You know it and I know it: a strong core is gold for a runner’s performance. My lower back has been bothering me a little lately, which of course slowed down my running a bit. It never fails that when I take a little time to workout my lower abs and psoas muscles, my lower back issues get lost. Almost immediately. So, today at the gym, my focus was on just that, and as anticipated, I left feeling more supported in my lower back and abs, post-workout. You know me, when an area is bothering me, or becomes easily sore after an activity, I look at it as a giant flashing arrow to help me find the under-trained area and step up my game.
Several factors go into core strength, and it’s certainly a multi-pronged approach. However, the psoas muscle is a very, very important muscle when it comes to a runner’s core strength (or anyone’s core strength, for that matter), and, for reasons I will never understand, the poor psoas muscle group gets so little attention.
For starters, it is certainly worthy of our care. Ever wonder what muscles connect the torso and lower body? The psoas. Ever wonder why strong lower abs lessen or eliminate lower back pain? A strengthened psoas supports abdominal muscles, thighs, hips, lower back and even shoulder motion to an extent. Take that.
When the psoas muscles are in optimal condition, they stabilize the lower back, and cause the spine and abdomen to be held in alignment (that not-bowed-out-forward look, but the solid trunky look of the torso from the side), thus appearing and, most importantly, feeling strong.
Crunches are great for abs, and that’s all well and good, but I like to cut to the chase, personally. By that I mean, we can work on abs and not do much for the psoas, but it’s hard to work on the psoas and not work out the abs in the process.
Here are some pro-psoas and pro-core moves I like:
- Try the reverse decline crunch, too. I make sure I stretch my torso out long, long, long on the bench. Maybe even a couple of weights on the ankles once in a while to really whoop your own butt a little. Then try the reverse decline abdominal reach. When my back bothers me, I do this one, along with the decline crunch and I think they rule. Your fitness practice is your own, reader dear, but I find that the more I lengthen my torso when I do any of these, the more I feel it. Do what suits you.
- Knee and leg raises on tall parellel bars are a favorite of mine, too. They’re tough but they seem gratifying to me because how much I can feel them working.
- Olympic sprinter, Tyson Gay (not Tyson Homosexual, as he was incorrectly called in the then-unadvertised doctoring of an AP-feed story), has a good pro-psoas routine he follows that I love.
- Lastly, the first and last exercises in this video clip are ones I rely on often. With the first exercise, I either strap weights to my ankles, or pinch a dogbone dumbell vertically between my feet. In the last exercise, I really focus on doing it smoothly. No shaking, or fast stuff, just smooth, controlled movement. It’s a good one to do anyplace, and even a few seconds can give the torso a nice boost, say, after sitting at a desk too long.