You’ve heard it time and time again : core training is very important. Our boy G dove pretty deep into the importance of it in one of our previous articles “Hierarchy of Important | Core training and stability.” And to reinforce his point, the best way to increase core strength is not to do 1,000 crunches. Far from it, actually. Fortunately, a man named Dr. Stuart McGill has created a simple and effective way to train it.
Who Is Stuart McGill?
If you’re reading this name and have zero idea who this man is, you’re not alone. While he is well known in the strength and conditioning world, he likely won’t be making any headlines today. Unless the modified crunch cures Covid.
Dr. McGill is a Ph.D out of Ontario, Canada. He is a professor emeritus where he spent upwards of 30 years studying the spine and mechanisms causing back pain. He is part of 240 peer-reviewed scientific journals, wrote several books himself, and has helped thousands of clinicians with special cases. The link to his personal site is at the end of this article.
The McGill Big 3
Like any other muscle group, training it in the 3 planes of motion are ideal. Over the years, Dr. McGill has accumulated research that trickled down to what is known as the McGill Big 3. 3 exercises, incredibly simple to do, and require little modification if done correctly.
The Modified Crunch / Curl Up
I know what it sounds like, but this isn’t a regular crunch. While you lay on your back, have one knee bent with that same foot flat on the floor. Both of your hands are under the small of your back, one on top of the other. While drawing your stomach in, you tense your “abs” and the glute of the straight leg, and lift your shoulders off the ground about an inch or two. You hands help support your the lordotic curvature of your lumbar spine and you activate contralateral (opposite sides) of your glutes and core.
The Side Plank
Frontal plane strength and stability, the side plank is exactly how it sounds with just a few modifications.
With your elbow directly underneath your shoulder, start with your feet spread wide. This will help with balance if you’re reluctant. Move your feet closer the more stable you get.
Keep in mind, in order to save your back, keep your glutes squeezed the entire time. Doing so will help reinforce your legs staying straight and should help maintain a neutral spine.
The Bird Dog
This is more challenging than some would think. Working in the transverse plane, you have to maintain core stability. If you don’t, you’ll see a drop, mostly forward and down depending on the outstretched arm.
While on all 4’s, draw your stomach in and raise opposite arms and legs in the air. Keep your back foot only an inch or two off the ground. This is one of those situations where height isn’t paramount.
Your arm should be straight and stretched out like you’re trying to grab something just out of your reach. You may feel a stretch in your shoulder while doing this, too.
If you’re having issues maintaining a neutral spine or core engagement while doing this, keep both hands on the ground and just lift one leg to start. Keeping the same glute tight, straighten you leg out, foot just a couple inches off the floor.
The Mandatory Walk
Dr. McGill also makes it mandatory to go for a 30 minute walk. Doing so help push fluid into the spine, hydrating the intervertebral discs. It also aids in the traditional cardio benefits, such as boost heart health, increase coordination, and actively increase mobility.
Start by holding all 3 positions for no more than 5 seconds. Focus more on keeping your body stomach drawn in and butt tight rather than how long you can hold it. Remember, efficiency is key here.
Don’t be quick to add external resistance either. If done properly, holding these for upwards of 10-15 seconds at most will bode well for you.
Dr. McGills website : backfitpro.com