Strengthen These Little Muscles, Perform Better

5 Ways to Level Up Your Psoas

Strengthen your psoas for athleticism, power, and injury prevention. Here’s how.

For hip strength and athletic performance, build the psoas muscle group. Where and what are the psoas muscles? They’re hip flexors. Though they’re not the only muscles that help flex the hips, they’re the ones people generally try to stretch when they say, “My hip flexors are so tight!”

The Iliopsoas muscle group consists of the iliacus and psoas major and minor. The muscle originates on the lumbar spine and then inserts onto different aspects of the pelvic crest. (And for the record, the “p” is silent. It’s most often pronounced “so-es,” which comes in handy if you ever have to see a professional for any hip-related problem.)

These muscles are more prominent and bigger in elite athletes. They also play a major role in posture. Chances are, you aren’t doing much to train this crucial muscle group.

What makes this muscle group so unique? It’s the only one that acts on both the spine and hips. The psoas’ superior bi-articular nature directly influences how your whole core works. If you don’t develop the psoas, you’re putting yourself at risk of injury and decreased performance.

Psoas Training from the Bottom-Up

Here’s a series of exercise progressions that challenge your psoas muscles. More specifically, they’ll develop weaker ranges of motion and movement that aren’t normally emphasized with regular lower-body training.

Level 1: Supine Psoas Activation

This is an intro to psoas training. The goal here isn’t to overload the muscles but to build a spatial awareness of the positions required to target them better and turn them on.

Level 2: Standing Psoas Activation

Next, take the initial drill and add some gravity to the equation. The subtle change in body position (standing) enables you to apply more resistance to the psoas when you attempt to drive the leg up past hip level.

Level 3: Half-Kneeling Banded Psoas Hold

Now, take things up a notch by advancing both the positions you’re attempting to move from and the overload. The half-kneeling position shortens your body lever and muscular contribution, so you’re effectively engaging more of your collective core, especially the psoas.

Level 4: Side Plank Banded Psoas Hold

For this one, bring in another plane of motion, which naturally makes things more dynamic and specific to actual real-life training environments.

Level 5: Standing Banded Psoas Hold

This one brings everything together and adds one final element of difficulty as you try to perform arguably one of the toughest psoas variations while standing.

Programming Tips

  • Do these isolated holds for 2-5 seconds. Do 3-5 reps.

  • Use these drills as an activation exercise in your prep work or on recovery days. You can also use them as recovery fillers in non-competing exercises (hip dominant work)

  • Level up or down with different resistance band tension.

  • Add an upper-body movement (shoulder flexion) to increase the demand, but don’t slack. Keep your form strict.

High-Hip Flexion: A Requirement?

Yes, you’ll need to drive your legs through those final 20-30 degrees of flexion remaining after the comfortable range of motion is complete. Only then will you isolate the psoas as a muscle mobilizer and further its development. This isn’t to say that the psoas isn’t active when you aren’t hitting those high-hip flexion levels; it’s just that other hip flexors are assisting in the movement, which potentially lowers its contribution.

Also, the psoas shares a force couple with the opposing glute, so the more it develops in the “scissor” type positions (one leg up, one down), the more the glute will as well. Think traditional strength-based movements like deep lunges and high-box step-ups. You’ll notice that one leg rises and the other extends. It’s this complementary pattern that anchors the other to get stronger.