If the iliopsoas and other hip flexors are tight, they pull down and forward on the pelvis, which tilts the pelvis forward and compresses the lower back. Picture a man standing with the front of his pelvis tilting forward and his tailbone lifting. To stand upright, he has to overarch his lower back. Anatomically, this is called hyperextension; commonly, it's called "swayback." Prolonged standing or sitting in this position increases pressure on the facet joints of the lower spine, which can contribute to arthritis in those joints.
Several muscles cross the front of the hip and create hip flexion, pulling the thigh and trunk toward each other, but probably the most important is the iliopsoas. It is actually composed of two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas, which lie deep in the back of the abdomen. If you looked at the front of a body with the internal organs removed, you would see the psoas lying alongside the spine, attached to the sides of the lumbar vertebrae. The iliacus originates on the inner bowl of the pelvis. Both muscles cross the floor of the pelvis, emerge at the outer edges of the pubic bones, and finally insert on the inner upper femur (thighbone). Because the muscles are buried so deep, we can't see or touch them, so it's easy to understand why there is much confusion about their location and action.
If your fitness goals are to get strong and build hard, visible muscle, then you’re going to want to train in three phases according to Heath. Strength, conditioning, and a blend of the two that works for you. “If you can get to the gym 4-5 days a week, that would be perfect,” he says. “You can still do chest/tri’s, back/bi’s, legs, shoulders, and make the fifth day a cleanup day, meaning focus on body parts you may be weaker in.” Check out Heath’s guide to finding your best muscle-building routine.
Those 5-pound dumbbells were a great place to start as a beginner, but if you've been lifting weights for a while, it's time to bump up the weight. “You can use both exercise machines and free weights,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, exercise physiologist, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery, “but, if you are not lifting heavy enough weight, it doesn’t matter if you are primarily using free weights or machines.” In order to build muscle, you must break down muscle tissue using a weight that is challenging enough to cause micro-tears, which when repaired, form denser, stronger fibers.
Place a band around your ankles. Shift your weight into your right foot and place the toes of your left foot on the ground about an inch behind your right foot, so there is tension in the band. Exhale as you kick your left leg back about six inches. Avoid arching your back and keep your knees straight. Inhale as you return your left foot to the starting position. Do 10-12 reps. Switch sides.
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