Exercises to strengthen the multifidus muscles of the spine

Updated April 17, 2017

Develop strong spinal and core muscles by focusing strength training and exercise on all of the back muscles. Dorsal raises and back extensions provide crucial fibre strength to these spinal muscles that also support the stomach and thighs. The multifidus, abdominal and quadriceps work together; when one muscle is weakened, the others become strained. Damaged back muscles reduce spinal stability, which can lead to acute low back pain and eventual disc strain.

Dorsal Raises

Lift the dorsal or posterior back muscles to strengthen the erectors and transversospinalis group. To do the exercise, lay across an exercise ball on your stomach. Place your hands behind your head, and with hips balancing on the ball and feet on the floor, raises your torso. The abdominal muscles will extend or stretch and the multifidi will tighten in the lumbar region of the back. Contract the abdominal muscles to allow the multifidi to stretch and relax. Complete three repetitions of a 10 count to begin core building and back-strengthening exercises. Increase repetitions as muscle strength increases. For an easier exercise, drop your knees to the floor while balancing your hips on the ball.

Spinal Lateral Flexion and Rotation

Strengthen the erectors, multifidi and core abdominal muscles with flexion and rotation. Raise your right arm above the head and bend the hand, arm and shoulder over the head. Plant feet firmly, flex, rotate the torso and hip to the left side. Reach and grab the left calf with the left hand. Raise the left arm above the head and bend the hand, arm, and shoulder over the head. Keep feet planted firmly, flex, rotate the torso and hip to the right side. Reach and grab the right calf with the right hand. These actions complete one repetition. Beginners should alternate sides for 10 repetitions. Engage the abdominal muscles and add repetitions once the back muscles are stronger. Add strength training to this exercise by using hand weights.

Floor Back Extensions

Isolate and strengthen the transversospinalis muscles that include the multifidi by performing back extensions on the floor. Similar to the dorsal raise with the ball, lay flat on the floor, with arms to the side or behind the back. Raise the head, shoulders, torso and pelvis up and back in hyperextension. Engage the abdominal muscles to control the return to the floor. Complete 20 repetitions of this exercise while holding the hyperextension for a count of five. This activity engages the back and front core muscles.

Contract and Release the Multifidi

Seated at the desk, with your hands at your sides, draw your shoulders, ribs and buttocks back toward the spine and hold for a count of five. Pull your shoulders and torso in toward the your belly button and release all your muscles to count one repetition. Complete a series of three sets of 10-repetitions to start. Increase the number of repetitions as the exercise becomes easier. Remember to breathe and engage the abdominal muscles. Keep the shoulders lowered, being careful not to lift them during flexion or extension.


Exercise core abdominal, back and leg muscles first for overall strength building. Be sure to alternate strength training with cycling, walking, aerobics or swimming for the most effective workouts. Minimal discomfort while exercising is normal, but pain of any kind is not. Get a physical before beginning an exercise regimen if you are out of shape. Muscle aches wreak havoc on workout routines, so soak your body for 20 minutes in magnesium sulphate for relief.

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About the Author

Suann Schuster has been working as a freelance writer since 2004. She served as an item writer for McGraw-Hill Education and a curriculum author. Schuster now provides content for Science and Massage Therapy texts for McGraw-Hill, as well as for test banks. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Sedona.