The multi…whhhat? Yes, you have a muscle called the multifidus, and I’m going to teach you how to strengthen it!
About the Multifidus
The multifidus is technically a bunch of tiny muscles that create one, long, ribbon-like strip down each side of the spine. The entire length is considered the multifidus. When we are referring to one strip, on one side, it is sometimes called the “multifidi.”
Here is a back view of the multifidus for a better visual understanding:
When it comes to properties of the multifidus, you’ll notice similarities among the transversus abdominis and the pelvic floor. (That’s because they are all our deep core muscles, which you can learn all about in my free foundations course, here.)
- The multifidus gets stronger with lighter loads.
- The multifidus likes to fire up on the exhale.
- Multifidus should be able to engage with a mind-body connection first…
- Then strengthen with low loads after there is a good mental connection.
- Integrate into your full body movements.
The Job of the Multifidus
The multifidus is a big player when it comes to stabilizing the spine, pelvis and helping support the SI Joint. The multifidus should come into play when there is a unilateral load applied to the body.
How to Fire the Multifidus:
The mutifidus is challenging to mind-body connect with at first. Practice with patience until you have the hang of feeling the multifidus fire.
Do these exercises below to learn how to mind-body connect with the lower back multifidus muscles. While performing them, place your hands on the multifidus muscle to feel the activation.
In the picture below, the pink squares indicate where to place your fingers in order to feel the engagement. The yellow line indicates the line across the back to help you determine where on the lower back to place the hands. The yellow line is simple the line from the top of one hip bone to the other. To find it, poke into the sides of your lower trunk to feel where the tops of your hip bones end, that is where the yellow line is displayed across the back. You can then place your hands on each side of your spine, on that line or just above, as shown in the picture. By placing your fingers in just that spot, you’ll be able to feel the activation under your finger tips when you fire the multifidus.
With your fingers at your lower back, lay on your back, with your knees bent, feet hip width apart.
- Image that you are going to draw the two back edges of the hip bones together, on the exhale, while feeling to see if the muscle fires up. (See the teal arrows in the image above that demonstrate this imagery). Engage for 3 seconds then release. Repeat about 8 times.
- In order to isolate from left to right, imagine that you are drawing your left femur deep into the left hip socket, on the exhale. (This will fire the left Multifidus: repeat on the right). Engage for 3 seconds then release. Repeat about 8 times on each side.
For both of these firing techniques, be sure to keep the pelvis neutral and avoid clenching the glute or hip flexor muscles.
Start to Strengthen:
Once you can “fire” your multifidus with a mind-body connection, begin to add light resistance to the muscle. Continue to place your fingers on the lower back to feel the multifidus firing during these movements.
- Laying on your back, with knees bent, begin to let the left knee fall to the floor then return. Repeat 8 times with each leg.
- The same exercise above can be done laying on your side (this is called “clams’). Lay on your side with the knees bent, begin to lift the top knee towards the ceiling, keeping your ankles together. Repeat 8 times with each leg.
- Lay on your back, with the knees bent, begin to slide one leg straight out away from you on the floor. If you’re getting an engagement there, you can make it more challenging by lifting the heel off of the floor. Repeat 8 times with each leg.
Integrate the Multifidus
Once you have followed the steps above: the multifidus is able to fire with the mind-body connection & you have worked on strengthening the multifidus with the exercises above. You can then be mindful about the multifidus firing when you are doing your full body movements.