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An Interview with Dr. Stuart McGill, Part II


An Interview with Dr. Stuart McGill, Part II


In part I of my interview with performance and spine expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, we covered a lot of ground. Dr. McGill is mostly known for his approach to "core training," but that term probably doesn't mean what you think it does. When you implement the training techniques that Dr. McGill covers in these interviews your entire body will become stronger and more explosive, not just your abs.

With that in mind, let's get back to the discussion and you'll understand why Dr. McGill is one of the most sought after performance experts across the globe.

Chad Waterbury: Stu, the last time we met up for beers you asked me where I think the core is. I told you that I consider it everything from your head down to your toes. You seemed pleased with that answer. Or maybe it was just the lager talking? Care to elaborate?

CW: In the first part of this interview you gave us a progression of core exercises that have no, or relatively low, rotational velocity. However, some sports such as golf mandate that movement pattern, even if it's high risk. Once a guy has worked through the progression, which exercise do you recommend to train higher rotational velocity?

CW: You mentioned your work with MMA fighters. Those guys can benefit from exercises that develop rotational strength. Some of the coolest and most effective core exercises you've taught me are the ones I use with fighters.

CW: Let's talk about sit-ups. Stu, there are so many guys I know that just can't get enough of them. I honestly believe that we have the Rocky movies to blame for them being so ubiquitous.

Your book Low Back Disorders was one of the first clinical-based texts that taught us sit-ups aren't very good for our discs. Your lab determined one of the primary reasons and it's due to the high compressive forces they induce, on the order of 3400N or 764 pounds. Tell us more about that.

CW: Some guys have said they listened to you and dropped doing flexion training and they became weak because of it. So they returned to doing sit-ups. What do you say?

CW: I know athletes that like to perform the sit-up slowly because they really feel the burn in their abs. I have a gut feeling they think that slow movements are safer for their spine, too. However, I can't see how slow sit-ups would benefit an explosive athlete.


CW: Since sit-ups aren't ideal for sprinters, fighters, linebackers, or explosive athletes in general, what do you recommend they do?

An Interview with Dr. Stuart McGill, Part II

CW: Before we move on from this sit-up topic, I've got to ask you one more question. What do you think of the notion that it might be acceptable to do a thousand sit-ups or crunches every day because some guys can pull that off without any problems?

CW: Okay, let's move on. You talk a lot about stiffening the spine during explosive actions. Can you explain what you mean?

CW: You consult with enough professional athletes to make a person's head spin, especially the NFL where disc problems are rampant. What's the most common training problem you see with their training?

An Interview with Dr. Stuart McGill, Part II

CW: Let me wrap this up by asking you what you feel are the biggest misconceptions about your training concepts? Fire away.

  • Keep power low.
  • Each person has a training capacity that when exceeded, causes injury.
  • Certain exercises steal training capacity and they wear out the spine before the muscles.
  • Certain combinations of exercises are problematic while others are synergistic.
  • Build proximal stiffness for distal explosive power – this means a core that is stopping motion and not creating it.
  • Choose exercises that spare the underlying joints when supertraining the neuromuscular elements.
  • Don't believe that you can train the injury mechanism.

CW: Excellent, Stu. Thanks for your time and incredible insight.



PUBLISHED