Muscles and their role on the low back

 In Back Health, Health

No matter what your goals in fitness are it is important to understand the role certain muscles play in contributing to motion and stability in the back. Before focusing on goals such as weight loss, muscle gain, sport performance or any other type of fitness goal there is a progression we must all go through. This should start with an emphasis on building proper movement patterns and the only way to do that is to have core stability and proper posture. Without those two things any fitness program is doomed to fail. For this reason I put together this short post to help you understand which muscles contribute to which motions in the low back.

When beginning an exercise program it is important to understand the implications on your spine, in particular the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine allows us to transmit the weight of our upper body to the pelvis and lower limbs. It is the section of the spine that carries the highest amount of load during movement, whether that is simply standing or performing a squat.

Because of this it is important to understand how to protect the lumbar spine during exercise, and how to train the body to help support this vital region of our body. There are a number of muscles that contribute to generating movement and supporting the spine, here are some of the movements and the muscles involved and the motions they contribute to:

Forward Flexion

–              Psoas major

–              Rectus abdominis

–              External abdominal oblique

–              Internal abdominal oblique

–              Transverse abdominis

–              Intertransversarii



–              Latissimus dorsi

–              Quadratus lumborum

–              Erector spinae, iliocostalis lomborum, longissimus thoracis

–              Multifidus

–              Transversospinalis

–              Rotatores

–              Interspinales

–              Gluteus Maximus


Side Flexion

–              Latissimus dorsi

–              Quatratus Lumborum

–              Erector spinae, iliocostalis lomborum, longissimus thoracis

–              Psoas major

–              External oblique

–              Transversalis

–              Intertransversarii



–              Transversalis

–              Rotatores

–              multifidus


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As you can see the list is rather extensive and there are some muscles in there that the average gym goer may not associate with “core stability”. This list of muscles is useful for both people who are dealing with low back pain and those with healthy backs.

For example somebody who has back pain as a result of extension will have to be careful about exercises they select for the glutes and lats as focusing on these muscles with resistance training may increase the likelihood of a “flare up”.

On the other hand someone who has never had issues with their back may not be as concerned with their posture or aware that if they neglect certain muscle groups in favor of other, workouts focused on the chest but not the back, may eventually train themselves into a condition that creates back pain.

So the next time before you go to the gym take a look at the list of muscles above and consider whether you are effectively training these muscles, or in the case of those with back pain look at the muscles involved in the workout you are about to do. Notice the muscle groups that could potentially aggravate your back and ensure you are not performing too many exercises targeted at that area.

Exercising with your lower back in mind will help you stay strong and pain free, if you are unsure of how to perform certain exercises properly, how to target the specific muscle groups, or how to progress your workouts without putting too much load on your lumbar spine Pure Integrated Trainings personal trainers can help design and implement a program to get you on track. If you are interested in personal training or have any questions, contact us and we would be happy to help!

To your success,




Keegan Marshall CPT, CES

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