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A New Interview with Dr. Stuart McGill

Scroll through the archives here at T-Nation and you'll see that we don't interview just anyone. Now, scroll through the archives and check to see who's been interviewed twice. You won't find more than a few names.

However, a few people have had such a profound impact on the world of health and human performance that they deserve a second go-round. Stuart McGill is one such individual.

Elite athletes regularly seek Dr. McGill's advice in hopes of saving their careers from devastating back problems.

In March of 2006, I had the good fortune of seeing Dr. McGill speak in person for the first time. Admittedly, going into the seminar I was expecting a typical research presentation by a typical researcher. That is, I was expecting someone with a bunch of graphs and a lot of book smarts, but little real-world experience "under the bar" and on the field of performance – much less the ability to show it off to those in attendance.

My assumption couldn't have been further from the truth. Dr. McGill was fantastic – so fantastic, in fact, that I've already made plans to see him speak at a two-day seminar to dozens of physical therapists this October.

Less than twenty minutes into the presentation, Dr. McGill took off his sweater and tie so that he could get "moving around." Over the next six hours, he moved around like a skilled athlete in his twenties, taking those in attendance through a variety of functional assessments and drills designed to identify and correct problems. To say that I was impressed with his athletic ability and charismatic speaking would be an understatement – and I have to admit that I was really damn flattered when he knew who I was!

A few years ago, Dr. McGill published the first edition of Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, a book that delved into identifying and correcting low back dysfunction in order to build a healthy, efficient athlete. Just this year, Dr. McGill introduced the second edition of the book, which takes the crucial health-efficiency-performance link to a whole new level.

Dr. McGill was kind enough to take time out of his busy lecture, writing, research, and consulting schedule to share some of his thoughts with T-Nation. 

T-Nation: Welcome, Dr. McGill. Thanks for taking the time to bring us up to speed since we last touched base with you.

T-Nation: I know you're not one to hold back when it comes to challenging the traditionalists, and with good reason: you're the one doing all the latest research! With that said, let's get things started by barbecuing some sacred cows. You have some strong thoughts on traditional "ab" training. Where are so many lifters missing the boat, and how can they fix the errors in their ways to improve performance, reduce the risk of injury, and build a solid midsection?

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: No doubt. You had some pretty experienced lifters, coaches, and trainers questioning their own foundations. Except me, of course. Tell the T-Nation audience about how perfect I was, Dr. McGill!

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: Great points. It all comes back to efficiency once again. In the lifting population, what "energy leaks" are you looking for?

Dr. McGill:

Dr. McGill working with powerlifter and strongwoman competitor Liane Blyn.

T-Nation: You really piqued my interest with your discussion of end-plate injuries in lifters. Can you please fill T-Nation readers in a bit more on these problems, their symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments?

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: Millions of people feel "tight" in their lower back, so they logically assume that the best way to fix the problem is to stretch the lower back out. With our DVD and writing, Mike Robertson and I have gone to great lengths to show that it's a deficit in hip mobility that's actually one of the problems, and that stability of the spine is what these people need. Care to elaborate?

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: Relative to popular exercise "wisdom," you have some unique thoughts on hamstring stretching, too, don't you?

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: Last weekend, you touched on the topic of "powerful feet" in elite athletes, noting that everything starts from the ground up. Can you go into a bit more detail on this topic? How does it relate to back health and performance?  And I'm sure that our audience would love some training tips in this regard.

Dr. McGill:

Dr. McGill working with research subjects in the "Lifting Lab."

T-Nation: Fantastic stuff. Now, let's talk about the new edition of your Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance book. I'm just one of many coaches who hasn't been able to say enough good things about the first version since it was introduced. What can readers expect to see in the new edition?

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: What's coming up next for you in the research world?

Dr. McGill:
T-Nation: It sounds like a third edition is already in the works! Let's conclude on a general note. If you had to make a few broad recommendations on avoiding lower back pain for everyone from the weekend warrior to the elite athlete, what would they be?

Dr. McGill:

T-Nation: Interesting stuff. Thanks for your time, Dr. McGill. Where can readers pick up a copy of your new book?

Dr. McGill:

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