Archive for the ‘No Sit-ups Stuart McGill PhD’ Category

No Sit-ups Stuart McGill PhD

April 13, 2010

Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back?-Reynolds G. New York Times 2009, June 17

before we start the article…3ish minute YouTube Video of Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, demonstrates a core exercise program that emphasizes all the major muscles that support the spine.[[[[[Video]]]]]]

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The genesis of much of the ab work we do these days probably lies in the work done in an Australian physiotherapy lab during the mid-1990s.

In subjects with healthy backs, the transverse abdominis (TrA) contracts milliseconds before the deltoid when raising the arm into flexion.

The nervous system activates the TrA to brace the spine in advance of movement.

In Low Back Pain patients TrA firing was delayed.

Low Back Pain patients were trained to isolate & strengthen the TrA by sucking in their abdomen & a booming industry of fitness classes was born.

The idea leaked into gyms & Pilates classes that core health was “all about the TrA.”

A provocative article published in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine last year asserted that some of the key findings from the first Australian study of back pain might be wrong.

There’s growing dissent among sports scientists about whether all this attention to the TrA gives you a stronger core/ back & whether it’s even safe.

“There’s so much mythology about the core,” says Stuart McGill, PhD, a highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics.

“The idea has reached trainers & thru them, the public that the core means only the abs. There’s no science behind that idea.”

The muscles forming the core must be balanced to allow the spine to bear large loads. If you concentrate on strengthening only one set of muscles within the core, you can destabilize the spine.

“In our lab, the amount of load the spine can bear without injury was greatly reduced when subjects pulled in their belly buttons” during crunches & other exercises.

Instead, he suggests, a core exercise program should emphasize all of the major muscles that girdle the spine – Abdominal Bracing – including the abs. Side bridge & “bird dog” exercise the important muscles embedded along the back & sides of the core.

As for the abdominals, no sit-ups, McGill said; they place devastating loads on the disks. “Do not hollow your stomach or press your back against the floor,” McGill says.

***Gently lift your head & shoulders, hold briefly & relax back down.***

These 3 exercises – “the Big Three” – Bird Dog, Side Bridge, & Curl-Up can provide well-rounded, thorough core stability & avoid the pitfalls of the all-abs core routine.

“I see too many people,” McGill said “who have six-pack abs and a ruined back.”


Dr. Stuart McGill is one of the world’s best when it comes to understanding the back and spine.

Stuart McGill, PhD, is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and an internationally recognized lecturer and expert in spine function and injury prevention and rehabilitation. Dr. McGill played football and lifted weights in his youth.

His rehab labs have produced more than 200 scientific publications that address lumbar function, low back injury mechanisms, mechanisms of injury prevention and rehabilitation and, most recently, issues related to high performance.

As a consultant, he has provided expertise on assessment and reduction of the risk of low back injury—along with rehab approaches—to government agencies, corporations, legal firms, professional athletes and teams, and is regularly referred patients for consultation.

Dr. McGill is also known for training and mentoring Dr. Cholewicki, (now a professor at Yale’s medical school, one of the top spine stability scientists in the world). Before Cholewicki became a doctor he was an Eastern European classically trained lifter who moved to Canada from Poland still holding some Canadian records in his weight class.

Dr. McGill gives credit to learning from Dr. Vladimir Janda, who taught him how to assess different kinds of movement disorders and syndromes.

Dr. McGill has authored books such as Low Back Disorders: evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation -2nd edition. In this book he credits many great academic personalites in the spine world such as: Harry Farfan, Bill Kirkaldy-Willis, Dan Chaffin, Bill Adams.

Dr. McGill also gives credit and learning (in his books and interviews) from academic clinicians such as:  Shirley Sahrmann, Dick Erhart, Rick Jemmett, Paul Hodges, Andry Vleeming, Craig Liebenson, D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic), Peter O’Sullivan, Clayton Skaggs.

4 Other related articles:

1. Why do some patients keep hurting their back?

2. Kill the sit-up crunch-Dr. Stuart McGill

3. core-stabilization-abdominal-hollowing-vs-bracing

4. Why does back pain recur?

5.   This 2 min video is on spinal decompression, but it gives you a good idea of what is happening as the spine decompresses:  – DRX9000 Spinal Decompression Therapy:: Degenerative Disc Disease

If you are suffering from: Sports Injuries, Sprains, Strains, Car accident,  Herniated Disc, Disc Bulge, Degenerative Disc Disease, Neck pain, Headaches, Low back pain, of just want to feel better and have better life performance– please call our office in Irvine, California- at 949.857.1888or visit our website at ADJUST2IT to learn more about Functional Fitness Chiropractic, Sports massage, Myofascial Release, Corrective Exercise, Non Surgical Spinal Decompression, Class IV laser, Functional Endocrinology and Functional Nutrition.