The BEST Core Exercise You Need To Be Doing

For the past year, I have been recovering from hip surgery and some herniated discs in my back. While the medical community and my PT have been very helpful in my recovery process, the best medicine has been what I do on a daily basis and in my workouts. It does take some time to figure out the best methods but it can be done. If you experience back pain at any level and have lost hope in getting better, there is always a way to get better. It just takes time, patience and the right plan.

I have read a ton of literature from Dr. Stu McGill Ph.D., the leading spine researcher at the University of Waterloo Canada, and it has been extremely helpful. He has come up with the best exercise that has been clinically proven to help strength the core and reduce lower back pain.

While each person’s situation is unique to some degree, there are some fundamental principles that you can follow. First, stop doing any and all movements that cause pain or poor movement patterns. This is the number one thing to do. If sitting too much or running hurts, stop doing it. For me, it was explosive movements like jumping and spinal loaded movements such as the barbell back squat. This alone will go a long way in your defense to reducing lower-back pain.

The second thing is to strengthen your core. For years, people performed traditional crunches in order to build their abdominal strength. This exercise is not favorable to strengthen the core, as it requires you to round your back repeatedly. This can contribute to lower back problems over time, similar to sitting too much, as well as aggravate pre-existing damage.

But there is one kind of crunch that doesn’t require you to round your lower back, and it’s actually used to help prevent back pain. It’s called the mcgill-curl-up-1McGill Curl-up. While this exercise looks like a crunch, thankfully, it doesn’t act like a crunch.

This is because the McGill Curl-up forces you to work the entire abdominal muscle complex while keeping your lower back in a naturally arched position. It minimizes stress on your spine while increasing the endurance of the muscles, which helps prevent and even relieve lower back pain. And yes, it builds your abs too.

If you are struggling with back pain and are ready to take your recovery into your own hands, this exercise along with avoiding painful movements can help dramatically.

Disclaimer: Each person’s lower back pain can be different. While this exercise has been clinically shown to be the most helpful exercise to strengthen the core safely and reduce lower back pain, you need to consult with a physician to diagnosis your individual situation.

The McGill Curl-up


  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your left leg straight and flat on the floor. Your right knee should be bent and your right foot flat.
  2. Place your hands palms down on the floor underneath the natural arch in your lower back (Don’t flatten your back.)
  3. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor without bending your lower back or spine, and hold this position for 7 to 8 seconds, breathing deeply the entire time. That’s one repetition.
  4. Do all of your repetitions, and then switch legs so that your right leg is straight and your left is bent.
  5. Perform four to five repetitions, rest for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat one to two more times. To make it even harder, raise your elbows off the floor as you curl up. And for an even greater challenge, start by contacting your abs, and then curl up against that force.


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