

100 Pull Ups
100 Push Ups
100 Sit Ups
100 Squats

2 Responses to “From the CFI Vault: A Closer Look at the Psoas”

March 21, 2011 at 7:47 AM

Nice info about psoas. I saw that the WOD is Angie today….. yikes!

Hope all is well at CFI. – Matt

March 21, 2011 at 9:23 AM

What up Matt?! Good to hear from you! How’s life up north?