Hey everybody. This is Mike Uhrlaub with another episode of Power Your Life. It is so great to be back! This weekend I took my son, Garrett, to a trap shooting practice. I don’t know how much you know about trap shooting, but this was his first year. He’s just learning, but I am super proud of him. He started trap shooting back in February and got to the range in March. Unfortunately, like all the other kids’ actives during the summer, trap shooting was shut down due to COVID-19 and only recently started back up so he wasn’t able to practice.
At the beginning of the season he was only hitting about five out of fifty clay targets. It recently started back up these past few weeks and he had his first competition at the Cody Gittens Memorial trap shoot where he shot 14 or 15 there. His latest practice he hit 23 out of 50 targets. I am so proud of him. I’ve learned a lot from watching that and stick with me because this is going somewhere. One thing I’ve learned is how important consistency is, especially in his shouldering the shotgun.
When he’s up there he has to learn how to properly place the butt of the gun up into the shoulder pocket. He’s got to make sure his cheek is right up against the stock and that everything is balanced with his position. Then he’s got to make sure he’s breathing properly, find, and shoot the clay. All of these steps have to happen really quickly. If he’s off just a little bit, tries to rush, find the clay, aim, and then shoot, like, if he doesn’t breathe, right. If he pulls his cheek away a little bit from the stock, you know, he misses the shot, there’s all of these little things, and he’s got to put it all together.
He has to put all of these steps together at the exact time to make the shot. This made me think trap shooting and what he has to pay attention too is a lot like the human body. Everything has to work together at the right time and if there’s not balance, then you miss the target. When I say balance, I’m not talking about your ability to balance on one leg. That’s still important. But I’m talking about the balance between your systems.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about your blood pH, nervous system, joints, or your muscles; the human body is all about maintaining and keeping balance. Your body has all of these checks and balances inside of it, which keeps everything operating perfectly. When it comes to your back, there has to be balance with your psoas.
We’ve already established that your psoas is one of the keys to your back pain. Also, it’s one of the super important muscles you have to keep healthy. If we’re talking about how things have to be in balance, then every muscle has to have an opposing muscle group.
What is the Opposite Muscle of Your Psoas?
Glutes. It’s simple. Every muscle in the body has an opposing muscle group and they keep each other in check. That’s what your glutes and psoas muscles do for each other. They keep each other in check.
Think of your back like a balanced scale. Your back wants to be perfectly balanced; both sides even with each other. On one side is your psoas muscle group and on the other side your glute muscle. If one side exerts more than the other the scale is going to tip in that direction. If your psoas is firing too much, is too short and can’t function properly, it will have a negative effect on your glutes.
Previously we’ve established your psoas and hip flexors are the most important muscles for moving your leg forward. The psoas muscle attaches in the front then comes off the front of the spine and goes to the front of the leg. When your psoas fires it brings your leg forward.
Today, we’re going to talk about your old butt muscle, the gluteus maximus, dairy air, glutes, you name it.
Your glutes are the most important muscles for extending your hip or moving your leg backwards. The psoas is coming from the front and when it contracts, it moves the leg forward. Your glute, on the opposite side, moves your leg back. Very simple. Those muscles have to be in balance. When your psoas and glute muscles are in balance with each other, you’re going to have good glute activation.
Because we’re sitting all the time many of us end up having non-existent glutes. When you’re in that sitting position the psoas muscle will start to tighten and then compress the spine. Next, the nervous system will start to shut down the activity in your glute muscles. This causes them to basically go to sleep. When you try to stand up, reciprocal inhibition takes effect. Your nervous system senses your psoas muscle going into overdrive because you stood up, it shuts down your glute muscles. It says “Hey, there’s a lot of this activity in the psoas muscle. So, you know what we’re going to do. We’re going to actually shut down your glute muscles, because we can’t have both muscles operating at a high level at the same time.”
The result is a loss of balance in the back. You end up with very small, weak, inactive glutes, which results in pain, irritation, and inflammation in the lower spine.
If you go to the grocery store and watch people walk, look at their gluteal development; literally look at their butts. You’re going to see a lot of people out there with very flat butts. They don’t have any gluteal development. Many times, their pants are almost wanting to fall off of their hips because they don’t have anything to hold onto. We call that disappearing butt syndrome. It all comes from the gluteal inactivation and the weakness.
There’s a quick test you can do for yourself to tell if you have this problem; The standing glute activation test. All you’re going to do is stand, take your left foot and put it directly in front of your right foot. The heel of the left foot in front of the toes of the right. If you need to use the wall or something for balance, that’s fine, please do not fall. The next step; take your left hand and put it on your rear end. With your left hand on your butt, take your left heel and pull back against the toes of your right foot. What you’re doing is feeling your butt(gluteal area) for a contraction. Can you feel the muscle?
If you can feel the contraction, you’ve got good gluteal activation. If you can’t feel anything or you can’t tell what it’s doing, then there’s a really good chance your glutes are not activating. It is a good chance your glutes have already started to go to sleep.
Simply going to the gym to work out or trying to work on that muscle alone isn’t going to fix the problem. The problem is coming from a neurological inhibition as a result of your psoas being too active. If you don’t address the psoas muscle, you will not be able to get your glutes to strengthen and build back up.
There’s Two Main Problems that occur with firing the glutes in this situation.
You can have completely inhibited glutes meaning they are shut down indefinitely. When you’re doing the standing glute activation test, you may not feel anything happening at all. In these situations the glutes don’t contract when you walk, stand, get out of a chair, or even during sports.
Overshadowed glutes. You might feel a little bit of contraction when you do the standing glute test. Your glutes do fire, but they’re not as strong as the other muscles of the lower body, such as the quadricep muscles or adductor muscles (muscles on the inside part of the thigh). If this happens your body will compensate by using these other muscles to do what the glutes should be doing.
What I want you to take home is this. The psoas will affect our glute activation. It will affect your butt muscle and this is one of those vicious cycles. It will mess us up if it’s not fixed because when the psoas is tight, the glutes don’t fire properly. Restoring the balance to that is key. Loosening the hip flexors, while you’re activating the glutes and building them up will reduce back pain and increase your hip movement. Overall, that’s going to improve your performance in life. Getting up out of a chair, run, and even playing sports; Just functioning in day to day life without back pain is the main benefit you’re going to see.
But the tight psoas not only shuts down glutes, it also creates other problems too. We’re going to get into these problems next time. I’m going to leave you hanging.
If you have not received a copy of my new eBook, The Five Best Kept Secrets to Fast Back Pain Relief, you can yours by emailing me, Mike@flex-pt.com or shoot me a message on Facebook Messenger, Flex Physical Therapy. We’ll make sure we get you a copy of it because there’s a lot of great stuff in there.
Before I go, like always, I want to leave you with this thought-provoking quote from Charles H. Spurgeon–
“Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.”
Until next time, Power Your Life and keep moving forward.