Almost every martial artist experiences back pain at some point in their training. It hurts like hell and brings your training to a screeching halt. And in the worst case some people are even permanently sidelined by it.
Understanding what’s causing your pain, changing your movement patterns to prevent it, and implementing ‘spinal hygiene’ so that you place less wear and tear on your back are all part of the solution.
When it comes to fixing your back there’s really nobody better to talk to than Dr Stuart McGill.
He is professor emiritus at the University of Waterloo where he researched and taught spinal mechanics for more than 30 years. He’s written and published more than 300 scientific papers, written 3 textbooks, and has worked with countless combat athletes.
His book, “Back Mechanic: The Step-by-Step McGill Method to Fix Back Pain” has become a classic manual for living a painfree life and “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance” is a guide for many coaches to bring their athletes up to the next level of performance while avoiding a debilitating back injury.
Here’s the in-depth interview I did with Dr McGill getting deep into the topic of spinal flexion, extension and rotation in the martial arts.
Whether your back hurts when you punch the heavy bag, throw a round kick, swing a stick, or toss an opponent I’m 100% you’ll get a lot out of this conversation.
(I also found his stories, like the one about testing the neurology of MMA legend Georges St Pierre, absolutely fascinating.)
Check it out in video or audio format below…
Here’s what we covered and when:
00:30 – How to become a world class expert in spinal mechanics and back pain
08:04 – Studying spines in the lab and what that tells you about spines in athletes
13:56 – Disc herniations and back pain
19:30 – Dr McGill’s work with Olympians and elite athletes
23:48 – The athleticism of MMA fighter George St. Pierre
29:43 – Principles for avoiding back pain injury
34:27 – The power of the neutral spine
45:12 – The advantages and dangers of developing power through spinal rotation
50:52 – How elite strikers hit so hard
54:16 – Posture and spinal position in jiu-jitsu
1:00:55 – Hip morphology and leg flexibility of great jiu-jitsu fighters
1:05:54 – Books and other resources by Dr McGill
Injury is the enemy, and avoiding injury is the key to a long and successful athletic career, so I hope you enjoy this episode!
How to Listen to the Audio-Only Version of this Podcast Episode Featuring Dr Stuart McGill
1) I’ve released this as episode 301 on my podcast (The Strenuous Life Podcast) which you can listen to on all podcast players, including the following popular platforms and apps…
2) If you don’t have a preferred podcast player you can can listen on the Grapplearts BJJ Master App which you can download for free for iPhone and iPad in the Apple App Store here or for Android devices in the Google Play Store here.
3) Or you can stream the audio right here without leaving the page by clicking play below…
I hope you enjoy both this and other episodes of The Strenuous Life Podcast!
The single best way to stay in touch with what’s going on with Self Defense Tutorials is my email newsletter.
Sign up for free at by entering your best email address in the box below…