You may not have heard of your psoas (pronounced ‘só-az’) muscle, but it’s an important part of your body. It’s the muscle that connects your lower back to your legs, and is responsible for flexing your hip joint and lifting your upper leg toward your torso. In other words, without it, you’d have trouble walking, let alone running. This muscle doesn’t get as much attention as your quads, glutes and hamstrings, but a new study demonstrated that runners who improve the strength of their psoas run faster.
The researchers took eight well-trained male distance runners and put them on a 12-week program that included two strength training sessions per week alongside their runs and workouts. The strength program specifically targeted the runners’ psoas muscles. After the 12-week program, the researchers found that the cross-sectional area of each participant’s psoas had increased (i.e., the muscle got bigger and stronger). Even more importantly, every participant an improvement in their constant-velocity running test after the program, compared with their results from before they started. The researchers concluded that when you train the psoas muscle in conjunction with running training, you should see an improvement in your running performance.
How to train your psoas
In order to strengthen your psoas, you need to bring your knees past 90 degrees, preferably with some resistance. In order to do this safely, you need to make sure you’re keeping your core strong and your hips stable. Check out this video below that outlines three psoas exercises for athletes, and try incorporating them into your next strength-training session.