Sunday, 25 March 2018

Muscles of the pelvis and hips

Glutes/Hips and Low Back Stretches

with Megan Prenty , RMT Yoga Teacher


Anatomy & Symptoms

Glutes - 1. Gluteus Maximus, 2. Gluteus Medius, Minimus
This is a group of three muscles along the back of the pelvis. These muscles are the body’s largest and strongest muscles and are responsible for hip extension and helping to keep the trunk erect.  

Gluteus Maximus is known for its size and thickness. Running along the back of the pelvis to the lateral leg at the IT band, it makes up the largest muscle of this group.  Gluteus maximus is primarily responsible for extension of the hip. Gluteus Medius and Minimus are smaller muscles which run from the outer pelvis to the top of the femur and are primarily responsible for external rotation of leg when the hip is in extension.

Many postural concerns are caused by imbalances in the gluteal muscles. Often strengthening these muscles can help prevent unwanted side effects and postural related pain. Maintaining healthy glutes can also help improve athletic performance, particularly with jumping, balancing and speed.

Dysfunction in this muscle group is often related to muscle imbalances along the thigh, including tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors. Postural imbalances can lead to injury and lower back pain which is common with extensive sitting or standing. Athletes who participate in competitive sports often have issues with this muscle. The glutes are also usually tight in people who walk or run regularly, or spend extended periods sitting or standing.

Gluteus Maximus stretch:
To stretch the glutes, we must first isolate the muscles. Let’s begin with Gluteus Maximus. To isolate this muscle being laying on your back and bringing one knee over your chest. You may reach your hands to you shin and help compress it to feel a rounding through the low back and a line of pull emerge over your buttocks region. Hold this stretch when you feel a gentle pull along the same side buttocks for 30 seconds.
Gluteus medius & minimus stretch:
To stretch Gluteus Medius and Minimus, we will bring the hip into flexion as we bring our knees to the chest one leg at a time. To isolate these muscles, pull the knee towards the opposite shoulder while keeping your pelvis anchored to the floor. You will feel a stretch along the outer portion of your buttock - hold for 30 seconds.  

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release. To use a trigger point ball to release the glutes, begin by leaning on the wall or seated with the ball between you and the floor. Gently lean from side to side to allow the ball to roll along all aspects of the muscle and isolate specific areas of tension.

3. Piriformis
The piriformis muscle is located along the buttocks and runs from the sacrum at the back of the pelvis to the top of the femur in the leg. The piriformis is primarily responsible for external rotation and extension at the hip and it is important for creating stability during swing phases of walking.

A common dysfunction of this muscle is piriformis syndrome which comes from overly tight piriformis muscles and mimics pain patterns of sciatica. In some people the sciatic nerve is located between the muscle fibers of piriformis, leaving these people vulnerable to nerve symptoms when muscle tension occurs. Referral pain from trigger points in piriformis occur in people who commonly sit for prolonged periods.

There are multiple ways to stretch the piriformis muscle. To stretch on your back, begin with a bend through both knees with feet flat on the floor. Bring the baby toe side of one foot across the opposite thigh, gently peel your same knee away from your chest. You should feel a pull along the same side outer hip, to intensify the stretch you may bring your stabilizing thigh towards your chest. Wrap your hands behind the stabilizing thigh to support the leg. Hold a comfortable stretch through the outer buttock for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Thread the needle stretch 

Pigeon pose is another stretch which will help bring length to Piriformis. For this begin on hands and knees on all fours. Bring your right ankle behind your left wrist and gently lay your leg onto the floor in front of you. Let the left leg drop down the the floor extending behind you and feel the line of pull along the right hip. The body can stay activated by pressing through the hands placed in front of them and maintain a long flat spine.

King Pigeon (above)


Sleeping Pigeon:

Alternatively you may choose to bring your elbows to the ground and rest your forehead to make the posture more passive. In either posture, the hips should remain level and squared to face the front short end of the mat.

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release. To use a trigger point ball to release piriformis, begin in pigeon pose with the ball between your outer buttock and the floor. Alternatively you can place the ball between yourself and a wall or the floor and lay the outer gluteal aspect into the ball. Gently lean from side to side to allow the ball to roll along all aspects of the muscle and isolate specific areas of tension.

4. Psoas

The psoas muscle is a deep hip flexor that joins the lumbar or lower spine to the femur of the leg. It begins on the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae, runs along the inside of the pelvic bowl and attaches to the inner femur. This muscle is primarily responsible for hip flexion and brings the leg forward in the swing phase of walking and running and has an important role in proper posture by assisting to align the pelvis.

Common dysfunction occurs when this muscle is weak and tight. Chronic sitting tends to increase contactures and tension in psoas. Weakness in this muscle is commonly associated with chronic or recurring back pain. This muscle is frequently used by runners, weightlifters, gymnasts. Pilates classes include a heavy focus on strengthening the psoas muscle.

In order to stretch psoas, the hip must be brought into extension. Here are two examples of possible psoas stretches.

The first picture illustrates a stretch for another hip flexor Rectus Femoris. To modify this stretch for psoas, you would simply assume a low lunge position. Unlike in the photo, the back leg could remain on the floor instead of pulled towards the glutes. This is because unlike Rectus Femoris, Psoas does not cross the knee or attach to the tibia. Ensure that you keep the spine long with the shoulders stacked over the hips while stretching, as this helps to encourage extension of the hip and creates a stretching sensation through the front of the thigh.When you feel a stretch deep along the inner pelvis to the inner thigh, hold for 30 seconds before repeating on  the second side.

An amended version of wild child is another way to stretch Psoas. Begin in a downwards facing dog, lift one leg off the floor while bending at the knee. Keeping the hips facing down towards the floor begin to pull the floating leg behind you to the opposite side of the body. Feel a stretch deep along the inner pelvis to the inner thigh. Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the second side.

Due to the location of the muscle origin along the lateral aspect of the lumbar vertebra, a stretch of psoas can occur with rotation of the trunk. Therefore a secondary type stretch in Psoas will occur when practicing seated or lying spinal twists. Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on  the second side or alternatively turns slowly from one side to the next for 1 - 2 minutes.

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release. To use a trigger point ball to release Psoas, you can place it at the front of your hip between you and the floor or a wall and gently move it across the very top of the thigh. You can also stand and use your hand to roll the ball across the front of the hip and top of the thigh.

While stretching is generally safe for everyone, it is best to talk to your doctor or medical health professional before undertaking a new exercise routine. This is especially true if you have any pre-existing conditions, injuries, or particular concerns. If you have questions about anything mentioned in this blog  or for booking contact email Megan directly by e-mail:

Megan Prenty RMT, YT

Wanting more resources like this one? Be sure to check out the blog post on the Lower leg as well as the Thigh self care. Be sure to follow The Coach House on Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch and get notifications of new blog posts.

Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for general educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing your primary care provider for individualized health recommendations.

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