I Tried The Spine Expert’s Three Core Core Exercises And They Did More Than Just Tighten My Abs

Millions of people around the world suffer from back pain. Core stability training is something you can do to prevent, facilitate, or correct this, and you don’t need any equipment to get started.

As someone who spends hours every day sitting in front of a computer screen with questionable posture, I decided to look for some more core strengthening exercises to work into my routine.

My hunt leads me to the “McGill Big Three,” a collection of three of the best core stability exercises to build strength and protect your back, as outlined by spine expert and BackFitpro Chief Scientist Professor Stuart McGill.

These exercises are: roll up, working the front of the stomach, side plank, working the side of the stomach, and bird dog, activating the deep core muscles in the back of the abdomen.

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How to do the McGill Big Three

  • Squat x6

  • Side plank x6 on each side

  • Bird Dog x6 on each side

Do each exercise six times. Hold the top position for 10 seconds on each rep while power breathing (as shown in the video above).

If you’re doing unilateral movements like side plank and bird dogs, do six reps on both sides.

If you want extra credit or feel your core muscles need more, you can add a second set of 4 reps and a third set of two reps each for all exercises.

1. To shrink

Fit&Well writer Harry Bullmore does a modified chestFit&Well writer Harry Bullmore does a modified chest

Fit&Well writer Harry Bullmore does a modified chest

Sets. 3: Repetitions. 6:00

  • Lie flat on your back, then lift your right knee toward the ceiling so you can place your right foot flat on the floor. Place your left hand under your lower back to help you achieve a neutral spine position.

  • Touch your right hand to the side of your belly, inhale pushing your toes out laterally (to the side), then brace your core.

  • Keeping your back still, raise your head slightly off the ground, then complete 10 seconds of power breathing. Relax and return to the starting position

My fossils

I already incorporate core stability exercises into my regular CrossFit workouts, and I like to think they’ve helped keep me from back pain and injury.

However, most of my main moves involve a lot of equipment. I was excited to find out if there were any other effective, equipment-free exercises I could do at home. Curly quickly gave me my answer.

That was the exercise that took me the longest to get to; playing around to make sure my arms are in the right place, my spine stays neutral, my breath is on point, and my core engages correctly.

This exercise is designed to target the front of my stomach, and despite requiring such limited range of motion, I could really feel it right in my abs (or six pack).

2. Sideboard

Fit & Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore does a side plankFit & Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore does a side plank

Fit & Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore does a side plank

Sets. 1: Repetitions. 6:00

  • Lie on your right side, then push yourself up so that your weight is distributed between your right leg and forearm. Keep your hips square and try to keep your body in a straight line from your feet to your head. If it is difficult, you can drop your knee on the floor.

  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then lower back to the starting position and repeat.

My fossils

Ah, the sideboard. This exercise has been crushing egos for decades, with its innocuous simplicity and amazingly complex execution that leaves even seasoned athletes reeling after a few seconds.

Fortunately, there are options for bracing (drop your knees to the floor or place your non-supporting hand on the opposite shoulder). However you decide to take that step, it’s worth the effort.

Having done this exercise before, I held it for 45-60 seconds, so I thought the 10 second intervals were a walk in the park. But, after curling up and breathing heavily, I found the side plank surprisingly difficult.

My obliques (the muscles that run down either side of my abdominal region) were firing on all cylinders by the fourth time, and I finished the set with a grimace as my forehead began to break out in sweat. Impressive results after just six repetitions.

The obliques play a big role in maintaining posture, supporting your spine and resisting twisting movements, so strengthening them is a good way to promote back health.

3. Bird dog

Fit & Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore does the fowlFit & Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore does the fowl

Fit & Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore does the fowl

Sets. 1: Repetitions. 6:00

  • Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Brace your core, then extend your right arm and your left leg in front of you and behind you, respectively. Do not extend your leg so high that you lose your neutral spine.

  • Hold this position for 10 seconds. Then, keeping a neutral spine and both limbs off the floor, slowly move your right hand and left knee together. Repeat on the other side.

My fossils

If someone tries to tell you that bird dog is too easy, chances are they’re not doing it right by rushing the reps, losing tension in the core, or letting their spine go out of neutral.

This is another one that took a bit of fiddling to get right. I had previously raised my extended leg almost parallel to the ground, but found that keeping my leg closer to the ground had a more desirable effect, maintaining a neutral spine and recruiting the deep muscles that stabilize the spine, such as the transversus abdominis.

On his Squat University YouTube channel, physical therapist Dr. Aaron Horschig explains that this is because lifting the back leg too high causes the back to lengthen and become bulky.

“I want that foot to be just a few inches off the ground. [This way] we are able to hold the axis in a better position. We keep our hips moving as they should because the hips directly affect the spine.”

Would I do the McGill Big Three again?

The value this routine offers is huge, so I’ll definitely be back.

It’s completely equipment-free (at most, you might want a yoga mat for extra cushioning on unforgiving floors) and provides a comprehensive, 360° core workout that works multiple muscles in the front, back and sides of your abs.

A strong core can increase your balance, help you maintain good posture, and prevent lower back pain, according to Harvard Medical School. It’s no wonder Horschig makes these moves every day, and wants his viewers to do the same.

For me, I know I will continue the core stability work I do in the gym with the equipment. But I’ll always keep these moves in my back pocket for when I don’t have access to any training tools, can’t leave my desk, or just want to give my core some extra TLC.

If you’re looking for more core exercises to try, why not drop dead wrong?

If you want to make your ab workout more comfortable, check out our guide to the best yoga mats on the market.

#Spine #Experts #Core #Core #Exercises #Tighten #Abs
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