Feeling tension in your low back on one side?
Chances are, that’s your quadratus lumborum (QL), a deep, posterior core stabilizer that plays important roles in your body’s form and function:
- Postural muscle connecting ribcage & pelvis
- Impacts ribcage position/mobility & diaphragm function
- Extends, stabilizes and laterally flexes the lumbar spine
- Elevates hip
Contributing factors to a tight QL
With the QL playing so many roles in our ability to move and breathe, there are also many factors that come from/lead to a tight QL:
- ⚠️ Rotated pelvis/anterior pelvic tilt
- ⚠️ One hip higher creating leg length discrepancy
- ⚠️ Poor breathing mechanics/stuck ribcage position
- ⚠️ T-spine flat or extended/lacking mobility
- ⚠️ Hip mobility issues
That’s why it’s essential to regularly practice exercises to optimize QL function. This includes stretches to provide relief and inhibit overuse.
Exercise to Optimize QL Function
Here’s Blue Jays starting pitcher Tanner Roark demoing an effective way to stretch the QL in a triangle variation at the wall. We took this photo during MLB spring training…before the pandemic shut-down my in-person team sessions.
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand w/heels 1-2” from the wall, about 2’ apart.
- Point left foot forward & right foot perpendicular to left.
- Still standing upright, lean into wall, so left glute & back touch it.
- Keep both legs straight w/out locking out knees.
- Place hands on hips & shift them right, like you’re kicking out your right hip (we jokingly call this “sassy hips”).
- Maintaining hip position w/right hand on right hip, reach left arm forward horizontally as far as possible, trying to lengthen out your right side as you bend laterally to the left—not down.
- When you can’t reach left any further, let left hand rest on your shin (like Tanner’s).
- Then slowly reach right-hand overhead with arm straight & palm facing down. It will feel like a lever intensifying the QL stretch.
- It’s normal to also feel it in hip, obliques & serratus.
- Hold for 5 long, deep breaths. Do the other side.
⚠️ If you feel pain/pinching, set up again to see if it persists; if it does, this stretch isn’t for you right now.
Video Demo with MLB Catcher Rob Brantly
After I posted Tanner’s pic on social media, many of you requested a video demo and MLB Catcher Rob Brantly was happy to oblige. Rob was a San Francisco Giant last month when he filmed this, but was just traded to the New York Yankees this week. Thanks, Rob, for the video–and good luck with your new team!
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For more ways to prevent & relieve back pain, check out my book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief”.