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the Stuart McGill Big 3 Exercises For Low Back Health - Low Back Series PArt 2

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Have you ever experienced back pain? Did it hinder your everyday life or prevent you from doing activities you love? If you are struggling with lower back pain, you are not alone. According to studies, approximately 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Low back pain can be a debilitating condition, affecting daily life and physical activity. However, specific exercises can significantly improve back health and stability. Among these, the "Big 3" exercises developed by Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned spine biomechanics professor, stand out for their effectiveness. This blog post will delve into each of these exercises: the Curl-Up, the Side Bridge, and the Bird Dog, providing detailed instructions and benefits.

1. Curl Up:

The McGill Curl-Up is designed to strengthen the abdominal muscles without placing excessive strain on the lower back.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other bent with the foot flat on the ground.

  • Place your hands under the natural arch of your lower back to preserve the spine's neutral position.

  • Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the ground without bending your lower back or neck. Imagine your head and neck rising in a straight line.

  • Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching the leg position.


  • Strengthens the abdominal muscles while minimizing stress on the lower back.

  • Promotes core stability which is essential for back health and posture.

2. Side Bridge:

The Side Bridge is effective in strengthening the lateral core muscles, including the obliques, which are crucial for spinal stability.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your side with your forearm on the ground and your elbow directly under your shoulder. Stack your legs and feet together.

  • Lift your hips off the ground, forming a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Keep your head in line with your spine.

  • Hold this position for as long as you can maintain good form, then slowly lower your hips back to the ground.

  • Repeat on the other side.


  • Targets the oblique muscles and the lateral core, providing stability to the spine.

  • Helps in reducing the risk of spinal injuries by strengthening the core.

3. Bird Dog:

The Bird Dog exercise focuses on the back extensors and improves balance and coordination.

How to Perform:

  • Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

  • Simultaneously extend one arm forward and the opposite leg backward, keeping both straight. Ensure your back remains flat and your hips and shoulders are level.

  • Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.

  • Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.


  • Strengthens the muscles running along the spine and improves core stability.

  • Enhances coordination and balance, which are vital for everyday movements.

Incorporating the Stuart McGill Big 3 exercises into your daily routine can help increase your core stability, improve your posture, and decrease the risk of lower back pain. By consistently performing these exercises, you will see improvements in your everyday life, from being able to lift heavier objects with ease to having better posture while sitting at your desk. If you are experiencing lower back pain, consider getting help from a physical therapist who can guide you through these exercises and tailor a plan to your specific needs. Remember, a strong core equals a strong back!

Please remember, this is just for educational purposes. If you have been suffering from back pain it is important to get an evaluation from a medical professional.

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