Pilates’ Favorite Muscles: Psoas + Serratus

Psoas + Pilates + Back Pain:

Pso-what? The core Psoas (pronounced so-as) plays an instrumental role in alleviating back pain through correct alignment in Pilates exercises.

Where is it?

psoas-imageThe psoas, or iliopsoas muscles, are situated deeply in the hips, located just behind the abdominal muscles. There is no muscle more core than the psoas tissue. The psoas attaches at the bottom of the thoracic spine (T12)  and along the lumbar spine (through L4), moving downwards where it attaches at the top of the femur.

How does it support the body?

It provides a muscular shelf that supports all the organs, particularly the kidneys and adrenals, and is the only muscle to link spine to legs. Besides massaging the abdominal organs, it stimulates blood circulation, and enhances the flow of synovial fluid. It also promotes good posture by stabilizing the midsection and pelvis. Like a pendulum, it frees the leg for walking. Responsible for flexing the hips and rotating the spine, the psoas muscles are put to work each time the legs are lifted or the trunk is twisted.

What happens when the psoas muscles are exhausted?

When the psoas is overused, misused and abused, it feels constricted. The following might indicate injury: twitch or hiccup in the stride, pain in knee while running uphill or walking up stairs, any activities requiring knee lifts, or hip, groin, or glute pain. And, the most obvious is experiencing lower back pain.

Since the psoas is a muscle of flexion, the Pilates roll-up would be the perfect exercise to strengthen those muscles.

Serratus Anterior + Pilates + Neck Pain:

250px-serratus_anteriorWhat the heck is it? The ” warrior wing muscles,” the serratus anterior helps move the arms multi-dimensionally and with great speed.

Where is it?

serratus_anterior_muscles_lateralThe serratus originates from the underside of the shoulder blade near the inner edge and has a broad attachment on the upper eight ribs and inserts into the medial border of the scapula. Even though it is not visible on most people’s bodies, it is a very strong and fairly large muscle that gets it names from the way it is serrated, like a knife blade.

How does it support the body?

The strongest and best positioned muscle to create upward rotation of the shoulder blade. In order to reach higher than about shoulder level the shoulder blade must upwardly rotate.  Its other really important function is to solidly anchor the shoulder blade to the thorax with use of the arm. Also breathing accessory muscles, they stabilize the shoulder blades and when flexed, will spread the ribs for an inhale. The greater the inhale, the greater the internal pressure. This pressure creates a strong support for action, balance, or resistance.

What happens when the serratus anterior muscle is exhausted?

Anyone with neck or shoulder pain might have compromised this muscle. A weak serratus will lead to pinching at the top of the shoulder, known as subacromial bursitis, which, over time, can lead to the development of a rotator cuff tear. If the shoulder blade lacks stability, then the rotator cuff compensates which can lead to rotator cuff tendinitis.

What does it have to do with neck pain?

The serratus is the best upward rotator of the shoulder blade. If it’s weak, the body relies on the second string muscle, the upper trapezius. Unfortunately, it’s not good at creating upward rotation of the shoulder blade, so it has to work extra hard, and can lead to pain. It also attaches to the skull and upper neck, therefore, it compresses those structures when it is activated.

Since the serratus anterior is also a muscle of flexion, a serratus push up could best strength it.

serratus-push-up

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