12 ways to do a Quadratus Lumborum stretch

“What is the best Quadratus Lumborum stretch?

This blog post contains all of the stretches that you will ever need to know.

The Quadratus Lumborum (or QL for short) is a muscle that is located on both sides of the lumbar spine.

(… and if you have ever had any lower back pain, it is safe to assume that this muscle was probably involved in one way or another!)

What does it attach to?

  • 12th rib
  • Tranverse processes L1-4
  • Posterior iliac crest
  • Iliolumbar ligament


Why does it get tight?

… It’s your posture!

The main action of the Quadratus Lumborum is to:

a) extend the lumbar spine,

b) side bend the lumbar spine and

c) tilt the pelvis.

Unfortunately, with the growing number of people with sub-optimal posture, this muscle commonly becomes tight and needs to be stretched.

Common postures associated with a tight Quadratus Lumborum:

Think about how you stand, sit and sleep: Is your posture causing a tight Quadratus Lumborum?

a) Anterior pelvic tilt 

anterior pelvic tilt

b) Leaning to one side

c) Lateral pelvic tilt

lateral pelvic tilt

d) Side lie



12 ways to do a Quadratus lumborum stretch

Image courtesy of Janpen04081986 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


– Hold each stretch for at least 2 minutes.

– Make sure you can FEEL the stretch. If you can’t feel the Quadratus lumborum stretch, then you are probably not stretching it!

– You do NOT have to do all of the stretches. Pick ONE! …and do it well.

Before starting a Quadratus Lumborum stretch…

I strongly recommend releasing the muscle with a massage ball.

Why?… This will help relax the tight muscle and can make your stretching more effective.

Ball release:


  • Place a massage ball directly below the Quadratus lumborum muscle.
  • Apply your body weight on top of the ball.
  • Roll your body over the entire length of the muscle.
  • Aim for 2 minutes each side.

I have divided these stretches into 3 different levels of intensity (light, moderate, strong).

(Note: If you have lower back issues, start on light stretches and progress as appropriate.)

Light stretch

1. Knee to chest

lower back stretch


  • Lie on your back.
  • Bring your knees up and hug your knees towards your chest.
  • Be sure to keep your legs completely relaxed.
    • (The arms should be doing all of the work.)
  • Gently rock your knees towards your chest.


2. Child’s pose


  • Start in a crawling position.
  • Sit on your completely bent legs.
    • Bring your buttocks to the back of your ankles.
  • Stretch out both arms and place them in front of you.
  • Aim to round your lower back as much as possible.
    • Tuck your tail bone underneath you.
  • To stretch the left side, reach out both arms to the opposite right side. (and vice versa)

3. Side tilt (standing)


  • Whilst standing, place your left hand on left hip.
  • Push your hip towards the right.
  • Whilst reaching over to the left with your right hand, tilt your torso to the left.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right side.
  • Repeat on other side.

4. Side tilt (sitting)


  • Sit crossed leg on the floor.
  • Pin and maintain your right leg down.
  • Reach over to the left side with your right arm.
  • Feel the stretch on the right side.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Moderate stretch

5. Side lie on exercise ball


  • Lie on your side on an exercise ball.
  • Keep your feet near a wall to maintain balance.
  • Reach over with the arm on the upper side.
  • Repeat on other side.

6. Side lie on bed


  • Lie on your side on the bed.
  • Allow for your upper leg to hang off the side. (Keep lower leg on bed)
  • Reach over with the upper arm and hold onto something stationary to keep you pinned down.
  • Relax your legs and allow gravity to pull you into the stretch.
  • Repeat on other side.

7. Wall lean


  • Place your right forearm onto the wall.
  • Position your legs away from the wall.
  • Lean the right side of your body onto the wall.
    • Aim to have the side of your mid section completely in contact with the wall. (as opposed to your hip)
  • Repeat on other side.

8. “Sexy pose”

ql stretch


  • Lie down on your side.
  • Prop your upper body onto your forearm.
  • Whilst keeping your pelvis pinned to the ground, try to push your torso as up right as possible.
  • Repeat on other side.

9. Pelvic side tilt


  • Whilst standing, lean all the way over to your right side.
  • Allow your left leg to lift and dangle.
    • Keep it relaxed!
  • Allow gravity to pull your left leg down.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the left side.
  • Repeat on other side.

Strong stretch

10. Wall stretch

quadratus lumborum stretch


  • Assume the position above.
  • Whilst holding onto the door frame, let your upper arm take the weight of your body.
    • “Let your body hang”
  • Whilst anchoring your legs as shown, aim to bend your mid section as much as possible.
    • Use your body weight to sink into the stretch
  • Repeat on other side.

11. “Sexy pose” (elevated)


  • Lie down on your side.
  • Prop your forearm onto a chair.
  • Whilst keeping your pelvis pinned to the ground, try to push your torso as up right as possible.
  • Repeat on other side.


12. Side bend (with wide stance)


  • Start with your feet wide apart with your left foot turned out to the side.
  • With arms outstretched, start to bend all the way to your left side.
  • Aim to reach your upper arm as far to the left as possible.
  • Keep your body in line with your left leg.
    • Do not rotate your body.
  • Keep your legs fairly straight.
  • Repeat on other side.



Now you have 12 different ways to do a Quadratus lumborum stretch!

Like I said – You do NOT have to do ALL of them.

Pick the ONE that gives you the best stretch, and do it regularly!

… Any questions?

Feel free to leave a comment and I will reply to you.


I am a physiotherapist who has personally experienced the pain as a result of bad posture. I would like to offer you some of the solutions that I and my patients have greatly benefited from.

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16 thoughts on “12 ways to do a Quadratus Lumborum stretch

  1. Hi Mark –

    I’ve had a pretty inflamed QL on my right side due to a right hip tilt (and tightening a car seat strap). I’ve rested it completely for the past two days (after acupuncture and chiropractor had small short-lived improvements in pain). After turning into a back sleeper, the pain is low- but I feel it waiting to flare up.

    My question is: when can I start stretching and then when can I start strengthening? This has taken over my physical life and is a big drag.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hey CJ,

      If the pelvic tilt is causing all of your issues, I would recommend check out this:

      Post: How to fix a lateral pelvic tilt

      If pain is the major issue at the moment, wait for the inflammation to settle as exercising can sometimes flare it up.

      Also – try to identify all those activities in your daily life that you know will flare up the back. Try to either not do them at all, or modify them so that it does not hurt.


  2. Hi Mark,
    Is there a way to know if it your oblique not your QL is tight? If someone has a tight muscle, it is very difficult to tell. Thanks

  3. Hi, Mark so I feel like I have hyperlordosis lower back/kyphosis of thoracic/forward head…but the problem is exercising is difficult because I am off center as I am confident I have a lateral pelvic tilt like in the pic on quadratus lumborum stretches…only I am going opposite way…could have some rotation not sure..side bending left…my head leans left and possibly kind of back…right shoulder is hiked and likes to shrug up a lot…left shoulder lower…my right hip feels higher than left…pain right side particularly suboccipital region… cant fix the forward head because I cant retract properly because I am off center…pulling between the blades is off center… I can work on my abdominal core but it does not completely rid me of pain as I need to address thoracic and head as well but the minute I start trying to work my thoracic or head I cant control my lower ribs flaring particularly right side…it is like the right side is flaring sideways and over to left…what should one do for this? I have tried A LOT…and I work very hard at trying not to compensate at TL junction. I feel like I am missing something or the exercises need a proper sequence…over a 4 yr span I have done deep neck flexors to no avail…I have pulled all kinds of bands for shoulder work…I have worked my core but not anything that would allow one to get loaded or deal with gravity…as I cant progress to more loaded no matter how hard I try as I lose control somewhere in it all…sometimes without my knowledge until I pay for it in pain a few days later….I am pretty confident it is because this lateral tilt is going unaddressed…when sitting sometimes I can feel my left buttock moving laterally to right underneath me…when this happens my torso sidebends left….but simply sliding opposite doesnt work…can you offer any advice about what is going on and what to do to correct this? Working things just from front to back perspective doesnt seem to be working. Thanks a lot

  4. Hi mark
    Thanks for the blog i am a hairdresser with a bad posture and i have started to do your stretches.
    I think they’re for life so thank you

    1. Hey Slade,

      When performing these stretches (… or any exercise for that matter), do not push into any pain.

      All you want is a firm pulling sensation on the side that you are stretching.


  5. Hi Mark

    Thank you for the great instruction.
    I have always wondered about the benefits of side bends, especially the half moon pose as taught by Bikram. Are the ligaments along the spine over streched? Is it possible that internal organs are damaged on the compressed side?
    I do this group of poses but I have noticed some chronic tenderness around the floating ribs on my left side.

    Thank You


    1. Hi Kelly!

      Congrats on first comment on this blog post!

      Any variation of side bending stretches will open up one side and close the other.

      It is possible to over stretch muscles and ligaments and squash structures on the closing side.

      Is your QL tight on the left side? This can cause a pinching pain on the 12th rib.


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