Low Back Pain? Try the McGill “Big 3”
Doctor Stuart McGill is a world-renowned spine biomechanist and professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He is known for his research on the causes of back pain and the development of evidence-based approaches to its prevention and management.
One of the key principles of McGill’s approach to low back pain is the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced spine. He stresses the need for proper posture, alignment, and movement patterns in order to avoid overloading and stressing the spine.
To achieve this, McGill recommends incorporating a variety of exercises into one’s routine, including what he calls the “big 3” low back exercises: the bird dog, the side plank, and the curl-up.
The “big 3” low back exercises are designed to strengthen and stabilize the muscles of the back and core, which can help to improve posture, alignment, and movement patterns and reduce the risk of low back pain.
1. Bird dog
The bird dog exercise is a simple yet effective way to strengthen the muscles of the back and core. To perform the exercise, start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Keeping your back and neck straight, lift one arm and the opposite leg off the ground, reaching forward with your arm and back with your leg. Hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
2. Side plank
The side plank is another great exercise for strengthening the muscles of the back and core. To perform the exercise, start by lying on your side with your feet stacked on top of each other. Place your elbow directly under your shoulder and raise your hips off the ground, forming a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering your hips back down to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Curl up
Finally, the curl-up is a classic exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles. To perform the exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your head. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, keeping your lower back pressed into the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering back down to the starting position.
Side plank: To progress the side plank exercise, you can try holding the plank position for a longer duration of time, or you can try lifting the top leg off the ground for added difficulty. You can also try placing a small weight on your hip for added resistance or like the birddog, turn your side plank into a row by pulling on a band attached to an anchor in front of you. Adding a rotational element like below is another variation you can do once your body is ready:
Curl-up: To progress the curl-up exercise, you can try lifting your head, neck, and shoulders higher off the ground, or you can try straightening your legs for added difficulty. You can also try holding a small weight behind your head for added resistance.
Overall, these exercises are effective in improving the strength and stability of the muscles of the back and core, which can help to reduce the risk of low back pain and improve overall spine health. It’s important to remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of these exercises as your strength and stability improve. Incorporating these exercises into your routine on a day-to-day basis or even as your warmup before any form of activity can help to improve your spine health and reduce the risk of low back pain.