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QL Muscle - Make Or Break Your Lower Back

The QL muscle is a deep, structural lower back muscle that contributes greatly to spinal strength and stability. QL muscle is incredibly functional, but it can also cause pain when it is a wreck. Read on to learn more about the QL muscle, what it does, how it can hurt, and how to optimize it for strength and pain relief.

ql muscle

QL Muscle


QL Muscle Anatomy

The QL (Quadratus Lumborum) muscle, pictured above, lies deep in the lower back. QL lies underneath two large back muscle groups - the Spinal Erectors and Latissimus Dorsi (Lats). In fact, the QL muscle is so deep that it is sometimes referred to as a deep abdominal muscle [1]. The QL muscle lies on both sides of the lumbar spine, and connects from the top of the hip (Iliac Crest for you anatomy folks) to the lowest rib (12th rib). The QL muscle also connects to the lumbar vertebrae in criss-cross like patterns, which is not depicted well in the stock photo above.


QL Muscle Function

QL has two primary functions - the QL muscle is 1) a side bender and 2) a spinal stabilizer. One singular QL muscle functions in isolation during side bending. Side bending is the best way to feel a real contraction in the QL muscle, as this will allow the QL to actually contract and shorten as muscles do.

The second function of the QL, spinal stabilization, involves both QL muscles working together to keep the lower back strong, neutral, and safe. QL performs its spinal stabilization function rigorously during high-impact sports like football, basketball, and hockey to literally keep the spine together. It is important to have a healthy, strong QL muscle in these sports to be resilient against lower back injuries.

QL Muscle Functioning

QL Muscle Working Hard To Stabilize


QL Muscle Strengthening

When training the QL muscle for strength and function, I personally love isometric resistance exercises. Isometric resistance exercises will require great effort from the QL muscle, but will not twist or bend the spine, greatly reducing risk of injury. *Tangent: Twisting and bending the spine isn't typically a problem with bodyweight movements, but can be a real problem when weights and external load are in the picture*

QL Muscle Exercise - Side Plank

QL Muscle Strengthening Exercise - The Side Plank

Check out this video below for 3 great QL strengthening exercises for building awesome strength, endurance, and resilience in the QL muscle: 


QL Muscle Release

QL muscle pain can be extremely debilitating. Trigger points and tightness in the QL muscle can constantly wrench on the joints, reduce mobility, and impinge nerves - which manifests as pain. In order to rid the QL muscle of trigger points and tightness that contribute to pain, a deep tissue QL release should be performed. QL release can be performed be the hands of a physical or massage therapist, or by a targeted muscle release tool like QL Claw.

QL Claw was designed to release the 5 main muscles that contribute to lower back pain when tight, and the QL muscle is number 1 on that list. QL Claw is the best QL release tool, and the only massage therapy tool designed specifically for QL muscle release. If you have a stiff, rigid QL, it can be beneficial to work the QL muscle daily until the knots and tightness are no longer present. I highly recommend QL Claw for anyone complaining their QL muscle won't release.

Check out QL Claw's tutorials on QL release for written and video instructions on how to effectively release the QL muscle, and learn more at the link below!

Trigger Point Therapy Tool QL Claw
 QL Claw - The Best QL Muscle Release Device
QL Muscle Release Tool 

[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

comment 1 comment

Paul Mendelson calendar_today

Thanks for all this information! I’ve had lower back pain for years – lower back, normally right side only, just above my waist, and also upper butt, right side only – I think glute med(?) Very stiff going from sitting to standing a lot of the time, especially if I sit for a long time, and especially if sitting with bad posture. Other days, once in awhile, I must pull a muscle or something, and then my lower back is just extremely sore/stiff for a day, or several days. Also, I noticed my hamstrings are INSANELY tight, which I think is probably causing all sorts of problems. Trying to touch my toes is embarassing, and I think my hamstrings are largely to blame. I have random knee pain on and off for a few years. Also I started putting most of my weight on the insides of my feet the last few years, instead of distributing my weight evenly. I’m not sure what caused this.

I’m quite active in general, but normally NEVER stretch or exercise, other than being active. 45 years old, 150 lbs. Skate and bike a ton, kayak, paddleboard, hiking. In pretty decent shape, but I’m thinking I have insane tightness and probably muscle imbalances.

All started from a trampoline injury, which I think caused a bulging disc. Went to the dr once and referred me to PT, but I never went since covid had just started. And haven’t gotten motivated to do anything about it until recently. It hasn’t gotten better or worse. So I’ve been researching a ton, started some stretches/exercises, and plan to start PT soon. Regardless of PT, I want to learn this stuff completely myself.

Looking forward to trying the QL Claw. In case you have any specific recommendations based on that description, please let me know! Otherwise, I’m planning to focus on my glute med and hamstrings for now, since those are obviously problematic. And a little bit hips, although I don’t know for sure if I have hip issues or not. I think the QL Claw may help in several areas.

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