It’s tough to only give 3 primary exercises for lower back pain, but according to Stuart McGill, these are the big 3 that people will generally benefit from the most.
Now, what gives him any credibility on the subject? Well, for starters, he has spent over 30 years studying how the spine works and what proven methods there are for limiting back pain.
He has 4 books on the subject: Back Mechanic, Gift of Injury, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, and Low Back Disorders.
Many consider his books to be the best back advice available you’ll find on the planet, and his near 5 star reviews across the board are confirmation of this.
If you’re someone that has chronic back pain or even somebody that just wants to prevent back pain, I highly recommend getting at least one of his books.
However, without reading an entire book on back pain you can always start with the “McGill big 3 exercises” to see improvement.
What are they?
Side planks, an alternated version of a crunch, and bird dogs. Let’s check em out.
Side planks are a common exercise that people just don’t use all that commonly. They are very effective but we tend to forget about doing them on a consistent basis.
It is a simple exercise where will lay on your side and then raise your upper body off the ground, while at the same time keeping your body straight and locked in place, which really works your core.
Check out this video for instructions:
Now, in the video above you see some advanced alterations you can do as well. If you have back issues there is no need to worry about those, especially at first. A simple side plank will do the trick.
And unlike common instructions to hold the plank as long as possible, McGill only recommends holding them for 10 seconds. The goal is to gradually do more sets of 10 second planks, not to hold them longer and longer.
McGill Curl Ups
This is a modified crunch where you’re pretty much going to get the same results as traditional crunches without unnecessarily bending your spine.
Instead of placing your hands behind your head and bending to flex your ab muscles, you are going to be placing both of your hands on your lower back underneath your body as you lay down. Then you will simply lift your head up and surprisingly this will engage your abs and core muscles.
Check out this video to see it demonstrated:
As you see there isn’t a whole lot to it. It is simple yet effective. And I think after trying these you’ll be surprised how much they actually engage your muscles.
This is primarily going to work your abs but also engages your lower back. You also don’t want to only work just your back muscles as everything is connected and working your entire core will help your lower back.
Lie down on all fours like a dog (just kidding), but seriously get down on all fours making sure your spine is in a neutral position.
After that you simply raise one arm and one leg, each one needs to be opposite of the other. So if you raise your right arm then you’ll also raise your left leg and vice versa.
McGill recommends holding these for 10 seconds as well. And if you’re feeling extra spritely then you can even swing your leg through at the end for additional core strengthening, however, I would just start with holding the position in place to see how that goes.
Check out this short video to see it in action:
Again, this isn’t an overly hard workout but it really engages your core. This is going to directly work your lower back muscles.
McGill Big 3 All Together
Check out this video, these women have been following the program and offer some more insight with instructions for all 3:
Food For Thought
A lot of us to go to work all day and sit for a majority of our day, this inevitably leads to lower back pain. The great thing about these 3 exercises is that you can literally get an entire “workout” in, in less than 10 minutes.
So let me repeat that, all you need to do is dedicate 10 minutes or less a day to do these core 3 exercises. Anybody can do that.
Now you may look at this program and think it really isn’t going to do much because nothing is overly intense. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Yeah, it isn’t deadlifts, but what it is, is a program that can literally help heal your lower back. Of course, like anything, not every person will respond the same to this program.
If you have severe back pain I would actually recommend doing 1 exercise at a time to make sure that these are actually exercises you can perform without further hurting your back.
So in other words, start with the planks, then do the curl ups a different day, then do bird dogs another day. Make everything feels right then go to 2 exercises, and eventually to all 3 at once.
How Long Should You Do Each Workout?
Initially, less than 3 minutes total. But eventually you can work up to about 3 minutes for each different exercise, broken up into 10 second intervals, overall which totals 9 minutes. So again, this is something anybody can do.
More Info on Stuart McGill’s Books on Back Pain
If you are someone that is dealing with a back injury, or if you are someone that has chronic back pain then I think investing in one of Stuart McGill’s books is something you should consider.
Most of the books are probably more so for health professionals, but his latest book “Back Mechanic” is probably best suited for the general population and you’ll be able to get about all of the information needed from that.
At the time of writing this article, it has a 4.8 rating on Amazon, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any negative reviews from readers.
For more info and to buy, you can check it out on Amazon.com