[Transcript] – How To Get Extreme “Okinawan” Strength, 3 Ways To Fix Low Back Pain & The Best Core Exercises With Stu McGill

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/recovery-podcasts/the-best-low-back-exercises-with-stu-mcgill/

[00:00] Introduction/GainsWave/DailyBurn

[06:10] About Stuart McGill

[0:8:30] How Stu Quantifies Whether or Not Something Actually Works to Strengthen Your Low Back or Fix Your Back Pain

[0:14:00] The Three Major Elements That Influence Spine Stability

[0:24:44] The Stuart McGill “Big Three” Exercises for Low Back Pain

[0:31:10] What Stu Thinks That You Can’t “bend” the Spine a Whole Bunch of Times Without Causing Damage

[36:18] Blue Apron/GetKion

[0:40:05] How You Can Develop Extreme “Okinawan” Strength

[0:45:45] How Stu Treats and Fixes Low Back Pain Related to Sex

[0:58:25] How to Make Your Core Stability a “Subconscious Motion”

[1:02:30] Whether it is True That an SI Joint Can “lock up” and if so, How That Can Be Fixed

[1:08:30] Stu’s Opinion on Inversion Tables or Yoga Trapezes for Self-Traction and Low Back Pain

[1:17:56] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hey, hey, hey.  I gotta pour myself my chocolate hot drink for today. This is Ben Greenfield by the way.  It’s the afternoon and I like to drink relaxing things in the afternoon.  I’m not a coffee guy so I’m drinking some reishi and a little bit of dark chocolate and some Stevia here, pour this bad boy into my cup before I tell you what were about to listen in to today.  Take a sip [sipping sounds], amaze bombs, it’s even foamy.

Hey, “Extreme Okinawan Strength”, one of the best books on low back pain and core stability that I’ve read in a very long time, three of the best ways to fix low back pain, the best core exercises, a whole lot more. I got the world’s leading expert on low back strength and fixing low back pain on the podcast today.  His name is Stu Mcgill and you’ll love him, trust me.  We’ve been talking about sex and low back pain and the reason I say that is because yes, it’s a segue.

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In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:

If we take a thin willow branch, we can bend that back and forth and it doesn’t build up cumulative stress, it’s not an issue.  But if you took a thick branch and even bent it once to the same amount of bend, it would shatter because the stress in a round tube, which is your spine, is a function of its diameter.” “So great trainers not only create great hardware in people’s bodies, but great software, and it’s those default software patterns that allow people to move in a resilient, confident way all day long throughout life.”

Ben:  Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield here. I get a lot of questions about, of all things, the back.  People ask me about the immune system and they ask me about erectile dysfunction and they ask me about putting fat in your coffee.  But gosh, one of the questions that’s way up there is the back.  How do you fix back pain, how do you decode back pain and are crunches really all that bad and how can you get good torso strength without throwing your back out? How can you keep your glutes “turned on” then is there a way to fix your back without going in to a chiropractic doc over and over again?  And so I decided it was high time that I got one of, if not the world’s leading low back experts on the podcast to clear up all the confusion and the clutter about your back, about your spine.  And his name is Doctor Stuart McGill, he’s been a professor for Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo for over 32 years, he’s got well over 200 different scientific journal papers that he’s authored.  He’s mentored over 40 graduates students and he’s a consultant that provides expertise to individuals, to professional athletes, to various government agencies, corporations, legal firms, teams, you name it specifically when it comes to low back health and specifically when it comes to a scientific and even as we’ll describe in today’s show, a quantifiable approach to low back health and the elimination of low back pain.

Now as I usually do, because Stu’s gonna be a wealth of resources for you guys,  anything that we talk about or bring up including Stu’s fantastic books, he’s got some really good ones including a brand new one called The Gift of Injury and we’ll fill you in on that one.  Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/mcgill, that’s M-C-G-I-L-L, and when you go there I will provide links to everything that you are about to discover.  So straighten up in your chair if you’re sitting on one of those fancy low back supporting chairs and tune in because we’re about to take a deep dive in to your back.  Stu, welcome to the show, man.

Stu:  Well thanks very much Ben, good afternoon to you.

Ben:  Yes sir and you know what, before we even started our recording today, now this is hot off my mind, I gotta ask ‘cause I’m very curious, I was kinda throwing a few different therapies at you.  We’re talking about chairs and decompression belts and foundation therapy and all these things, and you said that your approach to everything is that you quantify and that you’re one of the few guys out there who actually quantifies any of these modalities that are out there when it comes to management of or elimination of or strengthening of low back or low back pain.  What do you mean by that?  How do you actually quantify whether or not something is working when it comes to your back?

Stu:  Well, that’s a great start.  As a professor I ran several research operations, the first one was what we called the in vitro laboratory.  We would take real cadavers spine from different animals and humans and if we can’t get 50 identical humans but we can get 50 identical animals.  And there’s not a medical question that is asked where animals aren’t involved in some way, shape or form because they add control to the initial level of investigation.  So we would load spines and create specific injuries, so we would learn very specifically what is required to create a certain type of disc herniation or bulge or how you fracture an endplate or tear a ligament, et cetera, et cetera.

The second laboratory the we ran in tandem is what we called the in vivo laboratory that was equipped to measure loads in real people and stress in the different tissues.  So we would measure the three dimensional motion of their spines, we would build a virtual spine in the computer, their own customized three dimensional anatomy which we would acquire from their MRI slices that we’d build up their own bodies, and then their virtual spine would move as they move their own spine.  We would detect it and then try at their virtual spine.  And then as their brain activated muscles to perform different tasks, and sometimes the task were very simple, sometimes they were world class performance, we’ve measure as you know top athletes of many different sports.  The muscle activation was sensed through sensors called electromyographic electrodes.

Ben:  Yeah, EMG.

Stu:  EMG, exactly.  And then we use those signals to drive their virtual muscles, then we could measure muscle forces, ligament loads, disc and vertebral loads, and finally we got to some high level estimates of things like spine stability.  And if I was to say to you “how stable is that bridge your building in a hurricane?”, if you’re an engineer that would be quite a feat of engineering to put a number on that.  Well that was we endeavored to do, to actually measure spine stability, so we’re not hand waving about it  and if you want me to explain the three major elements that determine spine stability, I’d be willing to do so.

The third level of evidence over those 30 or so years came from the clinic where we would see patients and we would say “alright, these are the tests now that we think are gonna stress different tissues and we’re gonna see if they indeed replicate your pain or take your pain away, we’re going to measure stability and see if we can come up with new muscle  patterns, motor patterns, movement patterns, exercise regimens, different rest break periods.”  That was very part and partial with this Gift of Injury book, to see how we can we then advise people.

The fourth element was the proof.  Does this indeed work?  Then we would do population studies, we used military groups, police, firefighters, different sports teams and we would try interventions to see if (a) we could reduce the risk of future back pain and (b) what was the efficacy of different approaches for those who already had different types of back pain.  And there is no such thing as back pain, it’s like saying to someone “oh can you give me an exercise for arm pain or head pain.”  We wouldn’t tolerate this, so we always had to subcategorize pain down into pain by different movements, different loads or different tissues or whatever the categorization rubric was.  But anyway that’s it in a nutshell and that’s how our operation worked to try and become the primary investigator of these different things.  In other words we didn’t go to people and ask their opinion, we just did the primary work.

Ben:  Yeah, that’s an interesting approach.  Basically injuring the spines of unfortunate little mice, among other things, and seeing what actually works.  A lot of times you’ll see folks say “well this worked in such and such, an athlete.”  There’ll be a lot of cases of N=1 or “this worked fix my back pain, therefore you should try it.”  I don’t run into a lot of people who’re actually quantifying in the way that you quantify and I actually wanna ask you in a little bit about some of the things that you found through that quantification because there’s a lot of popular things out there the people do that I’m curious whether or not you found actually worked.  But before we dive into that, you mentioned the three major elements that influence spine stability.  I’m assuming that none of those are those giant leather belts that you wear at the gym when you lift weights?

Stu:  Well actually they are, yeah that would be a part of it.  Do you want me to talk about those three very briefly?

Ben:  Yeah.

Stu:  And I’ll work that belt comment in for you.

Ben:  Sure.

Stu:  Ok.  Well, the first one is the spine is a flexible rod.  Now it allows you to dance and move and throw a baseball and swing a golf club and do all these fun things, but if you’re a powerlifter and you’re going to squat a thousand pounds, you must have virtually almost zero movement in that flexible rod because that flexible rod will collapse.  So the role of the muscles is to act as a guide wire system supporting the front, the sides and the back to allow that flexible column to bear half a ton of compressive load.  So a belt that the weightlifters and powerlifters wear add to the stiffness.  There is no question that that extra stiffness allows them to bear a few more pounds without buckling and even micro buckling at the very low level.

Ben:  Now just to interrupt you really quick, that doesn’t mean that that’s a belt that should be used as the crutch.  That would be something you’d use when subjecting the spine to an unnaturally high load, that’s not something someone would wear throughout the day or as a regular practice at the gym, right? And the reason that I ask that is that I’m under the impression that you lose the ability to stabilize.

Stu:  Precisely, I actually wrote legislation for several companies and a couple of government agencies on administrative belt wearing.  Do you remember years ago you would go into home depot and you would see all the guys wearing belts?

Ben:  Yeah, the guys on the forklifts are sitting there slouched there with the belt on.

Stu:  At one time was a mandatory condition for employment and we were quite involved in that.  So of course that is not what we’re talking about because on average, it’s not justifiable to the average working guy.  It’s not really justifiable for guys at the gym either unless they are going to push their bodies to lift a heck of a lot of load or they want to set a record, there’s no question that the belt will help you bear a few more pounds.  But the downside of it is if a person’s starting to get back pain and they keep doing the thing that’s causing the pain but now they’re wearing a belt thinking that they’re protected, what we do know is the injury if they’re wearing a belt it was actually more severe and that makes perfects sense.  So address the cause and the belt in that situation is probably not the kicker. [laughs]

Ben:  Ok, got it.  So when it comes to three major elements that influence spine stability, the belt isn’t one of those elements but the belt provides the same type of stability that one of those elements would?

Stu:  Yes, that’s correct.  So the muscles acting as a guide wire system all around the spine is principle number 1, but lets’ forget about the belt now, I’m just giving you the three principles.

Ben:  Okay.

Stu:  So the muscles need to activate and that’s why when we develop spine stabilization exercises we treat all of the muscles acting like a fine orchestra as they all play together to ensure what we call sufficient stability.  So if you’re just bending over to pick up your 2 year old, you don’t need maximum stability and stiffness but you need enough control, just enough.  Now if you’re walking and you got a sore back you may need to add a little bit more stiffness and we would cue that clinically, but that’d be at a low level of tune stiffness.  But again if you’re lifting a couple hundred kilos in a deadlift, you’d want, obviously, a lot more stiffness.  So that’s the first element, the second element is what we call proximal stability to unleash distal athleticism.  Consider this for a moment.  I’m sure the listeners know what a pec major is, the bench press muscle.

Ben:  Right.

Stu:  So distally, or on the other side of the ball and socket joint of the shoulder, that muscle attaches to the humerus of the arm, so it flexes the arm around but it also connects to the rib cage proximally or closer to your core.  So if you were to push a door or push an opponent in a combative situation, that single joint muscle swings your arm around in flexion but it also collapses your rib cage towards the arm, so that’s not a very effective push.  But if you were to stiffen down the core, 100% of that muscle activity is directed to swinging your arm around.

So when we hear Venus Williams grunt when she serves the tennis ball that “ugh” if you know what I mean by that, super drives the stiffness in her core through the grunt so that more miles an hour are on her arm and eventually to the tennis racket to get a few more miles an hour on the ball.  So proximal stability, it’s very important.  You can’t even walk if you don’t have an appropriately stiffened core.  You can imagine a child at the neurology ward at the children’s hospital who has a paralyzed quadratus lumborum on one side.  Say it’s on the right side they could stand on the right leg and swing their left leg and walk but when they stood on their left leg and swing their right leg, the pelvis on the right side drops down because that lateral stability and holding up the pelvic floor on the spine put the hip musculature on the stance side but also quadratus lumborum on the other.  So you see, you can’t even walk if you don’t have proximal stiffness to allow your legs to move and transmit the hip generated power to the legs.

Ben:  Okay, so before we move to number three, we basically have the proximal stability, and this would be elements such as strengthening the quadratus lumborum and some elements around the spine.

Stu:  In fact, every muscle is important and plays a role.  Yeah.

Ben:   Okay, yeah.  And I know you have a few exercises to do that, I want to ask about.  And the first one was the actual ability of the spine to flex properly?

Stu:  No, it was to bear loads.  See, it’s a flexible rod.

Ben:  Bear loads.

Stu:  If your spine was like a femur, like a stiff, rigid bone, you could load it in compression and it wouldn’t collapse but it’s more like a stack of oranges. [laughs] So if you loaded a book on the top of the stack of the oranges, they’d all fly apart unless you stiffened all of those oranges together by putting guide wires around them or wrapping them in duct tape or something like that it would give them stiffness.

Ben:  Okay, got it.  And then what’s number three?

Stu:  The third one has a more direct relationship with pain.  When people hurt a joint, it becomes slightly unstable so that there’s micro movements there.  So considering knee joint, if someone damages the ACL ligament of the knee, the doc or the clinician will do a drawer test.  They pull the lower leg forward and they’ll see a little micro movement in the knee and if that causes pain the person will say “ouch, you just hurt my knee.”  So shear load in the joint shows you how much micro movement or instability there is in that joint.  So when someone disc bulge or they crack an endplate or something like that, which is quite common, the disc loses a very slight bit of height.  Now imagine letting a little bit of air out of your car tire.  The car is a little bit sloppy on the road now and that’s what happens to that particular level in the spine.  You get a little micro movement and we have clinical test to detect this, but if we teach a person an appropriate stiffening strategy by turning on their abdominal wall just again, you tune to take the pain away, you engineer or stiffen out the micro movement and their pain is gone.

So let me give you an example.  Take a person and they’re standing upright and they just go up on their toes and balance down unto their heels.  That’s an impact load of about one and half times body weight down the spine.  Some people will say “oh, that just cause my pain, that was a bonafide pain jerker” then we would say I poke my fingers into their oblique abdominal wall.  Not in front by the navel but around a bit more towards each side and I push my fingers out a little bit and I’ll repeat the heel bump.  And they might say “oh Doc you’re amazing you just took my pain away.”  No we didn’t, we stiffened out the micro movement so it’s a one to one, but the patient may very well say “you know what, that pushing my fingers out caused me a compressive penalty.”  Coz turning on the abdominal wall at the bit of compression of the spine and they might say that just increased my back pain.  Now you’ve just proven that the tolerance of the spine for compression isn’t there yet.  They got a little bit of healing to do before you can take advantage of that stiffening pattern to engineer the micro movements.  But anyway, they’re the three major explanations from someone who’s measured spine stability.

Ben:  Yeah.

Stu:  And in a nutshell, it helps you control pain if you have it, it allows you to walk, run, cut, play tennis, it allows you to dance and move under control and it allows you to bear load down the flexible rod.  It’s none negotiable and it’s absolutely essential for every human.

Ben:  Okay, so you have, I know because it’s pretty popular and you run into this online sometimes, the Stuart McGill Big Three Back Exercises.  Is it safe to say that if someone were to do those three exercises each day, and I want to ask what those are in a second, that they would address most of those parameters that you just talked about?  Is that why designed those big three exercises?

Stu:  Yes, absolutely.

Ben:  Okay, so what are they?

Stu:  Well, I’ll just give a little bit of a backdrop now.  We didn’t really invent any of them, those were the three exercises that kept bubbling up to the top when we tried to find exercises that ensured spine stability, provided the stiffness to achieve the three reasons that I just mentioned earlier and they spare the spine.  They were easy on a person’s back who, they’re back is a little bit tender, it’s a little bit sensitized now and the fourth thing, we would hear sprint coaches and gymnastics coaches and some professional strength and conditioning coaches in NFL football.  They would say “you know what? After doing those exercises the guys can run a little faster, they can cut a little bit harder.”  And we were experiencing the same thing, patients would say “you know what, I don’t have pain for an hour after doing them.”  When we investigated the mechanism, it turns out neurologically, you add a little bit of stiffness to your core, to your spine for on average, about an hour or so after you’ve done that session.  And it’s very helpful for some people and obviously not helpful at all in others, but that’s a how those three exercises bubbled up.

The first one for the back is the bird-dog.  You go onto your hands and knees, you extend one leg and one arm and hold it for 10 seconds and then you sweep the floor with your hand and knee just above the shoulder and ball and socket joint.  It’s also to create that movement engram, and there’s all sorts of little features that people don’t realize because the exercises are so simple.  For example, it activates the right side latissimus with the left side glute maximus, that’s exactly how you walk, it’s how you run.  There’s pairings of muscles that go together and they’re called PNF patterns and all these exercises incorporate these patterns naturally in them.  And say you have a client who’s just had a knee replacement or hip replacement, they can’t get down on their hands and knees.  So we have regressions of the exercise forms, they can do bird-dog standing at the kitchen table, for example.  For the side, there’s the family of side planks.  Both feet are not stacked that was a mistake and I can tell you the story about how that occurred, if you want.

Ben:  So you don’t stack one foot on top of the other for the side planks?

Stu:  We were asked by the American College of Sports Medicine in the 90’s to put together their spine stabilization program.  They relate in the production of the book the protocol for prescribing exercises, I forget the name of the textbook now [laughs].  But anyway, we submitted all of our figures and there are these was drawing the three basic forms of the exercises and for the side plank, the editor said “oh were behind, just trust us, the artist will draw it properly.”  The artist drew the feet together and that’s how it became the standard it was pure, editorial mistake ever since then we’ve been…

Ben:  Oh, coz everybody does like the easy version, right? If you’re in the back of the room and you’re embarrassed, you don’t stack your feet together coz that’s considered to be easy, right?

Stu:  Right, the top foot should be in front because that allows the person to transition form the side plank, roll over their toes to a front plank and then roll over to the other side, and it allows you to really progress the exercise with progressions.  But there some young kids on the internet, you know how they are, “oh McGill, you don’t know what you’re talking about, the feet should be stacked” and I said “look kid, I’m the guy who wrote that program in the first place and I know it was an editorial mistake on how that became…”

Ben: I know, those darn whippersnappers.

Stu:  Yeah.

Ben:  Interesting.  Okay so we’ve got the side plank, the bird-dog, what’s the last one?

Stu:  The last one is what we called the modified curl ups for the front.  So here, the person lays on their back, now in some Pilates school for example, they instruct people flatten your back to the floor, imprint it to the floor.  That actually stresses the discs, if you keep the natural curves, the spine is more tolerant of load in the average person.  So we say put your hands, palms down under the lumbar region of the spine, support that natural curve.  Now, bend one knee, and the reason that you bend one knee is you it takes the stress off the neural system, it takes a little bit of load off the sciatic nerve, et cetera.  Just again, on average, to destress the pain jerkers a bit and then slightly raise the head and shoulders, and the operative word there is slightly, then you hover your head and shoulders just an inch or so off the ground and people will be surprised how difficult that is.  Then lift the elbows up then after that of course we can switch over to things like stir the pot and progress from there.  But there’s the beginning of stabilization exercises, the big three, very tolerable and people look at them and think that they’re simple and they are surprised to hear that some of the top athletes, even some of the top powerlifters of the world, find they enhance performance by improving the core stiffness and unleashing their hips for a better hip hinge, et cetera.

Ben:  Now, this curl up move, and by the way those who are listening in just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/mcgill,  and I’ll put photos of each of these exercises if you had trouble wrapping your head around how those actually go, but the curl up exercise.  It’s like a crunching motion and you see a lot of people say I believe and I may be misquoting him here, but I think Paul Chek who I had on the show a couple of times I believe I’ve seen him say this, is this idea, and Paul if you’re listening I’m sorry if I’m misquoting you on this but some people talk about how the back is like a credit card.  You’re not supposed to bend it over and over again, yet this curl up exercise that you recommend seems to be bending the back over and over again.  Are you on board with this idea that you’re not supposed to do like crunches because those damage the spine?

Stu:  The word is “it depends.”  Now, we can have a really interesting discussion that could take the rest of the podcast or it can be three sentences, it’s up to you.  But here it is sort of in a nutshell: it depends on the person if they have the history of backpain and you assess them and you determine that their pain triggers are flexing their spine forward, it doesn’t make sense to do full curl ups, you will cause some back pain.  If they’ve never had back pain and they don’t do a lot of flexing in other exercises, it’s probably not a big deal.  So there’s the start of the discussion, but now there’s no such thing as an ideal exercise for everyone and let’s start with this idea that anatomy matters.  If we take a thin willow branch, we can bend that back and forth and it doesn’t build up cumulative stress, it’s not an issue.  But if you took a thick branch and even bent it once to the same amount of bend, it would shatter because the stress in a round tube, which is your spine, is a function of its diameter.

So there’s a guy in Brazil who’s on YouTube and he does, I forget how many thousands of sit-ups in a row and a little bit of sit-ups and curl ups, and I don’t know why he was doing it but he was.  And some kids on the internet once again said “what do you think of this, McGill?” and I said “well, I don’t really need to see him, I can tell you he will be a small slender guy because he has a willow branch for a spine.”  No problem, but if you take an NFL offensive tackle who by definition has a thick spine, you will find that they will cause stress points in their discs by doing full curls much faster than a slender person.  So that’s just an example of how, because of our architecture and anatomy, different people have different exercise.  The exercises are just tools Ben, as you know.  And you have to match the tool with the best risk-reward, but then I’ll be asked to consult with say a jiu jitsu team or a mixed martial arts gym and there are some very interesting groups in jiu jitsu which is a lot of flexion to train and guard and put on submissions and whatnot, it’s a lot of spine flexion.

Well, they might wake up in the morning, put their hands, palms down onto the floor and do a 200 or 300 sit-ups and curl ups to whatnot, which is fine toward about 22 or 23 years of age.  And then a few of them, because they come to consult with me I know this, their backs started to get painful to the point where they can’t train anymore and they are now out of competition.  Well we’ve restored a few top level careers by saying “stop doing the curl ups and instead do the stir the pot, so you get on your toes and you plank and have your elbows on a gym ball, now twirl the ball around in little circles.”

Now it gets really interesting, when you do a curl up, you activate the abdominal wall to about 60% of maximum neural drive and so you’re only training at 60%.  When you do stir the pot and you roll the ball forward or you do a push up and you walk out forward with your hands, you can now drive the abdominal wall to a 100% with the neutral spine, there’s no curve ball.

Ben:  So if you’re a travelling, for example say you’re like waiting for an airplane or you don’t have access to a big old stability ball, you’d get into a push up position and maintaining  that planked push up position, walk your hands as far out in front of you as possible?

Stu:  Well, within reason because you will now drive your abdominal wall to a 100% of maximum neural drive.  That’s a 100% strength effort if you keep walking forward, so if you’re untrained you’re gonna tear something.  But if you’re well-trained, you now see the difference.  You can do a thousand curl ups at 60% or you can do a few walkouts to a 100% neural drive and what a difference to you athleticism.  And some of this jiu jitsu fighters, they’ll come back to me and say “you know, I had no idea the curl ups were inhibiting my performance because I was only training at 60%, we now do your exercises, our backpain is gone and we’re training at a 100% and we kicked and punched harder.”

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Ben:  Hey, I want to interrupt today’s show to tell you about seared steaks and warm lemon salsa verde, roasted broccoli and sweet potato, chicken and kale orange salad with spicy tahini dressing, and yes, I’m using my sexiest voice to tell you about these amazing foods.  Those are all Whole30 approved recipes, Whole30 does these really great tasting guilt-free meals and then what they’ve done is they’ve partnered with another company called Blue Apron.  And I’ve gotten a few of these meals delivered to my home and they knock the socks off of any of the other food deliveries that I’ve gotten because they’re just fresh, they’re guilt-free, they’re easy to prepare.  The recipe cards are super simple to follow, Blue Apron.  They even have a wine plan where you can get bottle of wine from renowned wine makers delivered monthly along with your food.  They’ve got two person meal plans, they’ve got family meal plans and they have this new Whole30 thing where you get Whole30 approved recipes for 8 weeks, starting on February 22nd they’re gonna do 8 weeks of those delicious Whole30 recipes.  So sign up before then.  It’s all non-GMO ingredients, meat with no added hormones, real, not to abuse term, guilt-free stuff.  And you get to learn how to cook if you don’t know how to do that by using their handy-dandy recipes.  So they’re treating any of my listeners to $30 off your first order, just go to blueapron.com/ben.  That’s $30 and free shipping over at blueapron.com/ben.

Now whether I’m eating my Blue Apron meals or any other meal, every night before dinner I take one thing.  It’s more powerful, in my opinion, than the diabetic drug metformin in terms of its ability to be able to lower my postprandial blood sugar.  It’s a really good liver cleanse, it is the number one fat loss supplement I recommend, period, because it controls blood sugar so well without all the nasty central nervous system stimulants all these other fat loss compounds have in them.  And it’s called Lean, L-E-A-N, Lean.  It’s basically, I mean the two active ingredients are rock lotus extract and wild bitter melon extract, which you see a bunch of people in blue zones using.  All these blue zones where they’ve got a high number of centenarians, a very high ratio of longed lived people, and this stuff’s called Lean.  It’s made by Kion, and Kion is my company.

Kion is the company that I created that allows me to deliver the most elegant, cutting edge, effective solutions for your goals that you’re gonna find anywhere in the face of the planet.  So this lean stuff is one of my go-to’s, take it every single day, bar-none.  Travel all across the world with it for my liver and for my fat loss and my liver enzymes are super low and I’m pretty dang lean and I attribute a great deal of this to popping two Lean capsules before every meal every night.  Not before every meal of the day, I take two at night.  Every meal of the day will get too exhausting, two at night.  It’s called Lean and you go to getkion.com, you’ll see it right there, click on Lean and your code to get 10% off is BEN10, that’s BEN10 over at getKion, K-I-O-N, getkion.com.

[Music Plays]

Ben:  Is this related to this concept that you talk about, coz I’ve seen this in articles you’ve written before, of Okinawan strength.  You have this concept called Okinawan strength, is what you just described what you’re referring to or was it something else?

Stu:  It’s something else, actually. I’d be happy to…

Ben:  Yeah, I’m very curious about that.  What exactly is it?  I assume it goes beyond just like eating rice and fish?

Stu:  Yeah well, Okinawa is small island south of Japan and it’s actually a base for the US Navy and Marines, I believe.  But anyway, Okinawa has a very interesting martial arts culture and one of the positions of strength that bear a lot of load in Okinawan karate is you stand and you adopt a little bit of a horse stance as it’s called.  So slight flexion at the hips, slight flexion at the knees and do you know in American culture when you go to the gym and you see the males walking around, we call it being very chest proud with the [0:41:06] ______, you know the comment?

Ben:  You’re talking to a former body builder, I absolutely know.

Stu:  Ah okay, bingo, so you know the chest proud.  Now interesting, when we watch and measure someone setting up in a squat, like a high bar back squat or something like that, if they get too chest proud they actually lose some of their strength.  So one exercise we might give them is an Okinawan posture.  Now, I’m going to try and do this over the magic of the internet, I’m going to make a small hole with my lips. I’m gonna purse my lips and I’m gonna blow through the very small hole [blowing sounds].  If you get the object of what I’m doing, and as I’m blowing through the small hole, I’m in a horse stance, I’m pulling my rib cage down.  It is the opposite of the chest proud chest lift, I’m actually pulling my chest down and I’m creating a full torso compression.  Now, this is called, in the Okinawan sense, putting on the iron shirt.

Now if I was to take a 2×4 and start to whack you in different places of your body, I must not find the soft spot.  Well, you might find one but that’s illegal [laughs].  But you don’t allow a soft spot in your body, you put on the iron shirt.  Pavel Tsatsouline, the great Russian kettlebell master, good friend of mine, he talks about breathing behind the shield.  These are all nuances of what I’m calling, in this position of Okinawan strength.  So is it for everybody?  No, it’s not but it’s a very good tool for the people who lose strength because of too chest proud.  Some secretaries, for example, when they sit at their computer and when you ask them to sit up, they extend their spine at the thoracolumbar junction, they don’t know how to use their hips quite properly and you say “put your thumb where your back pain is.”  And they put their thumb right in the middle of their back and there would be a candidate for a mild form of Okinawan strength training.  But anyway, there’s a little bit of a start to the whole explanation.

Ben:  So you could get into, coz this sounds very similar and I know coz I asked you about his name and your familiar with it, Dr. Eric Goodman has this program called Core Foundation Training.  One of the moves in there is, I believe he calls it a supine decompression may be the one I’m thinking of.  It’s in a plank position and you imagine it like an “x” crossing from your right elbow to your left hip, left elbow to the right hip, your knees are pressed together very hard and your basically planking as though you’re trying to crunch your whole body together but it’s an isometric contraction that your holding as hard as possible.  Almost like your compressing in the way that you just described, you can hold it for maybe 5 seconds before you become fatigued.  Is that the type of thing that you’re talking about?

Stu:  That one I’m not quite familiar with, I’m much more familiar with Pavel and his organization called Strength First and the hard style of plank, is what they might call it.  So you take a plank position, that elbows on the floor and you’re on your toes and you pull your elbows down towards your feet while you’re supported in that bridge position.

Ben:  Yeah.

Stu:  Is that somewhat the same?

Ben:  Very, very similar.  Almost identical except I think in Dr. Goodman’s, your knees are on the ground and pressed together very hard while in being in a full plank position.

Stu:  Got it.  Well, that certainly is not decompressing the spine, it will be adding compression.  But nonetheless, it sounds very similar and yeah, is that an exercise your grandmother should be doing?  Probably not, but is it helpful for some? Yeah, it will be helpful for some.  So there you go.

Ben:  You’d be surprised, a lot of bad [beep] grandmas are listening to this show.

Stu:  [laughs] You know what? I take that back.  I was working with this woman at an MMA gym not too long ago and she was pushing the prowler and I just had to compliment her on her form and her hip drive.  And she looked at me and she said “I’m a 66 year old grandma, you know?”  And I said well good for you, I’m in my 60’s myself and I’m past that I think?  [laughs]

Ben:  Well, speaking of 60 year old grandmas, this will be a great segue, you talk about sex and treating and fixing low back pain related to sex.  A lot of people complain of low back pain when they have sex what’s the link between low back pain in sex and why have you written about that particularly, aside from the fact that it’s great clickbait online?

Stu:    Yeah it really is.  Well let me set the stage for you on this being an American and you will get what I mean by that last comment in just a second.  If you go to any primary care clinician, they will say to you we have couples that come to us and say “were now celibate because the last time we had sex, we knocked up our backs so badly. We are now fearful of the back pain and we’re not having sex anymore.”  So they will say that’s not an uncommon situation and yet there is no guideline that exist for clinicians.  They don’t know what to do, they’re clueless.  Now, there was one manual that we found that said if you have painful sex, try spooning.  Well, me being me, I had to go to an undergraduate student and said “what’s spooning?”  So anyway…

Both:  [laugh]

Stu:  I didn’t know.  So anyway, as it turns out, spooning’s not a good idea.  You’re bending the spine and that quite often replicates the pain trigger.  So one of my graduate students, Natalie Sidorkowicz, a very brave woman decided that she would work together on this.  And it took us 2 years to do all the ethics ground work coz as you can imagine there’s no mother or father wants to hear that their students, their children might be asked to partake in a study like this in a University.  And this would never have been done in a million years in the US, people are terrified they’d lose their national funding and et cetera, but our president got behind this, our chief medical officer got behind this because of the magnitude of the problem that exists.  It was a real thing, so we weren’t allowed to recruit any personnel, students or faculty, from the University.  They all had to be at arm’s length but we had couples and they came into the laboratory, they were instrumented with full instrumentation, the men were instrumented by one of our male assistants and the females by a female assistant.

Ben:  I know where this is going.

Stu:  Yeah and then they did, they had sex in several different positions, different motions, and we were measuring stress on the joints.  So, and just a little bit of a funny side on that, so we’re in the laboratory, the lights are dimmed down and Natalie and I were sitting behind the curtain actually.  So we couldn’t actually see them but you hear all the sounds and that kind of thing.  But on our computer screens, their bodies are being recreated in infrared, so you’d seen the movie Avatar?  We used exactly the same instrumentation because real actors were driving those avatars while the avatars were themselves performing different sex positions.

Anyway, and then we would see all the signals of the muscles activating and the joints moving on our screens, then all of a sudden, all the motions stopped and the muscles got quiet and then we heard them giggle.  And then we saw their abdominal muscles start to vibrate as they began to giggle, and then we called out and said “are you two okay?”  And they said “yeah, we Velcro-ed ourselves together.”  We didn’t quite get the instrumentation right on the first time we had to go back and redesign it, that was a little bit of a fun vignette, I suppose. But anyway, then we created an atlas, so we we’re able to show different positions and techniques and what spared different joints.  So now, clinicians have access to the atlas, they test the person who has back pain, “are you tolerant of flexion or extension or compression or whatever happens to be”, and if you are then you go to this place on the chart and you say “that’s the position for you that won’t trigger that specific back pain trigger.”

So some general rules, if the person who has back pain is on the top, they are responsible for the motion and probably should be using their hips not their back, and if it’s the person on the bottom they should try and use different pillows and whatnot and buttress their hips and spine into a position that’s resilient for their particular pain trigger.

Ben:  Interesting, did you publish this anywhere?

Stu:  Oh yeah, it’s been published.  And now, you know when you publish academically, first we had to show the male side of things and then the EMG and then the spine loads and then the females and then you have to do different validation studies and all that kind of thing.  But the main atlas, either just has come out in a family medicine journal or it’s a just about to.  I’d have to ask.

Ben:  Oh, fascinating.  So this is pretty new.

Stu:  Oh, it’s very new.  Oh yeah, this is world leading.  Natalie, when she presented it at the Lumbar International Society for study of the Lumbar Spine, that’s the top orthopedic spine meeting in the world, she won the prize for the top study a couple of years ago.

Ben:  Wow, if you have any links, send them to me and I’ll put them on the show notes for our folks.  It’s like Stu McGill’s Kama Sutra.

Stu:  Well I, yeah.  It kind of is like that but there’s a very a concatenated atlas in back mechanics, so in the last chapter we actually have a few pages on sex technique and mattress selection and all that kind of stuff.  And you might find this funny, not funny but interesting, Ben, and I don’t know if you wanna go here.  Never in a million years would I thought I would say the word orgasm in public, but it was so interesting we were the first.  We didn’t know this, we were the first to measure the male orgasm response with full instrumentation and the Kinsey Institute, which is the repository of sexual health and science in the US, they’re not even allowed to do this kind of work.  And now they’re partnering with us because obviously we’re doing it and they were most interested in it.  But what was so interesting in the male response is in some men, it’s almost non-existent.  There’s not much muscle activity that goes on, in other words they’re not really at risk of hurting their backs.

Ben:  Even the guys who aren’t drunk, huh?

Stu:  Yeah, that.  There you go, there’s the next level of study.  You’d be a good scientist [laughs], you just consummated into the next one.  But in contrast of that, there are some men who put their spine in a fully deviated position and then contract their gluteal muscles and abdominal wall 100%.  So now let me ask you, put your spine in a deviated posture and then crunch your muscles to 100% effort.  You see how you can hurt your back and it’s no wonder.  So to show those particular candidates what is it that’s causing their back pain, and really violent pain triggers, so when you educate them.  I mean I can talk about coaching transference which would also be very interesting for your readership or listenership.  But just to finish this off coach them well, show them what causes the pain, and then show them what to do as an alternate.  And most people get it and they say “thank you, you’re the first person who hasn’t treated us like a 5 year old, that’s all we needed to know” and they’re back to enjoying life again.

Ben:  Interesting, you are officially the first guy to ever utter the word orgasm on the Ben Greenfield fitness podcast.  I’m actually kidding.

Stu:  You know what they say… back pain sells [laughs].

Ben:  Yeah, we approached everything from THC enemas before sex to stem cells injection into the [beep] so you’re definitely not the first guy who bring up orgasm.  We’re safe, the listeners know when to put earmuffs on the kids.  Now what about this concept of coaching transference that you mentioned would be interesting to listeners, what are you referring to?

Stu:  Yeah, absolutely.  So there are, again, Facebook discussions on back pain and that you might not want to say to your client or to your patient what’s causing their back pain and don’t mention they have a herniated disc or something like this because they will become fearful of movement and all this kind of thing.  And I so disagree and I have data that I’ll just describe now to give some perspective on this.

We took the Pensacola Fire Department down in Pensacola, Florida and broke them up into three training groups.  One group trained exercise, you know the kind of exercise where you do a whole pile of burpees and then you stand up and you might do a whole pile of Olympic snatches.  Well, the interesting thing about that is you’re trying to adapt the spine two different ways but don’t add up, it’s inconsistent.  When you do burpees, you’re building flexibility into the spine, you’re loosening the collagen of the disc which is fine but that’s you want to be flexible.  But you can’t be flexible or it’s very rare for a person to gain the ability to have a lot of spine movement and then bear a lot of load in Olympic lifts.  The Olympic lifters, they lock their backs and they pull with their hips.  When you the Olympic lifting, now you’re compressing the back and it’s better to have stiffer collagen that’s more load resilient, and then when you do ten you start getting tired and you start to break form and you start creating rest stress risers in the back.  But nonetheless, group number one didn’t get coached on the actual movement they were coached then encouraged just to keep doing repetition, “do another repetition.”

Ben:  Mmhmm.

Stu:  Group two did what we called the movement mashers training.  They had coaches from, well it’s now called EXOS.  It used to be called the Athletes’ Performance.

Ben:  Yeah, that’s Mark Feuestein’s.  I used to do consulting for EXOS for their supplement division.

Stu:  Yeah, fabulous.  Mark has good coaches, they know what they’re doing.  So they coached the second group of firefighters in “watch your frontal plane knee movement, that will collapse while you’re doing a lunge.”  In other words that is a predictor of ACL injury, sagittal plane spine motion is a predictor of getting back pain under high loads for example.  So they coached, they didn’t use that language, but they would say watch your knee, keep your spine in an actual curve when your under this load, but they never measured them during firefighter task.  Then when they were measured doing their firefighter task after the study was finished, those who just did the fitness training for more reps had more injury movement markers when they were doing their firefighting tasks.  Those who were coached on good fundamental movement in the gym but never coached on how to do firefighting tasks, when the study was over and they went back to firefighting tasks, they completed the tasks with less stress on their bodies.  That was the first study ever that proved good coaching is transferrable to the activities of daily life, so if there’s any trainers who think they’re professionalism isn’t absolutely a necessity, there they go, there’s the first ever.

Ben:  Yeah, so basically by somebody listening in, do you for example coach on this podcast how to do that Okinawan strength exercise, they aren’t just giving you better at the Okinawan strength exercise, that’s potentially something they could take out with them let’s say Home Depot to be able to lift the box better or the tennis court to be able to swing a racket with correct spinal stabilization.

Stu:  Exactly, it transfers with them.  So, being a professional coach, it’s not a matter of beating people up and getting to do more reps.  You can do that if you like, but it’s your way of coaching that turns out to be a so, so important.

Ben:  Gotcha.

Stu:  Can I just mention this?

Ben:  Oh, go ahead.

Stu:  Again, this won’t be for the coaches but more of for the lay public.  Movement is a function of your hardware, so that’s the strength of your muscles and the strength of your bones and joints to carry the load, that kind of thing, that’s why you train, you harden your body.  But the second thing about training is you’re changing the software, you’re creating muscle memory patterns.  These are called muscle engram, so you don’t think to walk, you fire up an engram or you run the computer tape and your body just runs the tape until you stumble or something and you need your brain to fix that and recover.  So, training is also about developing these engram so if you’re a stay at home mom, you got a 2 year old, no you got a 1 year old and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you walk down to the bedroom and you pick the baby up out of the crib at 2 o’clock in the morning.  You go to your default engram, how good was your trainer in teaching you how to lift and doing a few practical everyday lifts as well so that they groove that in to the software pattern.  Do you follow what I mean?

Ben:  Right.

Stu:  So great trainers not only create great hardware in people’s bodies, but great software, and it’s those default software patterns that allow people to move in a resilient, confident way all day long throughout life.

Ben:  You mean to make these patterns almost subconscious.

Stu:  Yes, the word, in a neuroscience perspective, is to create default engrams that person…

Ben:  How do you spell engrams?

Stu:  E-N-G-R-A-M-S.

Ben:  Interesting.

Stu:  So the engram for walking, for example, isn’t in your motor cortex, it lives in your spinal cord.  So there are some people who will get a spinal cord shock via whiplash or some trauma like that, and they have problems walking.  And the docs and the physios haven’t realized that they may not have a hardware problem, their engram was corrupted with the violence to their spine.

Ben:  Interesting, interesting.

Stu:  Oh yeah, so to relearn how to walk is as much about resetting that new default engram or correcting the perturbed one, and it’s so interesting how those engrams can be perturbed by emotional upset, physical upset.  It’s very different forms of fibromyalgia, for example, movement triggered general pain can be a function of corrupted engrams.

 Ben:  Wow, this is so interesting.  Alright I got a couple other questions for you.

Stu:  We should save that for another podcast Ben, but that we could have.  I wish we were in person, this is a beer and peanuts conversation.

Ben:  Yeah maybe someday, which city are you in, again?

Stu:  I don’t live in the city, I’m about 3 hours north of Toronto up in Ontario, Canada. I’m looking out at a heap of snow here [laughs].

Ben:  Yeah, I don’t get up there much.  Okay, another question for you, we have ton of listeners who are chronic competitive motion athletes, so like triathletes and marathoners.  And I see this over and over again, people say they got their SI joint is locked.  Their SI joint is locked up, they gotta go to the chiro and get it unlocked or they do this self-unlocking mechanism they get off YouTube or like in Kelly Starrett’s book or whatever.  Then their SI joints gets locked and they blame all their low back pain and limited range of motion on SI joint issue.  What’s your take on this whole SI joint think?

Stu:  Well, I’m gonna start with a phrase once again that I hope you’re not tired of but the word is it depends.  The SI joint’s really interesting, let me just start off with this perspective.  There are some people who say that the SI joint is bomb-proof, it doesn’t move and it’s not an issue, forget about it.  And my thought when I hear that is I think they just have limited experience and expertise.  I’m gonna tell you a personal story, you have may or may not know I’ve had hip replacement after some substantial trauma, but years ago I had hip and back pain and I went to a chiropractor and they laid me on my side and with my hip as arthritic as it was, they couldn’t do a manipulation of what they told me was a stuck SI joint.  It was locked up.

Ben:  Right.

Stu:  So they got up on my iliac crest and they jumped on it and squished it down.  In other words they cracked open my SI joint by squeezing my iliac crest quite heavily.  Okay, now I had a lose SI joint.  I had to crawl for a week.

Ben:  Oh no.

Stu:  I was in excruciating pain in my pelvic ring.  So you need a certain amount of integrity in the pelvic ring which are the two iliac bones with the pubis symphysis at the front and the two SI joints with the sacrum in the middle.  Now there is a little bit of movement and flexibility there, so when you do a split lunge and your right leg goes forward, your right ileum mutates backwards or posturally and your left ileum, as your left leg goes back, it mutates the other way.  So you do get a little bit of movement and laxity in the SI joints.  If you get too much, you have a lot of pain.  These are athletes like tennis players and squash players who’ve done way too many split lunges and they’ve opened up the movement in their SI to the point that it’s painful.  But anyway, there’s a little bit of personal perspective on SI joint pain and if it’s locked, it may or may not cause pain and if it’s too loose it will cause excruciating pain as well.

Ben:  So in other words, if you’re constantly getting your SI joint adjusted, you may be creating laxity when in fact what you should be doing, perhaps, is working some of the stability exercises that you talked about earlier?

Stu:  Precisely, precisely.  Yup.

Ben:  Okay, that makes sense.

Stu:  So we have tests for testing the SI joints and one them, because of my personal experience, was we manually squeezed the iliac crest and does that cause SI joint pain.  Then we squeeze the greater trochanter and see if that causes pain. Then we repeat it while the person is loaded and walking and we can reveal whether there’s pain sensitivity there.  Then we have other test that directly load the sacrum and the pelvic ring to see.

But anyway, having said all of that, when a person says they have a locked SI joint, you know what we find?  Quite often, it’s not the SI joint at all, it is a dynamic disc bulge and they bend a certain way, they get a little bit of irritating bulge that immediately they get a sense as though someone put a knife into their SI joint but it was a radiating symptom from a sciatic root.  And that sciatic nerve root that comes from the disc in the lumbar spine goes right by what they perceive is the sacroiliac joint behind the hip joint and then down the thigh.

So sometimes when I hear someone say “you know my SI joint just got locked up as I moved or I flushed the toilet or I bent down to pick up a penny off the ground” or whatever, SI joints don’t really come on like that.  That’s much more of a discogenic, disc bulge kind of a symptomatology and then over two weeks that slowly winds down and then they’re quite fine again.  And again, the sacroiliac joint does not wind down in two weeks.  It takes months and sometimes even a couple of years for that pelvic ring to stiffen up once again.  And it takes a lot of stabilization exercise and stop doing whatever the cause is, so the character the pain reveals whether it’s discogenic or true SI.  So if it’s SI, it’s very slow to recover but if it’s a sharp pain in the SI joint and then it’s gone in two weeks again, that’s probably much more likely a disc sciatic nerve root genesis.

Ben:  Okay, got it.  One other question that I know is near and dear to the hearts of our listeners coz we got a bunch of biohackers out there hanging upside down like bats.  Yoga trapezes and inversion tables and even the badass gravity boots, I  own them all, I’ve used them.  I actually kinda like the way I feel after I get off an airplane for example and I’ve been sitting for 6 hours on a flight or airports and I wanna “decompress” the spine or hang or invert.  What is your opinion on inversion for either low back pain or self-traction or even just a preventive measurement?

Stu:  You know, I’m gonna start with the two words once again. That is…

Ben:  It depends, yeah.

Stu:  It depends.  It really does.

Ben:  Yeah, I beat you to the punch that time.

Stu:  Yeah, it depends and we’ve measured the length of peoples’ spine and hydration of the disc and that kind of thing was 15 minutes of upside down inversion from those.  Interestingly enough, there’s no question the discs become unloaded and they suck in fluid.  So when you stand up, you’re actually taller and you’ve got a new imbibition of fluid in the nucleus of the disc.  Now that’s all gone within 15 minutes of walking around, so is that good or bad?  I don’t really know, you’ve given the disc a little bit of nutrition I suppose, but have you opened up the disc spaces?

Well, it’s all gone after 15 minutes, but let me continue on with this it depends discussion.  Isn’t it interesting that it’s really difficult, after you measure these things, to come down to a hard answer. I’m not trying to evade any of the answers, but what I have learned is when you give people the biological information, they can usually make their own best decisions.  That’s what I’m trying to do with these things, but consider instead of hanging upside down, which by the way for some older people, traction for the spine on average, that’s the one group that is it shown to have a little bit more efficacy at reducing back pain.  So these are the ones that say after I walk for 10 minutes I’m starting to get leg pain and that kind of thing.  So traction can assist but it’s much better when they figure out what the cause is and then reduce the cause at the same time.  But then hanging upside down, that creates pressure in your eyeballs and cerebral fluid pressures and whatnot, that may not be the best for everybody.

But here’s a very interesting perspective on this: if you’re a young guy, which I know you are and you’re on an airplane and you just want to rest your back after, perhaps just go lay on your tummy and then lay on your tummy, suck in air and as you exhale, imagine your low back falling through your stomach in to the table.  Just slowly work the lordotic curve back into your back after sitting on the airplane and we’ve measure this.  If you have a little bit of a disc bulge, that is a mechanism that vacuums it in and allows it to decrease in size ever so slightly.

Ben:  Interesting.  So one more time, you lay on your stomach, you suck the air in then you just let the low back kinda melt into the ground?

Stu:  As you exhale, absolutely.

Ben:  As you exhale.  So, you’re not doing this whole Okinawan strength extreme contraction, it’s more of a relaxation?

Stu:  Yeah.  No, no, that’s entirely different.

Ben:  Okay.

Stu:  So just lay on the floor and breathe in and let your low back flow to the floor as you exhale.  That adds relaxation to the spine but it restores the lordotic curve and in some people and a few nuances to this, for example you need 70% of the disc height remaining or more.  And if you do that it is possible that the disc bulge gets vacuumed in, now if you want to super drive that just a little bit, have someone pull on your legs while you’re laying prone and exhaling and relaxing.  Now in some people if they have a lot of spine instability they’ll say “oh stop that makes my back feel sick”.  But if a person has  a little bit of a disc bulge but they have sufficient spine stability, when you pull on their legs they’ll say “oh I love that” and then you can give their legs a little bit of a shake and put a tiny bit of motion to their lumbar spine and that even accelerates the return of the nucleus and shrinking up the disc bulge even faster.  But there are some people would say “oh you know I just can’t stay in this prone position, I’m kinda locked in flexion after getting off the table.”  Well try this, turn your head ever so slightly on the ground and push your eyebrow down into the floor, two pounds.  And they’ll say “you know, that made all the difference in the world” and all you did was added a little anterior chain stiffness and now all of the sudden you made it tolerable.  So, do you see how there’s nuances and nuances and nuances to all of this.

Ben:  Yeah, I’m gonna try it though.  The next time I’m at the airport, I’m gonna try this I’ll get some strangers to lay down on my legs, that shouldn’t be too hard.  And I’ll keep folks posted on what I experienced coz that’s something I feel a lot when I get off the plane.

Stu:  Yeah, hey me too [laughs].  We’re both road warriors.

Ben:  Yeah, that’s how you discover a lot of these fixes, you mess yourself up and you throw out your own back having sex or getting some chiropractic doc to stand on your iliac spine and then you got to turn around and find these crazy exercises.  So it’s an unfortunate part of living in the trenches.

Stu:  [laughs] It isn’t unfortunate, that’s the joy of being a professor.

Ben:  That’s true.

Stu:  Yeah, it absolutely is.  It’s been a wonderful career just to experiment and play, ask questions, confirm what is right, what is wrong, surprise yourself.  Oh, it’s been wonderful.

Ben:  Yeah, and for those of you listening in, I have taken notes and I’ve links to all of Stu’s books but also this new book, “The Gift of Injury”, which I actually like to… Stu, if you’re game, I’d love to get you back on the show sometime because I know you helped some powerlifter who went from 1100 lbs squats and 800 lbs dead lifts to completely being out of the game basically fight his way back and you fix this guy.  And then what I understand you co-wrote a book with him, this Brian Carroll guy, so I might have to have you guys back on the show, have you two a tag team show with me.

Stu:  Oh, we’d love to and Brian is such an engaging personality but he had a horrific back injury and we did what we called bone callousing to fill in the fractures and the damaged disc and he remodeled back to quite a normal looking spine to win the Arnolds.

Ben:  Amazing.

Stu:  A couple of years ago so there’s the proof.  We’ve done that with many different athletic careers, but this was one that we documented all the way through and showed how we did it.

Ben:  Well, you may be get contacted by some listeners I know who deal with debilitating low back pain who would want to reach out to you.  So I’ll put a link to your website on there as well as this book.  And I can tell you what tonight, maybe as a warm up for my workout, I’m gonna try these big three exercises.  I may also try this stir the pot exercise and your hard style plank.

For any of you others who are listening in and want to try some of these exercises, let me know how they go for you.  I’ll put links to them all over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mcgill and you can also go over there to leave your comments and your questions and your feedback and I’ll try and get everything sorted for you as much as possible.  So bengreenfieldfitness.com/M-C-G-I-L-L.

Stu this has been a lot of fun and again, I agree we’ll have to perhaps hook up and have a fireside chat sometime up there in Ontario if I can make it out there.  I’ll hop on the plane and of course get off the plane, have someone lay on my legs at the airport while I’m on my stomach and then I’ll hop in a car and head over to you.

Stu:  Ben that sounds fabulous and you got the reputation, you do.  You’re very good at it, so good on you sir.

Ben:  Hey, thanks man.  Well alright folks I’m Ben Greenfield along with Doctor Stuart McGill signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.  Have an amazing and hopefully pain free week.



Are crunches really all that bad? How can you get the torso strength of a steel bar? How can you keep your glutes “turned on”? Is there a way to fix your back without seeing a chiropractic doc over and over again? These questions and many more are things I constantly think about when it comes to the health of the low back, so I decided to get one of the world’s leading low back experts on the podcast to clear up the confusion and clutter about your back and spine. Stuart McGill has been a Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo for over 32 years, authored of over 240 scientific journal papers and has mentored over 40 graduate students during this scientific journey. As a consultant, he has provided expertise on low back injury to various government agencies, many corporations and legal firms and professional/international athletes and teams worldwide. He is regularly referred special patient cases from the international medical community for opinion. During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-How Stu quantifies whether or not something actually works to strengthen your low back or fix your back pain…[8:30]

-The three major elements that influence spine stability…[14:00]

-The Stuart McGill “big three” exercises for low back pain…[24:20]

-What Stu thinks about credit card analogy out there that you can’t “bend” the spine a whole bunch of times without causing damage…[31:10]

-How you can develop extreme “Okinawan” strength…[40:05]

-How Stu treats and fixes low back pain related to sex…[45:45]

-How to make your core stability a “subconscious motion”…[58:25]

-Whether it is true that an SI joint can “lock up” and if so, how that can be fixed…[62:30]

-Stu’s opinion on inversion tables or yoga trapezes for self traction and low back pain…[68:30]

-And much more! Resources from this episode: -Stu McGill’s books on Amazon –Stu’s new book “The Gift Of Injury” –The Stu McGill big three exercises –The Stir The Pot exercise –My interview about Core Foundation exercises –Hard style plank Show Sponsors:  -Daily Burn – Visit DailyBurn.com/Ben today to start your FREE sixty-day trial! -GAINSWave – Go to GAINSWave.com/Ben and find a provider near you. Don’t forget to mention you heard about GAINSWave through Ben Greenfield and you can save 30% off your FIRST treatment. -Blue Apron –  Blue Apron is treating listeners to $30 off your first order. Go to blueapron.com/ben -Kion Lean – Go to GetKion.com and use code BEN10 for 10% off your purchase of Kion Lean – the best supplement for longevity and fat loss!

Read more at: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/recovery-podcasts/the-best-low-back-exercises-with-stu-mcgill/?_ga=2.20694648.1327747355.1517399173-1544374184.1504661972



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One thought on “[Transcript] – How To Get Extreme “Okinawan” Strength, 3 Ways To Fix Low Back Pain & The Best Core Exercises With Stu McGill

  1. Allen Cuffia says:

    Stuart McGill is the man!! I have some of his books and many of his studies in PDF. I have done his exercises, albeit not consistently. I believe his words and love his “it depends” approach. I am a fan and will continue to be. Thank you Dr. McGill for all that you have done for LBP sufferers as myself.

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