Brian Carroll Coaches the curl-up

Brian Carroll Coaches the curl-up

ANOTHER MCGILL BIG 3 POST? Yes, I give a demo of how to do, in most cases, the most commonly badly misrepresented exercise: the McGill curl-up. For more context on the curl-up, please check out Back Mechanic and Gift of Injury for regressions and progressions. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and particular coaching cues I used for this session are as follows:

Most of you will be able to follow along with this video and have no issues once you see the primary cues hammered consistently:

1.  One leg bent, one leg straight

2. Hands under the small of the back, elbows off the ground

3. Minimal head movement and leg movement

4. Play with stiffness – pushing out laterally

More curl-up Context and Coaching 

Over the last 11 years, many have made this exercise much more complicated than it needs to be. Including me, in the first year or so after being introduced. Instead of slowly cueing it, they turn it into a traditional curl-up. The best advice I can offer you is to slow down and follow along with the video. I have learned that those who train their anterior core, as mentioned in the last post, i.e., some bodybuilders and powerlifters, have no problem with this exercise, while others have been pained so long that they have no core strength or endurance.

The main flaw I see with the McGill curl-up is too much spine motion. This is an isometric exercise, not a bending exercise, especially not a repetitive bending exercise — very little motion should happen, and this should be held for time. This will depend on the goal and capacity of the athlete or person. Lower the head and check your neck/chin position if in doubt. Do NOT put your hands behind your head. If you are doing the curl-up by the book according to Back Mechanic or Gift of Injury and are still experiencing neck pain, please see page 104 of Back Mechanic to address neck strategy and prehab. Like any other exercise, execution, tuning, and modifications will be necessary for each individual due to various moving parts and limitations.

BONUS: In this video (briefly), I briefly discuss power breathing, but a little more in-depth than in the last video. This needs its article and context. Why? Depending on the goal, you should be more forceful (for performance), while at other times, for recovery, you would likely not try to create so much tension, stiffness, and IA pressure as someone training for a world record. Everything must be adjusted and tuned to achieve a specific goal for each individual. For those backs pained with compressive forces, we should consider less stiffening in some cases, specifically the abdominal region. But, as I say, this needs an entire article, or better yet, read more about the nuance here: Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance 6th ED.

Brian offers Virtual & in-person coaching

Back Injured Average Mary or Joe who wants their life back

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Lift and exercise coaching & cueing to troubleshoot form

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Nutrition & Supplementation Coaching & Guidance (10 or 20 weeks)

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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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