How to Mobilize Your QL
Written by Gaje McDaniel
Sometimes superficial muscles can perform too well and sometimes they underperform.
For instance, in a deadlift, if we are not actively using our glutes and hamstrings, our neurological instinct is to compensate with any other muscles that might be available. This can cause pain in our back indicated by internal muscles.
One of the more common causes of back pain is the Quadratus Lumborum (QL), which sits exterior to your psoas major and connects to your twelfth rib on either side. It is capable of extending the lower back when contracting bilaterally. The two QLs pick up the slack when the erectors are weak or inhibited. This can happen when a person is seated for long periods of time and uses lower back support in a chair.
Many of us understand how to trigger point and release anterior muscles (like the psoas and iliacus), but how often do you attack your QL? I want to give you guys a few stretches and areas to mobilize this week.
Self Myofascial Release for the QL
First let’s start by trigger pointing and releasing tension in our QL. The equipment you need for this includes a softball or lacrosse ball.
Begin by laying on your back. Cross one leg over onto the other with your ankle on your opposing upright knee. You should be in a relaxed position as if you were doing a Hawaiian squat.
On the same side as the leg with the knee in the air, feel your back and find your last rib. From there, feel your erectors and hip bone just beneath and to the side. Take the softball and lift your body up, placing the ball beneath you. Apply direct pressure between all three points and just to the side of your spine. Do not get confused with the big muscles near your spine, as you want to target the soft tissue outside of those.
Lean onto the ball and take 2-3 minutes to breathe, relax over the ball, and try not to tense up. After 2-3 minutes, switch sides. You can also target muscles around the area that may be tight such as the lats, hips, psoas, or piriformis. Kelly Starrett’s book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” has great techniques for addressing these other areas.
Stretching the QL
Stretching the QL is a little more difficult than trigger point in this area, as there are many muscles groups that tie into it. Regardless, a few of my favorite stretches for this area can easily be done at home.
For the first stretch you will need to find an exercise ball (if not accessible a soft foot stool will do the trick). The purpose of this object is to be able to lay over it while laying on your side. Letting your torso open up on the side that is away from the ball or the stool. Reach your upright arm up over your head as high as possible while keeping your legs straight and pressing them towards the ground. Hold for sixty seconds on each side.
The second stretch is simple and only requires you and a floor. Take a seat on the ground just as if you were to stretch your hamstrings. Spread your legs far apart and lean to one side while reaching that arm over your head as if you were trying to touch your toe with your opposing hand. The other hand reaches through trying to touch the opposite foot. It should feel as if your lower back is being stretched out. Your torso should be in a rotated position while performing this stretch. Hold this position for different variations of time, but try to spend at least 2 minutes on each side.
These techniques are for after your workouts and should be done on a weekly basis. Switch up your muscles groups each and every day and make it a priority to mobilize after each day of training. Try to target your psoas, iliacus, and QL equally as these are good muscles to help you avoid back pain. Always smash and trigger point before continuing on to stretching.