The role of the psoas and iliacus muscles for stability and movement of the lumbar spine, pelvis and hip

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 1995 Feb;5(1):10-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.1995.tb00004.x.


The activation patterns of the psoas and iliacus muscles were investigated in 7 healthy adult subjects (4 men and 3 women) during a variety of motor tasks in standing, sitting and lying. Myoelectric activity was recorded simultaneously from the 2 muscles using thin wire electrodes inserted under guidance of high-resolution ultrasound. In general, both muscles were coactivated, albeit to different relative levels, particularly when hip flexor torque was required. Selective activation of the iliacus could, however, be seen to stabilize the pelvis in contralateral hip extension during standing. Psoas was found to be selectively involved in sitting with a straight back and in contralateral loading situations requiring stabilization of the spine in the frontal plane. During training exercises from a supine position, such as sit-ups, the contribution of the psoas and iliacus muscles could be varied by changing the range of motion as well as the position and support for the legs. Thus, the 2 anatomically different muscles of the iliopsoas complex were shown to have individual and task-specific activation patterns depending on the particular demands for stability and movement at the lumbar spine, pelvis and hip.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Psoas Muscles / physiology*
  • Spine / physiology*