He's got our backs

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Dr. Stuart McGill instructing students on exercise

Do you struggle through sit-ups in the quest for great-looking abs? If so, you might change your exercise routine after you learn what Dr. Stuart McGill has discovered during decades spent as a professor of spine biomechanics in the department of kinesiology.

Dr. McGill is a world renowned expert in low back disorders who researchers and teaches how the low back functions, and how it can become injured. In his Spine Biomechanics Lab, Dr. McGill uses both spine specimens and modelling approaches on real people to determine the variety of compressive, shearing, and bending forces that simulate activities such as swinging a golf club or doing a sit-up. As the process is repeated, tissue stresses and patterns of injury start to emerge.

What he’s found is that crunches and traditional sit-ups place 3,300 newtons (the equivalent of 340 kg!) of compressive force on the spine when bent in flexion. These forces can squeeze a bent disc’s nucleus to the point that it bulges – pressing on nerves and causing back pain, and potentially leading to a herniated disc.

To minimize the risk of injury, Dr. McGill has developed a series of exercises designed to strengthen the entire core, while keeping the spine in a neutral position (i.e. not bent). His methods have been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek and Maclean’s, and have been adopted by elite athletes, trainers, and even firefighters around the world. Watch the video to learn more!

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