What does the lumbar multifidus do and why is it important?
The lumbar multifidus is a group of small, but powerful stabilizing muscles in your low back. Research has shown that individuals with low back pain often have weakness in these muscles (Danneels et al.). When working properly, these muscles contract with the anticipation of movement which controls the motion in your back. If you’ve heard of someone who “threw out” their back doing something simple like picking up a sock or sneezing, it is likely that multifidus weakness was involved.
How do I strengthen the lumbar multifidus?
Answer: The Bird-Dog
You perform this exercise by starting in the quadruped position. You want your arms and thighs at 90 degrees to the floor. Make sure that your core is contracted and your weight is evenly distributed over your hands and feet before getting started. Flex your left shoulder, moving your outstretched hand in front of you while extending your right hip backwards.
It’s important that you don’t arch your back or lean to the side. To be sure you don’t do this, you can roll up a small towel and place it on your low back. Don’t let it fall off your back while performing this exercise. Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position and perform the same movement with the left shoulder and right hip.
The most important part of this exercise is contracting your core from the beginning to the end of the movement. Everyone starts out at different fitness levels so listen to your body and stop for the day if you notice yourself compensating. Start out with 1 set of 10 repetitions and concentrate on perfect form. You’ll notice that as your body adapts, you will be able to add more sets with less fatigue. I suggest performing this exercise every other day.
IMPORTANT: If you are experiencing any pain with this exercise, don’t do it! This could cause more inflammation and cause more pain. I recommend if you are having back pain, to seek professional help because there are literally thousands of causes for general back pack pain.