The Mighty Psoas

Taking a look at Jacqui Greene Haas’s Dance Anatomy offers great insight into the workings of the psoas muscle in relation to dance-specific movements.

The iliopsoas consists of a group of three muscles. The iliacus, the psoas major, and the psoas minor which are located in the inner part of the abdomen attaching at the bottom of the thoracic spine(T12) and along the lumbar spine(through L4) and pass down over the front of the hip joint, attaching at the top of the femur(thigh bone). The main action of the iliopsoas is to flex the thigh at the hip joint and is key for dancers to lift the knee above 90 degrees and hold the leg at above average heights.  

One topic discussed in his work is that of the important iliopsoas muscle. Weakness and tightness of the iliopsoas can result in mis-alignments of the lower back and pelvis, which then affect the legs and stability of the spine.  

Since the iliopsoas originates on the anterior aspect of the lower-spine vertebrae, when it is tight it pulls the lower spine resulting in a tilting of the front pelvis forward. Dancing in this anterior pelvic tilt and lower back arch creates an inactivity of the abdominals and adductors.

A weak or tight psoas muscle can "snap" which is  a common occurrence in dancers.  Snapping hip syndrome occurs when the iliopsoas tendon moves over the head of the femur.  This is common in extreme leg movements such as a grand battement or developpe a la seconde. Hass states that “Maintaining strength with turnout throughout an entire range of motion allows the iliopsoas to function in a position that reduces the snapping. Maintaining the flexibility can also help keep the tendon from snapping.”

Here are two exercises to help strengthen and stretch this important muscle!

Try this great psoas stretch: 

Psoas Stretch

Here is a great abdominal exercise to help strengthen the psoas:

Psoas Strengthener

Hold the Flexistretcher pulled to a slight tension directly over your chest. Keep your arms held in this fixed position. Scissor your legs hitting the top leg into the center of the strap and switch legs. Lower your arms if your leg is unable to reach the strap. Repeat 15-20 times.

 

4 Facts about Stretching

 
Flexistretcher Front Split

1. What is stretching?    

Stretching is actively working to increase a range of motion around a joint. 

2. Why stretch?

Stretching is a simple and effective way to enhance athletic performance, decrease the chance of injury, and minimize muscle soreness.

When you increase range of motion in joint you increase the distance the limbs can move and contract. By improving flexibility you reduce risk of injury because your joints are better able to move through their full range of motion.

This can improve the muscle’s power, and your ability to actively control the muscles, resulting in a better execution of movement and an enhanced performance.

Other added benefits of stretching are improved posture, improved circulation by increasing blood flow to the muscles, increased energy levels, reduced muscle tension, and stress release.

3. What are the Dangers of poor flexibility?

Tight stiff muscles limit normal range of motion and interfere with correct muscle actions. This can greatly increases the chance of becoming injured and is why you must keep up with a daily stretching routine. 

4. Stretching is not a one time magic wand!

The benefits of stretching can be accomplished when flexibility training is applied professionally and diligently over an extended period of time. Do not expect miracles from a stretching routine it takes time, dedication, and determination!

Stretching the Adductors is Critical to Dance and Sports Performance

The main function of the adductors, or group inner thigh muscles, is to adduct the hip joint or move the leg closer to the midline of the body. The adductors play a key role in most daily activities including sitting and standing (hip flexion and extension), walking, running and are critical to dance or sports performance.

adductors

Keeping the adductor muscles supple can increase the range of motion your hips can move and reduce your risk of straining these muscles. A review published in the 2009 issue of "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" states that there is a strong correlation between a lack of hip adductor flexibility and an increase risk of hip injuries among soccer players and other athletes. When taking the leg into extreme ranges of motion such as when the soccer player kicks the ball vigorously into the goal or a dancer grand battements to the side, the risk of a groin pull increases if the balance does not exist between the hamstrings and the hip adductors.  A groin pull is common with higher leg extensions, running, jumping or sudden changes in motion-all common to sports and dance. 

Many dancers and athletes concentrate on stretching only certain areas of the thigh, the hamstrings and quadriceps.  But as we take our legs wider apart we become immediately aware of Adductors, a group that is too often ignored by most dancers and athletes. Unlike Hamstring focused stretches, Adductor stretches force us to take our Femur (thigh) bone away from its very stable ball and socket joint where it inserts in the hip.  Focus on stretches that lengthen the adductors, creating a balance with the hamstrings.  Here are some of our stretch suggestions for keeping the adductors supple to prevent injury: 

1.) If your hip adductors are moderately tight, take this supine inner thigh stretch with the Flexistretcher while lying on your back.

adductorballetstretch

Make sure to use the same rules of good alignment that you would use in any other forward bend (straight spine, shoulders away from the ears), even if this means that you go only half as far as you might expect.

2.) If you are ready to challenge your body a bit more, take a similar pose in Prasarita Padottanasana, or wide legged forward bend.  

Wide Legged Forward Fold

3.) Try the seated wide leg forward fold, Upavistha Konasana.  

Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold

4.) Middle split with the Flexistretcher utilizes elastic resistance to encourage full muscle activation and provides a challenge. 

Flexistretcher Middle Split