If you’re looking for an effective way to strengthen your core and reduce the risk of back pain and injury, the McGill Big 3 is a set of exercises that you may want to consider. These exercises have been developed by Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned spine expert and professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
At One Life, we use these exercises with personal training clients who have back pain and in our group fitness classes.
The McGill Big 3 consists of three exercises that can help increase core stability, improve posture, and reduce the risk of back pain. These exercises require no equipment and can be done virtually anywhere. Let’s take a closer look at each exercise:
1. The Curl-Up: This exercise targets the rectus abdominis, the muscle responsible for your six-pack abs. To perform a curl-up, lie on your back with one knee bent and one leg straight. Place your hands under your lower back for support, then lift your head and shoulders off the ground while keeping your lower back flat on the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat for 5-10 reps on each side.
The curl-up is a great exercise for improving core strength, but it’s important to maintain proper form throughout the movement. Make sure to keep your lower back flat on the ground, and avoid pulling your neck forward as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor.
2. The Side Plank: This exercise targets the obliques, the muscles on the sides of your core. To perform a side bridge, lie on your side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your legs straight. Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold for a few seconds, then lower back down. Repeat for several reps on each side. These can also be done holding for 15-60 seconds at a time.
The side plank is an excellent exercise for improving lateral stability and core strength. To make the exercise more challenging, you can try lifting your top leg off the bottom leg while holding the position.
3. The Bird Dog: This exercise targets the erector spinae, the muscles along your spine. To perform a bird dog, start on your hands and knees with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Extend one arm and the opposite leg, creating a straight line from your fingertips to your toes. Hold for a few seconds, then lower back down. Repeat for 5-10 reps on each side.
The bird dog is a great exercise for improving spinal stability and balance. It’s important to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement and avoid arching your back as you lift your arm and leg.
Remember to focus on form over quantity when performing the McGill Big 3. Start with 1 set of 5-10 reps of each exercise before or after your workout and gradually work your way up to 3-4 sets of 10 reps as your core strength improves.
Incorporating the McGill Big 3 into your fitness routine can help achieve a strong, stable core and reduce the risk of back pain and injury.
We definitely recommend working with an expert personal trainer near you or physical therapist if you have back pain.