Stuart McGill, PhD


Stuart McGill, PhD.

Let’s start this Rehab 101 series by moving from the center out.  We’ll visit the works of Professor Stuart McGill who many consider to be the foremost authority in the world on low back pain and rehab.  Beginning about 20 years ago, Dr. McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo outside of Toronto, began to work on a computer model that used electromyography input to predict forces on the spine.  They honed their program, and then spent about 10 years developing the model until it was considered a valid and reliable method of measuring the forces of certain movements and activities on the spine.  The past several years have probably been fun for Stu!

In those years, he’s had a variety of interesting populations into his lab, performing the activities they were excellent at while he measured the forces on the spine. The result of evaluating these football players, martial artists, strongman competitors and other high level athletes has been rewarding.  Now, rather than offering our patients and clients “workaround” solutions for their spine problems, we can offer them a “software upgrade” with movements learned from the highest functioning athletes on the planet.

McGill’s approach can be summarized in his treatment algorithm consisting of 5 steps:

  1. Assess the patient to determine faulty movement patterns.
  2. Correct the faulty movement patterns to sustainable movement patterns.
  3. Build endurance in the muscle groups responsible for producing excellent quality movement.
  4. Improve agility and strength in the good movement patterns.
  5. Add power to the good movement patterns.

Dr. McGill wrote a synopsis of his approach a few years ago that is a great way to introduce yourself to his work.  Here is a link to that 12 page article.

Here are several of Dr. McGill’s books and DVDs.




 features several exercises that have been associated with Dr. McGill.  The primary ones are the spine stabilization exercises that are commonly referred to as McGill’s Big 3.  These are the Bird Dog, Side Bridge and the Ab Raise.

To review these exercises, make sure you’re logged on to your account at, and click on the images below.