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McGill Curl-ups: How To Do, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing McGill curl-ups, what will the effects be?

McGill curl-ups are a crunch exercise variation where you stretch one leg, fold one leg, and hold your hands under your lower back. By doing this, you keep lumbar spine movements minimal.

This can make McGill curl-ups easier on your back compared to regular crunches while still training important core muscles.

If you don’t have any back pain or other issues, core exercises with a bigger range of motion can be more effective for core muscle growth and strength progress

Whether you should add McGill curl-ups or alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.

How to do a McGill curl-up

For McGill curl-ups you preferably want a yoga mat or other soft surface to lie on. To do a McGill curl-up take the following steps:

  1. Lie down on your back. Stretch one leg and put the foot of the other leg flat on the ground. Put your hands under your lower back to keep the lower part of your spine in the same position.
  2. Slowly raise your shoulders from the ground a small amount while keeping your lower back in the same position. Move your neck and head along with your shoulders.
  3. Hold the position for about 10 seconds.
  4. Lower your shoulders and head in a controlled motion until you are back in the starting position.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg stretched.

Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your abs really work hard and to avoid moving your lower back. Additionally, keep your neck in line with your upper body.

How to do a McGill curl-up

McGill curl-ups muscles worked

McGill curl-ups are mainly an ab muscle exercise. Your oblique and hip flexor muscles may have to work a certain amount too.

The way you build muscle in places like your abs is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.

If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.

By adding extra resistance to core exercises you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.

One downside of McGill curl-ups when it comes to a lot of muscle growth is that it is not really meant to do with heavy weights. Additionally, this exercise engages your abs in an isometric, more static, way.

More dynamic exercises are generally more effective for muscle growth and strength progress.

If you don’t have any back pain or other issues there, other core exercises may be better choices. Depending on your personal situation, workout plan, and training goals, McGill curl-ups may be a good or bad addition.

McGill curl-ups benefits

Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding McGill curl-ups to your routine can offer you some amazing benefits.

While McGill curl-ups do change a few important things, most of their benefits are still similar to regular crunches. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Can be easier on your back: The goal of doing McGill curl-ups instead of regular crunches is making this core exercise easier on your back.
  2. Stronger muscles: McGill curl-ups are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your ab muscles.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like McGill curl-ups promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. No equipment or location required: Since McGill curl-ups are a bodyweight exercise you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location. That being said, a soft surface like a yoga mat can make the exercise more comfortable.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like McGill curl-ups can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. May reduce or prevent back pain: Core strengthening exercises like McGill curl-ups can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). If you currently have back pain you do want to be careful and talk to an expert before implementing this exercise.

While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than McGill curl-ups, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that McGill curl-ups can be hard on body parts like your back and neck, even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing McGill curl-ups into your workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that McGill curl-ups are not (yet) for you.

McGill curl-up alternatives

While McGill curl-ups can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training similar muscles. Some of these McGill curl-up alternatives include:

  • Planks
  • Brid dogs
  • Dead bugs
  • Side planks

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.

Conclusion

McGill curl-ups are mainly for people with lower back issues who want to strengthen important core muscles.

If you don’t have any back issues, core exercises with a bigger range of motion and more options for extra resistance are likely more effective for core muscle growth and strength progress.

You also need to remember is that McGill curl-ups can be hard on body parts like your back and neck, even if you implement the right technique.

If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more McGill curl-ups.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing McGill curl-ups is a workout you love, great. If not other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more McGill curl-ups make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.