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

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Podcast, Recovery

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

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.

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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

Okinawan Strength: Developing the “Iron Body”

My interview about Core Foundation exercises

Hard style plank

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Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Stu or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Also published on Medium.

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17 thoughts on “How To Get Extreme “Okinawan” Strength, 3 Ways To Fix Low Back Pain & The Best Core Exercises With Stu McGill

  1. Kristina says:

    Why didn’t we get to hear anything about muscular contraction during female orgasm? Come on – we’re half of your audience and you didn’t even think to ask! :(

    1. Hi Kristina, I reached out to Dr. McGill. His response: "The answer is a lack of concensus of the female orgasm. What is the bio marker for onset? The male is defined while the female is more amorphous for us. We will get there one day."

  2. Bruce says:

    Stuart mentioned that one exercise you were doing from Foundation didn’t decompress spine like it was supposed to.Ben has this changed your mind about Foundation exercises.

  3. Brian says:

    Ben, I believe what the Doc is talking about is known in Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate as Sanchin Kata.

    Here’s an example of the breathing and tension technique. Notice how the hips are drawn up and slightly forward in this video.

    1. Brian says:

      It is also MUCH harder than it looks. It’s almost an isometric exercise because you are keeping tension on all of your muscle groups as you go through the Kata. You can see other Goju Ryu videos of a Sensei testing the student by striking or hitting muscles as one does the kata. This basic kata builds strength and stamina.

  4. Vincent Wong says:


    New listener here, and when I saw this latest podcast with Dr. McGill, I have to say I was beyond excited. I’ve had spine problems for the last 3 years. I was diagnosed with degeneration of t-spine discs, L-5/S-1 disc bulge and I had a small stress fracture as well. I went to a spine doctor out here in California and she first introduced me to Dr. McGills studies. I immediately bought his books he had at that time back in 2014 and based on his research and my symptoms, brought myself back to functionality and everyday living. I’m sure I’m not fully healed but I am able to move better when working out and now at home with my newborn. Grooving patterns as McGill talks about the “software” of the body and my mind was traumatized from that injury. It took me a year and half to fully create new engrams in my brain so that my body could function again and properly move. Thank you so much for having him on. He is one person that I would love to meet in person in my life to thank him formally. Looking forward to more podcasts Ben!!!



  5. Great guest for a podcast! This is the first I’ve listened to any of your episodes as I’m a big fan of Stuart McGill. Since the topic of Chiropractic came up and was limited to a single negative anecdote, I think it’s worth mentioning that many chiropractors utilize Stu McGill’s research and approach in their practice. I’ve been in practice for over 10 years and I’ve based my methods heavily on Stu’s work as well. It’s unfortunate that his sacroiliac condition was misdiagnosed and improperly treated. The moral of the story, find a high level practitioner.

  6. Michelle says:

    Can you do a show on recovery from herniated disc with and without surgery? Would the excercizes ( the big 3) be the same for people with herniated disc and sciatica?

    1. Ivana says:

      Chiropractic care is great alternative for healing herniated discs. Also search nerve flossing for sciatica pain.

  7. Cory Craghead says:

    Hey Ben, great podcast. I haven’t heard this brought up in any of your shows before so I figured this episode would be the perfect one to write to since we have the lower back expert here. What are your thoughts on the reverse hyper extension machine designed by Louie Simmons? I’m sure “it depends” on the individual, but I would like to hear the pros and cons. Thanks!

    1. I like it and I want to get one. Super cool concept. Great for decompressing spine.

  8. Justin Stanford says:

    I am so glad that I found this podcast. I returned from my tour inIraq in 2008 and have had lower back pain/issues ever since. I’ve been to doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, you name it. After listening to this podcast, while at the gym, I followed the links to the exercises and tried them. For the rest of the day, my lower back felt the best it has in years. It was very surreal. When I woke up today, my pain was very minimal compared to most mornings. I can’t wait to continue these exercises and read more about Dr. McGill. Thank you more than you will ever know!

  9. Cynthia Campanaro says:

    Great podcast info! Stu is a Master!!! Ben, get your butt up here to Ontario! Spartan Toronto race in June or Trifecta wknd in Sept. I’ll drive you up to Waterloo to see Stu after we race! 🇨🇦❤️🙏🏼

  10. Shon says:

    Please keep your promise to bring Stu back. It was a very informative show that I have saved for later so I can listen several more times.

  11. Chad says:

    Hey guys. I really enjoyed the show! I’ve been using the standing ab wheel rollout in my training. I focus on pushing the hips forward to keep the low back from sagging, and engaging the core with a hollow body position. This seems similar to the walk out plank discussed in the show. Is there any advantage to one vs. the other?

  12. Sean B says:

    I am a fan of these podcasts, but this was one of the best. Thanks

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