What body weight exercises can help my back pain?

Mar 05, 2023
The bird-dog exercise is a great way to strengthen your back
Look no further, as a chiropractor with over a decade of treating pre and post-surgical patients with TWO qualifications in spinal (back) biomechanics these exercises are as close to the fountain of youth as you will find!

The McGill big three exercises are a series of exercises designed by Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned spine biomechanist, to help individuals strengthen their core muscles and reduce the risk of lower back pain. In this article, we will discuss the McGill big three exercises and their benefits and provide sources for further information.

The three exercises are:

  1. Modified curl-up: This exercise involves lying on your back with one knee bent and the other leg straight. Place your hands under your lower back for support and lift your head and shoulders off the ground (only 1-2 inches), while keeping your chin tucked in. Hold for 10 seconds and then lower yourself back down. Repeat on the other side.

  2. Side plank: Lie on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder and your legs straight. Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then lower yourself back down. Repeat on the other side. (Build to 45sec holds)

  3. Bird dog: Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Squeeze and hold your abs and butt muscles while extending one arm and the opposite leg out straight, keeping your back flat and parallel to the ground. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then lower yourself back down. Repeat on the other side.

These exercises target the deep core muscles that support the spine and improve stability and balance. By strengthening these muscles, individuals can reduce the risk of lower back pain and improve their overall posture and mobility.

In addition to these exercises, Dr. McGill also recommends avoiding movements that place excessive strain on the spine, such as sit-ups and crunches, and instead opting for exercises that maintain a neutral spine position.

**While the McGill big three exercises have been shown to be effective in reducing lower back pain and improving core strength, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program.


  1. Stuart McGill. The McGill Big Three. https://www.backfitpro.com/documents/Big3Exercises.pdf
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. The core muscles and back pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/the-core-muscles-and-back-pain
  3. Verywell Health. The Benefits of the McGill Big Three. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-the-mcgill-big-three-296760
  4. Spine-health. Stuart McGill, PhD. https://www.spine-health.com/author/stuart-mcgill-phd