Finding the Psoas

A few weeks ago I did a post on hyperlordosis and how the psoas is a primary contributor to it and back pain. Issues with the psoas and hip flexors are pretty common since most people sit during a large portion of their day, and it can cause pain anywhere from the sacrum to the scapula (ass to shoulder blade). The following is a nice visual on what the psoas looks like when stationary and during various hip movements (the captions aren’t in English, just look at the image after reading the hyperlordosis post):

I recommended that if you were hyperlordotic to try working on your psoas. Instead of just mashing around in your guts, I wanted you to learn where your psoas was so that you could work on it. There are a few good techniques to use, but you have to be accurate with you’re massage. At worst, you could occlude your abdominal aorta; at best you’d just be doing a pointless massage. Here is the info on how to find the psoas on yourself:

To begin, lie on your back, pull your knees up, and let them fall to the side opposite to the posas you want to work on. This will let your intestines move away from the target area. Start about two inches from your belly button — you’ll be between the button and your hip bone. You are feeling around for a muscle that runs longitudinally with your spine. If you are incredibly tight, it can feel like a hard sausage. To confirm that you are touching your psoas, flex your hip (pull your knee up) slightly; the psoas should contract. Another way is to lift your head to contract your rectus abdominis; the psoas will be off to the side of the area that contracts. It may take a few minutes to become acquainted with the psoas your first time; be patient, virgin.

 

Most of you wrote back saying that you couldn’t find it. I don’t have to ask to know that you weren’t patient during your search. When palpating deep tissue, you have to allow your fingers to sink through the superficial tissue — stuff like fascia or connective tissue can prevent immediate palpation of the deep stuff. I’ve made a video “finding the psoas” is broken down crayola style.

 

If you have any issues with this process, then post the questions to the comments.

32 thoughts on “Finding the Psoas

  1. What works great for me is to have someone “trap” my psoas while I’m flat on my back. Then I straighten my leg and repeat… lot of release that way.

    • Yep. I’ll have a vid on doing this on your own, but it kind of requires an implement. What you mention is essentially tack and stretching the psoas, which is money.

      • Can’t wait to see what you got. I’m a very happy man if I can have it done daily, it really does improve the way my back feels exponentially. However, I’m not able to have someone do it every day so being able to tack (knew it wasn’t trap) and stretch myself will be amazing.

        Granted we’ve only been getting at it a few weeks and it’s getting to the point where returns are minimal but there’s still room for improvement.

        • “Trap” would just be a synonym for what I’m saying.

          Joe DeFranco has a vid of him doing it with a theracane. That’s pretty much what I was gonna base it on.

  2. Maybe this is a really dumb question but how should one determine if this is a thing to keep doing? I mean, I feel like I generally have tight hip flexors and get decent results from just the couch stretch and the test retest after that shows me something is happening. With this sort of thing I am less sure how I should be feeling better afterwards to know if it is worth continuing.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s an acute thing unless you have active lower back pain. It’s more of the chronic effect of working on it a few times a day.

      If you don’t have some decent back pain or hyerplordosis, then I wouldn’t make a daily effort to work on it.

  3. Justin, thanks for the video. I’m trying to take mobility more seriously but combing through mwod is overwhelming. Keep em coming.

    Off topic question: how concerned should I be about my calves contacting my hamstrings in the bottom of a clean/high-bar/front squat? (with regard to knee health)

    • Unless you have some existing pathology, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. I personally don’t front squat to that depth, but will inevitably have snatches and cleans to that depth, especially when heavy.

      Be sure to train your hamstrings. If you’re weightlifting regularly, then RDLs or good mornings work very well.

    • They are awesome at building the lumbar and rear hip musculature, but they aren’t going to do much for the psoas. If the psoas is an issue, then it needs treatment. There are some pussy yoga methods of just lying still and “relaxing the psoas” and stuff, but we all lift and take our lives seriously.

      Anyway, it would depend on how afflicted the psoas was. Got constant low back pain? Severe hyperlordosis. Then work on the psoas.

  4. How easy is it that you occlude your aorta? I’m guessing difficult since this is being posted…however in the off chance, you should feel a strong pulse before you do real damage correct?

    • You should feel it pulsing, yes. Remember that you aren’t going to be applying a lot of force initially anyway. You’re just navigating through superficial tissue, then testing to see if you’re on the psoas. If you follow the rectus abdominis rule, then you shouldn’t have an issue with getting close to the abdominal aorta. But the cover my ass says don’t ever do any of this ever.

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  6. sup, Justin. In the video, you showed three areas along the psoas to target. My question is there any reason going a little lower, massasing the area between the lowest point you showed and where your adductors connect under your groin. The thumbnail shot on the video up there showed the psoas sort of loop down to the hip capsule/femur area. Should we massage/roll that area or is it getting into the bony area? I sometimes roll that spot with a foam ball after massaging the areas you showed followoing it up with a hip flexor stretch. Thanks man

    • I’m not following what you’re asking. You’re asking if we should work on the muscle more distal into the groin? And then you’re asking if it’s fine to foam roll it?

      • Sorry, that did seem confusing. Asking a question that I followed up with an answer.

        Let me rephrase: Is there any reason to work lower on the psoas than you showed in your video? Is there any benefit to this? I tried before lying on my back and it’s difficult to do with my fingers the further you go down.

        That’s where I was going with the foam ball rolling/massaging, since it was difficult to do with my hand.

        • If you’re not lying down, then you won’t really hit your psoas anyway.

          You’re not going to be able to work on the psoas from the inguinal ligament or inferior (below) because the psoas is deep (underneath) to it. It’s also turning into a thin tendon to attach on the lesser trochanter of the femur. That means that it’s not really a muscle belly, plus it’s not really accessible since it’s under the ligament and is tracking to attach in it’s spot.

          You can move down the psoas closer to the inguinal ligament (the v shape in leaner people) to work on it — it just depends on where it’s tight. I would expect most people to need to work on the proximal end instead of the distal end.

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  8. Would a tight psoas and other tight hip flexors be the reason when sleeping on my stomach at times feels as a slight stretch for the front of my hips and into the abdominal area?

  9. This was totally awesome.

    I’ve been concerned about my hip flexors for years but never got in there for direct work on the psoas.

    thanks a bunch

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  11. Hi Justin, I am confused about your video. Although your video was very clear and your instructions were good, thank you for that. I am confused because I have an erection from watching the video, but I am not gay? It is quite hard and a bit painful. I was following along with your instructions but I was sitting up so perhaps I was massaging my rectus abdominus by mistake, if that could be involved. The erection has not gone away it is still there. I am very confused, can you think of anything? (I am not gay).

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