Most lower-body strength training workouts focus on the big muscle groups such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors.
While it is, of course, important to strengthen these key leg muscles, it is also important to develop functional strength and stability in smaller muscles, such as the psoas, with psoas muscle exercises.
Psoas strengthening exercises target this hip flexor muscle, which will not only help stabilize your hips for heavy lifts such as the squat and split squat but will also improve functional strength and performance in exercises such as running, stair climbing, rowing, hiking, jumping, and sprinting.
But, even many experienced weightlifters are not sure how to strengthen the psoas muscle. So, what are the best psoas muscle exercises?
In this article, we will discuss what the psoas muscle is, how to strengthen the psoas muscle, and provide step-by-step instructions for the following best psoas muscle exercises to include in your leg day workouts:
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Bridging Marches
- V Sits
- Stability Ball Passes
- Mountain Climbers With Ankle Weights
- Suspension Straps Pikes and Tucks
Let’s dive in!
What Is the Psoas Muscle?
The psoas muscle is one of the primary hip flexor muscles. It attaches along the bottom of several lumbar vertebrae in your low back and connects to the top of the femur (thigh bone).
Note that the “p” is silent, so psoas is pronounced, “so-as.”
There are three muscles that make up the “psoas muscle”: psoas major, psoas minor, and iliacus. With that said, many people do not have a psoas minor.
The primary function of the psoas muscle is to flex the leg at the hip (lift the leg up to the chest), but the psoas also helps stabilize the spine and externally rotate the hip.
The Best Psoas and Hip Flexor Exercises
Here are some of the best psoas muscle exercises:
#1: Hanging Leg Raises
This is one of the best hip flexor strengthening exercises.
As the psoas is one of the key muscles in the hip flexor muscle group, it is also a great psoas muscle exercise. Additionally, the movement strengthens your abdominal muscles and upper back muscles and improves grip strength.
As such, adding hanging leg raises to your workout routine will not only strengthen your hip flexors but can also help you master pull-ups and chin-ups if poor grip strength is a limiting factor in executing the movement.
Here is how to do this exercise to strengthen your psoas muscle and hip flexors:
- Jump up and grab onto a pull-up bar or the bar at the top of a squat rack with your palms facing forward.
- Hang fully extended, holding your upper body and torso as still as possible.
- Engage your abs to draw your legs up towards your chest, keeping your knees straight as possible (pike position). You can bend your knees so that you’re in a tuck position if you are not strong enough.
- If you do the tuck position, bring your knees all the way to your chest, and if you do a pike hanging leg raise, bring your legs up as high as you can, ideally at least until your body forms a 90-degree angle.
- Hold the top position for 2–3 seconds, and then slowly lower your legs.
- Complete 12-15 reps.
#2: Bridging Marches
This is one of the best psoas strengthening exercises and also helps improve core muscle control.
The primary role of the psoas muscle is to flex the leg at the hip while stabilizing the lumbar spine, and this psoas muscle exercise does exactly that.
Here are the steps for how to perform this one of our psoas exercises:
- Lie on your back with a small loop resistance band around the balls of your feet.
- Place your heels up on a surface such as a weight bench or chair with your toes pointing up towards the ceiling. Your legs should be extended.
- Contract your glutes to lift your hips up so that they are in line with your body, from your heels down to your shoulders, so that your body is one stiff plank.
- Use your psoas muscle to help draw one knee up towards your chest while keeping the other leg straight, with your heel remaining in contact with the elevated surface.
- Slowly return to the starting position without allowing the resistance band to pull your leg back rapidly.
- Alternate legs for 15 to 20 reps, depending on your fitness level.
#3: V Sits
Holding the V-sit posture, or the yoga Boat Pose is a great isometric psoas exercise.
You will strengthen all of your hip flexors, abs, lower back, deep core muscles, and even quads.
Here are the steps to perform this one of our psoas exercises:
- Lie on your back with your arms extended over your head. You can hold a dumbbell to make the exercise more difficult.
- Use your core to simultaneously raise your legs and upper body off the floor, folding your body at your hips into a V.
- Hold as long as possible while remaining in proper form.
#4: Stability Ball Passes
This exercise strengthens your psoas and abs, and by squeezing the stability ball in between your legs, you’ll also engage your pelvic floor muscles, your gluteus medius, and other hip muscles, as well as your adductors in your inner thighs.
Here are the steps for this hip flexor exercise:
- Lie on your back with your legs fully extended, squeezing a stability ball as hard as possible between your ankles. Your arms should be extended straight up over your head.
- Engage your abs to simultaneously lift your legs and upper body off the floor so that you’re folding your body at your hips into a “V” shape. Maintain a tight squeeze on the ball with your legs to engage your inner thighs.
- In the top position, when your hands meet your feet, pass the ball from your ankles to your hands.
- Slowly lower your body back towards the floor without fully touching it so that your legs are just hovering over the floor and the yoga ball and your arms are reaching back behind you but not touching the floor.
- Raise back up to the “V” position and pass the stability ball back to your ankles.
- Squeeze it as you slowly lower again.
- Complete 12-20 reps.
#5: Mountain Climbers With Ankle Weights
Mountain climbers are a great total-body exercise.
Adding ankle weights increases the resistance at the end of the long lever of your legs, which will help strengthen the psoas and hip flexor muscles.
Here are the steps for this psoas strengthening exercise:
- Get into a push-up position with your core and glutes engaged and your hands stacked under your shoulders wearing ankle weights (if you are strong enough).
- Pressing your weight into your hands, alternate bending each knee and bringing the leg up under your chest between your arms and then returning it to the starting position. Be sure to maintain good form with your hips in line with your body. Do not lift your butt up into the air or allow your hips to sag.
- Move as fast and hard as you can for 60 seconds.
#6: Suspension Straps Pikes and Tucks
It’s best to perform this move with TRX straps or other suspension straps, but you can also put your feet on a stability ball if you don’t have access to suspension straps.
The instability will activate your deep core muscles and require your psoas to stabilize the spine while bringing your leg up to the chest.
Here are the steps to perform this core and hip flexor exercise:
- Extend the TRX straps until the bottom of the handles are about 10-12 inches off the floor.
- Kneel down in a tabletop position facing away from the TRX straps.
- Slip your feet into the bottom handles (loops) of the straps, which should be extended down towards the floor.
- Press your body into a push-up position with your feet suspended in the straps behind you and only your palms on the ground. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your core engaged and hips in line with your body, drive your hips and butt up into the air into a pike position, so you form an inverted “V.” Your knees should stay straight.
- Return to the starting position and then perform a tuck so that your knees come all the way up under your chest.
- Keep alternating between pikes and tucks.
- Complete 15-20 complete cycles.
To learn more about how to stretch tight hip flexors—especially after psoas workouts—check out our guide here.