Rockstar Muscles: Multifidus

Glute max, glute med, VMO.

For most athletes and regular gym goers these names are common place. Multifidus, on the other hand... Multifi-wha?? 

And yet, this deep core muscle is one of the most important muscles you own that nobody really knows they have.

Multifidus is a deep intrinsic stabiliser of your lumbar spine. It's very much a background muscle, quietly going about its business without any fuss, stabilising the spine as we move.

 
Multifidus runs the entire length of the spine connecting each vertebrae to the one above and below. This article is focused on the lumbar portions of multifidus.

Multifidus runs the entire length of the spine connecting each vertebrae to the one above and below. This article is focused on the lumbar portions of multifidus.

 

Much like how the peroneals fire before ground contact to protect and stabilise the ankle, Multifidus (along with the transverse abdominus) fires in anticipation of movement to lock the core and spine into a stable position protecting it from jarring forces, excessive or unwanted ranges of motion and helping transfer force between the lower and upper body.

This beautiful system runs into problems though with excessive sitting, poor posture, or due to lower back pain multifidus can become inhibited, sluggish and may fail to feedforward in perperation for movment.

If your Multifidus is slow or isn't firing properly, you may develop compensatory patterns where other muscles will jump in to do the work. This leads to tightness, asymmetry, reduced performance, and potentially pain or injury. A strong healthy active Multifidus is going to provide that immediate stability to the spine and therefore enable everything else to do its job properly.

Enter multifidus activation.

A 20 second drill that could save you a life time of pain.

The trick with Multifidus is to create a low enough threshold request that creating just the tiniest movement possible, everything is done lightly and with smooth gentle control.

Starting on your back in a bridge position. If you like place your hands under your back palms to the roof so your fingers are resting into your lower back either side of the spine.

 
Bridge position. Putting your hands under your lower back to feel the contraction can be helpful.

Bridge position. Putting your hands under your lower back to feel the contraction can be helpful.

 

From here you first need to engage the pelvic floor (like you are holding in a wee) and transverse abdominus (draw your bellybutton down to the ground). With these both engaged ever so slightly initate and engage the arching muscles of your lower back like you are going to arch away from the ground one millimetre. 

You should feel the slightest flutter and contracting of the multifidus muscle along the sides of your spine under your fingers. If you feel the big spinal erectors under your hands turn on, dial it back, remember this is a control exercise, focus on a clear signal and activation of the multifidus. 

Hold this position with all three muscles engaged for an inhalation, then relax and let everything go as you breathe out.

one or two sets of 5 reps (holding each rep for two seconds) done before you train or compete, as a break from the desk or every morning as part of your daily routine will quickly pay itself back.

 
 

This video runs through the entire glute and core activation process step-by-step.