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Make your running more efficient with a Ki-Hara trained Psoas

ki-hara hip flexor lunge


Make your running more efficient with a Ki-Hara trained psoas.

If you’re planning an endurance race this season, you may have started to notice some problems now that you’re kicking up the mileage - such as hip pain, fatigue, lower back pain, or Achilles pain.  These problems can be caused by weak and inflexible hip flexors.  By using Ki-Hara to strengthen and resistance stretch this muscle group, you can not only avoid the injuries listed above, but actually improve your marathon experience.
This beautifully complex muscle propels us through our lives each and every day.  The hip flexors are made up of the psoas (SO-az) major, psoas minor and illiacus.  The psoas originates at the lumbar spine, works its way through the pelvis to join the illiacus and attaches at the lesser trochanter (a little notch on the femur).  It forms a sort of hammock for the internal organs and cradles our center of gravity - the hara.  The psoas group, the only muscle group that connects the legs and the spine, is responsible for either lifting the knee toward the chest or pulling the chest toward the knees, depending on which end is fixed.  If you have ever found yourself doubled over in a fetal position, your psoas was the culprit as pulling the knees into the chest protects our vital organs when we’re in danger.  We use our psoas during everyday life movements such as walking and running to lift the leg with little or no effort.
When the psoas seizes, walking, running, and even laying down on your back can be excruciating.  Because the psoas originates on the lumbar spine, a tightening of this muscle can cause lower back pain and in extreme cases can cause disc issues.  But that’s not all - the hip flexor is a bit of an external rotator and when not functioning properly, the body compensates, causing problems with the IT band.  It’s possible that groin and hamstring injuries can be caused by a tight psoas.  According to Amy Goddard, PT and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), owner and director of Goddard Orthopedic and Sports Therapy in Coppell, Texas,  "Hip flexor tightness is the first thing I look for when treating hamstring strain, Achilles tedinosis [tendon degeneration], hip bursitis and even low back pain." (Hays)  It’s important to take care of your hip flexors in order to avoid these common injuries.  
On the other end, a strong and flexible psoas can create harmony in your running.  The muscles of your hip flexors create the power stroke or the swing phase in running according to podiatrist Dr. Stacy Osborne.   “The swing phase leg, the non weight bearing leg, is responsible for generating a pull on the runners center of gravity. This advancing center of gravity acts on the leg that is in contact with the ground, using the foot locked onto the immobile ground as a lever to generate rearward thrust, which drives the body forward."  The psoas group needs a good amount of oxygen and blood to stay working, yet fatigues very quickly - this is the stage when most runners find it difficult to keep up their pace.  A strong and flexible psoas will keep the swing phase working in a decent cadence. (Osborne D.P.M.)
So how can you know if you have a problematic psoas?  There are a few simple tests.  First, test your psoas for strength by standing on one leg lifting the other knee up so that that the femur is higher than parallel to the floor.  Add a little resistance by placing your hand on your raised thigh.  Hold for three seconds.  If you feel any discomfort in your hip or lower back, your psoas is weak.  Second, test your flexibility by laying flat on the ground.  Pull one leg up and hug it into your chest - if the straight let comes off the ground, your hip flexor needs some flexibility training. 
The most efficient way I’ve found to stretch my hip flexors is through Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching.  Ki-Hara focuses on strength training the psoas and stretching through eccentric training (with resistance).  Stretching this way creates muscles that are elastic, more explosive and much more stable - all pluses when it comes to running.  In my own practice, I’ve noticed drastic changes stretching my hip flexors using this method - and nearly immediately.  
To watch a video explaining this amazing hip flexor stretch, click this link.
After Ki-Hara stretching, repeat the psoas strength and flexibility tests to see immediate changes.  For more long term changes, notice how your running practice improves with a more supple psoas.  
Hays, Katrina. "Psore in the Psoas? ." Trail Runner: One Dirty Magazine. Nov.48 (2007): n. page. Web. 28 Oct. 2011. <>.
Osborne D.P.M., Dr. Stacy. "The Power Stroke in Running." The Osborne Running Anaylsis Lab: Specializing in the Biomechanical Treatment of Running Injuries. N.p., 2010. Web. 28 Oct 2011. <>.



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And for those of you reading who are my tanwokedo enthusiasts, every time you lift that leg in the air to kick, the hip flexor initiates the lift. The hip flexors are used and abused constantly, and deserve the time you give them for stretching. Before a workout or competition you might try dynamic stretches for moving and warming up the muscles. For improving general health and flexibility of those muscles over time, try long, slow, myofascial stretching, aimed at release and elongation of the tissues. Stretching too hard and long before a workout or competition can cause injury, so the timing of these kinds of stretches is important.

Great comment Michael!  This is definitely an issue for martial arts as well as runners.  You might want to check out a stretching video I just posted on YouTube of stretches for the TFL - another hip flexor used in side kicks and roundhouse kicks. I'll try to embed it, but if it doesn't work Here's the link



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