How To Do a Banded Psoas March

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

woman using band to stretch leg

Getty Images / Wavebreakmedia

Targets: Hip flexor muscles: Psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, and sartorius. It also targets the glutes. 

Equipment Needed: Exercise band or loop 

Level: Beginner

The banded psoas march (aka the banded hip march) is a beginner level exercise that targets the muscles in your hip flexors. It also recruits the abdominal muscles to perform the movement. The addition of an exercise band around the feet means you're working against resistance, making the exercise more challenging. 

Because of the functional and corrective properties of this exercise, it is an excellent move to add to any athletic training program. All fitness levels can benefit from adding the banded psoas march to a dynamic warm-up.

Performing this move before a workout can help wake-up and activate the hip flexors and get your lower body ready for power, speed, or endurance activities. The banded psoas march is often included in a physical therapy or rehab program to strengthen the hips and improve lumbopelvic stability. 

If you are a beginner, you can modify the banded psoas march by performing it without the exercise band. Intermediate levels can take the psoas march to the floor and crank up the intensity by elevating the feet on a box, and advanced levels can perform the move while hanging from a pull-up bar. 

Benefits

The banded psoas march is an excellent move for strengthening the hip flexor muscles, including the psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, and sartorius. It also recruits the glutes and strengthens and stabilizes the core muscles. A well-rounded lower body workout should include exercises that specifically target the hip flexor muscles.

The powerful hip flexors muscles allow you to flex or lift your thigh towards your torso. You also recruit the hip flexors when bending your torso forward at the hip. But when these muscles are weak or tight, you may experience low back pain or tightness through the front of your hip. That’s why it’s essential to keep the hip flexors strong and flexible. 

When done correctly, the banded psoas march can relieve psoas strains and release tight hip flexors, and reduce low back pain. Plus, when performing the more advanced versions of the banded psoas march, this move can help strengthen the muscles needed to prevent lower back pain from happening in the first place. 

Competitive athletes who rely on powerful hip muscles to compete in their sport can benefit from including the banded psoas march in their conditioning program. Recreational athletes who count on the hip flexors to propel them through an uphill run or while maneuvering a tricky mountain bike trail can also boost performance by strengthening the hip muscles.

And pretty much all of us need the hip flexors to fire when we want to walk, climb stairs, run, squat, sit up in bed, and so many other daily activities. 

Step-By-Step Instructions

To get the most out of the banded psoas march, you need to focus on form and technique. If you feel unbalanced, stand facing a wall so your palms can touch the wall when arms are fully stretched. Use the wall to help with balance. 

  1. Stand hip-distance apart with arms at your sides. Keep your chest lifted and core engaged.
  2. Loop a mini resistance band around the balls of both feet. Start with a lighter resistance and work your way up to a heavier resistance. 
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles, and bring your right knee up and out in front of you like you are marching. Stop when it reaches the height of your hips.
  4. Raise the left arm as your right knee comes up towards the hips. You will repeat opposite arm to opposite leg the entire round.
  5. Slowly lower the right leg and repeat on the left side.
  6. Do 8 to 10 reps on each leg, alternating sides.

Common Mistakes

When performing the banded psoas march, watch out for these common mistakes.

Rounding or Dipping Your Lower Back

The foundation of this move is the ability to drive the knee up while maintaining stability and strength in the hips and core. When the resistance or range of motion is too much, you may notice your back rounding or dipping. If this happens, consider a lighter resistance band or reducing the range of motion for the knee drive. 

Using the Wrong Resistance Band

Resistance or exercise bands come in different strengths that are typically color-coded. For this exercise, you’ll want to use a loop band. In general, yellow bands or loops correspond with a lighter strength that is good for beginners. Green is the next step up from yellow. Red and blue bands are good for intermediate levels, while black exercise bands are reserved for advanced exercisers. Make sure to start with a lighter resistance until you can get the form correct. 

Not Engaging the Core Muscles

Engaging the core muscles while performing the banded psoas march helps keep your lower back strong, which prevents it from dipping and adding strain to the erector spinae muscles. 

Modifications and Variations

The banded psoas march is a beginner level exercise appropriate for most fitness levels. The steps described above are for a standing psoas march. You can also do this exercise lying down, with or without a band, hanging from a bar, or with your feet elevated on a bench.

Need a Modification?

It’s easy to modify the banded psoas march. Just remember that form is critical to this move. The first thing you can try is performing the move without the band. Focus on the march and your form before adding the resistance. Think of this as a low-impact high knees exercise. You can also shorten the march by bringing your knee up half the distance. 

Once you add the band, you can shorten the march until you feel comfortable performing in the full range of motion. Another way to modify this move is to experiment with the resistance of the bands. Start with a light resistance and work up to a more challenging band. 

Up for a Challenge?

You can make the banded psoas march more of a challenge by elevating your feet on a bench. Instead of starting with your feet on the floor, you will place your feet (heels on box, toes pointing up) on a box. From here, lift your hips off the ground and pull one leg into the chest at a time while the other foot stays planted on the box. This is also an excellent exercise for all of the core muscles.

Even more challenging is the hanging psoas march. You will need a pull-up bar or straight bar you can hang from. Place the band around the bottom of your feet and perform the marches. This variation will also target the core muscles. 

Safety and Precautions

The banded psoas march is generally a safe exercise for most fitness levels—as long as you are using proper form. That said, if you have a hip injury, tightness, or strain in the hips or lower back, consider working with a physical therapist first before attempting this move on your own. And if you feel any pain during the movement, stop the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Psoas Syndrome. 2018.