Muscles Of Low Back: Gluteus Maximus

The Gluteus Maximus Helps With The Heavy Lifting

The Gluteus Maximus (or Glutæus Maximus) is the largest and the most superficial of the three gluteal muscles. It gives shape to and has the most influence on the appearance of your back side.

It has many attachments, but put simply, it starts at the posterior gluteal line (its kind of hard to visualize) of the Ilium (your hip bone), and from the posterior (rear) surface of the lower part of the sacrum and the side of the coccyx. It is inserted into, or connects to, the Iliotibial band of the Fascia Lata muscle (which runs down the outside of your leg), while the deeper fibers of the lower portion of the muscle connect to the thighbone.

This muscle works in opposition to the Psoas muscle. Instead of bending the body forward, it helps to arch the body backward. You can see the glutes pumped when some is doing the “superman” exercise.

The Gluteus Maximus is also a main muscle used in many sports such as volleyball, hockey, basketball, soccer, and football. The length of this post won’t let us look at all the Gluteus Maximus does. But it’s most powerful action is to bring your body back to the erect position after stooping. It accomplishes this by drawing the pelvis backward, being assisted by all the hamstring muscles (make a mental note) and the Adductor Magnus muscle.

Squats Will Stretch And Strengthen Gluteus Maximus

The maximus needs a lot of squatting action to keep it flexible and functioning properly. A weak and tender maximus muscle may give you a lot of pain when you are trying to roll over in bed, or even when you are sitting on a firm surface.

Since one of the main actions is to help you stand up straight after bending forward, if it’s weak, this could put more stress on the lower back muscles.

In my opinion, having the combination of weak gluteals + the tight psoas muscle is the biggest contributor to low back strains today. Keeping these guys strong and flexible should be a priority. Especially for anyone who sits for the majority of their waking hours.

Muscle Of Lower Back: The Piriformis

Piriformis Muscle Attaches To The Very Low Back – The Sacrum

The Pirifopiriformis-musclermis muscle is categorized as one of the lateral rotators of the hip. This means it helps turn your knee and foot away from the middle of your body. And, as mentioned above, it’s one of only two muscles that connect the legs to the spine.

The Piriformis muscle starts and attaches on the front portion of the sacrum. This is the larger part of what people usually call the “tailbone.” It travels on the backside of the body and attaches to the top and lateral (outside) of the thighbone.

The Piriformis is involved in a number of actions. It assists in turning the foot outward, and in drawing the leg away from the body—but only when the knee is flexed and the hip joint extended (think of the dog and the fire hydrant).

The Piriformis Muscle Works With The Psoas Muscle

Another essential role of the Piriformis is the Articular balance it seeks to create with the Psoas. It pulls on the sacrum at the back of the body, and this balances out the work of the Psoas pulling on the front of our back. The outcome helps us to keep our balance when we’re standing up.

Also, since the Piriformis is the only rotator muscle that connects to the front portion of the sacrum, it has a direct influence on the sacroiliac joint, which is another player in lower back pain. (“Oh, my achin’ sacroiliac!”)

The Piriformis muscle needs lots of hip rotational movements to stay limber and flexible. A tight Piriformis will limit hip rotation (or your ability to twist or turn when your feet are planted and you are standing). It will also limit the mobility of your sacrum. Both of these, in turn, will directly affect the quality of movement in your low back.

The Piriformis Muscle Can Cause Sciatica Symptoms

A tight Piriformis may even cause sciatica type symptoms sending jolts of pain down the back side of your leg. This can make life miserable for most people.

This condition is referred to as Piriformis Syndrome. It can be caused by prolonged sitting. What happens is the sciatic nerve gets trapped between the Piriformis and Gluteal muscles which causes pain and other types of sciatica symptoms.

Stretching the piriformis muscle will frequently relieve the problems. Staying regular with a piriformis stretching routine is a good way to help maintain a healthy back.

Muscle Of Lower Back: The Psoas

The Psoas Muscles Are Important Players For A Healthy Back

The Psoas is the body’s main engine for walking. It’s one of two muscles that make up the Iliopsoas muscle (the other is the Iliacus—hey, I didn’t name them!). I usually tell people that the Psoas is on “the front of your back.”

Some Hip Flexors Attach To The Low Back

I say this because it attaches to the front lower half of your spine (in some people it not only attaches to the lower lumbar vertebrae, but also goes up to the lower thoracic vertebrae for all you anatomists out there), and then travels out of the front of your lower abdomen and attaches on the back half of the inner thigh.

The Iliacus muscle works along side the Psoas muscles, and attaches on the inside wall of the pelvis. It joins the Psoas and forms a common tendon. This is the one that attaches to the back half of the inner thigh.

The Psoas Muscles Connect To The Lumbar Vertebrae

Because the Psoas muscles attach to so many points along your spine and leg, it affects all of the vertebral joints, and thus all of your low back. So if something is wrong with your Psoas, something is wrong with your back.

The Psoas is one of only two muscles that connect the legs to the spine. The other is the Piriformis (more about that one later on). Even though there are fifty-seven muscles that attach to/on the pelvis, the Psoas—which doesn’t attach to the pelvis—is arguably more influential in regards to the pelvis than any of them.

While the Psoas is the main muscle for walking, it plays a deeper—maybe even more important—role as a flexor. The Psoas is the body’s main hip flexor. Hip flexion is when you bring your knee toward your chest. So, when we are in a sitting position, our hips are flexed because our knees are relatively closer to our chests.

When we are in a prolonged flexed position, the muscle tends to tighten. And, like we learned in our roller coaster trip, trying to straighten out a tight flexed muscle can be a painful process that takes some effort to achieve.

Regular Activity For Flexible Psoas Muscles And A Healthy Back

To stay flexible, the Psoas muscles needs a lot of forward and backward leg activity such as running or swimming, or even just periodic lunging exercises. Your Psoas will let you know that it is tight by making it difficult to stand up after sitting for a while. Or if you walk too long, you’ll get a pain across your lower back at your belt line.

Go here for more information about psoas stretching.