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Muscle of the Month - Multifidus

Multifidus (mul-TI-fidd-uss)

These muscles work in tandem with the pelvic floor, transverse abdominis and erector spinae (all subjects of previous muscle of the month articles which you can find on my blog - just CLICK HERE).

What are they? They're a deep layer of back muscles which provide support particularly at the lower back. Where are they? They run on either side of the vertebral column, between the base of the neck and the pelvis and fixing onto the knobbly edges of the vertebrae. We're mainly concerned today with the lumber part of this muscle group, that which runs from our waistline to our hips.

What do they do? The function of this muscle group has come under investigation recently. Essentially, it is most recently thought to provide stability to the lower part of the lumbar spine. HERE IS AN ARTICLE which examines the function of this muscle in greater depth.

How do I activate them? The easiest way to activate them is to:

  • Start standing with the right foot in front of the left

  • To palpate the multifidus, place your thumb next to the left side of the spine on the low back

  • Shift your weight forward and allow your left heel to come off the ground

  • You should feel the multifidus pop into your thumb as it contracts

  • Try to maintain that contraction as you shift your weight back to the starting position

CLICK HERE to see a very quick video of this. Although it's possible to isolate these muscles, they most easily become active when we tense our pelvic floor and transverse abdominals together in 'neutral spine'. For a deeper explanation, including a visual representation of the muscle activating, CLICK HERE. Why do we need them? They allow us to stabilise our lower back so that other movements can be performed without jeopardising this part of our spine. Tensing these powerhouse muscles simultaneously creates a co-contraction, where opposing muscle groups activate to increase control around a joint.


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