The A-Z of Pilates - Q is for Quadratus Lumborum

The Quadratus Lumborum muscle is a deep quadrangular shaped muscle that attaches to the bottom rib, the verterbrae in your lower back and the top of your pelvis. There are two Quadratus Lumborum muscles on either side of your spine and their function is to help and support you in rotating of your spine (twisting the waist side to side), lateral flexion (bending sideways) and stabilising your pelvis and lower back; imagine holding a really heavy bag of shopping in your left hand and nothing in your right hand. The Quadratus Lumborum muscle on your right side will be firing and working really hard to help you stabilise your spine and pelvis to keep you upright. 



Quadratus Lumborum and lower back pain


As the Quadratus Lumborum muscle attaches to both the spine and the pelvis, it is often a common source for pain in the lower back given that it is so involved in the movements associated with our regular daily activities. It often has to support other muscles of the body by taking over any excess strain, so it is not surprising that it may become fatigued from time to time, and if the muscle is placed in an over-stretched, loaded position for any length of time, it can also start to spasm. 


There are a number of exercises in Pilates that you can do to benefit your Quadratus Lumborum muscles and therefore help prevent lower back pain. For example, a simple side stretch can really open up the muscles and help reduce the chance of a spasm, so today I have included just a couple of simple stretches here that will benefit not only the Quadratus Lumborum, but the whole of the spine. I have included some photos and a video recording for both exercises - taken at my favourite place East Head sands near Chichester with my dog Hugo in tow, who still appears to be sporting his jolly bright orange lifejacket from his journey from our boat to shore in the tender!


The Morning Stretch 


This is a simple side stretch is a particular favourite of mine and I often do this in the warm up section of my class. It could be done anywhere at anytime, but as the name suggests I think it feels especially good when you get out of bed in the morning! 


Starting position:

  • Stand with your legs straight and your feet slightly apart for balance. Establish your posture so that you are lengthened through the spine with your abdominal muscles drawn gently away from the front of your waistband, your shoulders relaxed and your gaze forward (see my A-Z of Pilates - P is for Posture for more information) 


  • Sweep your hands above your head keeping them straight and clasp your hands together. Turn the palms of the hands to the ceiling. Think about standing in between two panes of glass – one in front and one behind you so that when you move you will be prevented from twisting at the waist.
  • Slowly bend over to the left side (lateral flexion) keeping your arms in position. As you are bending to the left imagine trying to stretch the right side of your body out of your waistband. This will stretch and release your right side Quadratus Lumborum. 
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and then return to centre so that you can repeat the same movement on the right side, stretching your left Quadratus Lumborum muscle. 
  • Repeat this stretch for three repetitions on each side of your body.



The Cat / Camel:


The Cat and Camel mobility and stretch exercise is not only a good one for stretching your quadratus lumborum, but also for releasing any pain or tension all the way up and down your spine. When you are performing this exercise you are trying to imagine that you are moving your vertebrae bone by bone so that it moves and flows through the exercise sequentially.


 Starting position:

  • You are down on the floor on your hands and knees with your torso parallel to the ground. Your knees should be hip width and directly under your hips, your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your back should be in a neutral straight position. Make sure that the back of your neck is in line with your spine so that your nose is pointing down to the floor.


  • Take a deep breath and as you breathe out start to draw your naval towards your spine and tuck your pelvis and hips under so that your tailbone down points down towards the floor. 
  • Continue to round the whole of the spine so that you end up with your shoulders rounded, your head and neck dropped down between your arms and your back fully rounded in the full Cat stretch. Hold this position whilst you take a breath.
  • To reverse the movement start from the tailbone first again. Imagine unravelling it bone by bone all the way through the spine until you can extend it into the Camel position by flexing your lower back into a gentle arch and bring your head up to look forward. Your tailbone is pointing up towards the ceiling as is your head so that you have two ‘humps’! Be sure that you do not ‘squash’ the back of your neck as you lift your head.
  • Repeat this sequence of movement again 3 - 6 times focusing on articulating the spine and keeping the movement flowing throughout.

If you would like click on the photo below you will be able to see the Cat / Camel in action:




I hope you enjoy having a go at these exercises, but please remember to consult with your GP or health practitioner prior to taking up any type of exercise routine, if you have any medical conditions or injuries which may affect your ability to exercise safely.

If you have any queries or would like to get in involved in doing Pilates classes please get touch via my contact page, providing your phone number, email and a short message telling me a little bit about yourself and your exercise history. 

Cheerio for now.....Jane

This entry was posted on August 26, 2018