The Role Of The Psoas Muscle In Dressage Riders
As we progress our dressage posture and balance its important to get a good understanding of what muscles can really impact your riding. Now I wrote a post all about the 8 key muscles involved in stabilizing the lower half of our core and today I wanted to narrow in more on our Psoas muscle.
The Function Of The Psoas
The Psoas muscles is often classified as a hip flexor or you may hear if referred to as the iliopsoas which is a combination of both the psoas muscles and the iliacus. Until recently they were often reffered to as one in the same due to similar actions. However the truth is the psoas muscle does much more than just flex the hip in fact it has a major role is more about the position of the pelvis and lower back. The psoas helps us control our neutral spine and proper alignment of our lower back.
Where Exactly Is The Psoas?
The psoas attaches around your pelvis and is located deep with the abdomen, and originates along the sides of the vertebral bodies of the 12th thoracic vertebrae to the 5th lumbar vertebrae, and along the sides of the intervertebral spinal discs. It then travels down to attach below the lesser trochanter of the femur. These attachments means it has a huge impact on your ability to absorb the movement of the horse.
This video here from Ken Hub explains the anatomy of the psoas muscle.
When you Psoas muscles is tight it tilts the pelvis forwards and lifts it up and away from the flow of the horses movement, which may be referred to as a hollow and or braced back. Also when the psoas is tight and contracted it doesn’t have its natural flexibility and length which then affects your range of motion and mobility. Often a tight psoas muscle means the riders pelvis is tipped forward and this can cause the knee to be pulled away from the horse and the toes to point outwards.
See here in this picture I demonstrate what a tight psoas can look like. Check out the gap between my knee and saddle and how my toes turn outwards. Often a sign of tight psoas and hip flexors.
What Causes A Tight Psoas?
Well a number of things, but the most obvious is the environment that you put your body into repetitively each and every day. So sitting in a desk and driving your car long hours will cause your psoas to become tight and contracted. So without releasing them and if they have become short and tight you may find you then bounce and be stiff within the saddle.
How To Release A Tight Psoas?
There are a few ways to release it and today I thought I would share one I use more often than others. However before you hunt out lots of fixes its important to note that you spending 5-10 minutes releasing but continuing to place your body into the same environment each and every day that shortens it will continue to provide you with the same niggly problems. So the key is to be really honest and start to look at ways you can improve your day to day activities that enhance your riding posture. If you work at a desk all day, can you spend half your day at a standing desk? Can you have walking meetings? Can you workout in the middle of your working day?
To stretch your psoas you can use the edge of a bed, couch or even the bonnet of your car. Lay down and pull one knee into your chest. With the other leg leg it hang down without arching your back. Think of pressing your lower back down to allow the length to happen through the front of the body.
When you don’t have a tight psoas pulling your pelvis forward you will find you are able to breath easier and your leg with sit longer within the saddle. As dressage riders our goal is to be light, balanced and subtle within the saddle. This requires a combination of fluidity, mobility, suppleness and strength. Therefore a tight and contracted spine and hip joint is going to affect this. A horses movement can be huge beneath us and we need the ability to efficiently shock absorb and this requires our lower back to be able to receive the movement while maintaining neutral spine through a stable pelvis, ribcage and veterbra.
Check out my next post where I explain how the psoas affects pelvis stability.
Learn more about the role your psoas plays in pelvis stability along with exercises and stretches to help improve your rider balance and strength. All inside the dressage rider training program. Learn more here.