Exercise! - Dr. McGill advice against crunches

05-26-2011, 06:27 PM
IDK how to create links so if anyone wants to put the NYTimes video link to Dr McGill's "don't do crunches" bit please feel free.

This is a tangent to the easy ab thread.

The video warns against doing crunches and suggests other moves.

ddc, thank you so much for posting that link. However, I'm am totally not convinced. Perhaps the doc should have shown more physical evidence to support his bulging disc theory. Like, MRI's, actual examples of people who've been injured, etc.

Notice on the plastic spine model in the beginning, he is holding the vertibre in a hyper extended position which is impossible to be in if lying on a mat. Also note that the hyper extended position is dangerous in ANY exercise and great care is taken on professional's part to avoid that - it's what good form is all about. He's not representing the actual action of a crunch in his demonstration with the spine model.

I point this out because any time you have someone exaggerating the evidence, it makes me smell b.s. but at least he's not selling anything so I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I also take into account the physique of the "expert". While he is not obviously unfit, he's also not obviously fit. In fact, he could just as well be a skinny unfit person (like I was for periods of time in my life). His suggestions while probably effective for the beginner or the aged, would have me falling asleep. They're not going to fatigue the core very effectively nor quickly. I'd say a fit person can do those exercises for 20 minutes and still not get fatigued enough to build strength and edurance like crunches and other ab work can.

He seems to me someone who has tested a theory in the lab but not in real life.

I don't mean to attack your belief in this. I just want to make sure that what you choose to do to strengthen your core is worth your time and effort. I also want to invite any others to comment.

It's all about learning for me. I want to see/hear/learn from everyone so that I can be a better trainer. And I know I have a long way to go.


05-26-2011, 09:55 PM
I just started working out again with a trainer (for I gained by almost all the weight I lost). I will say, I do 30 mins of cardio, weights and some core training. By some, within the hour I spend at the gym, I maybe focus on crunches for 10 mins. I have lost 16 lbs in 8 weeks and I'm ok with that. Not sure, if this info really helps but I wanted to let you know what I do. Good Luck!

05-28-2011, 01:12 AM
I was working tonight and took out the TRX bands for experimentation. WOW. If you have TRX bands, do this: face up, put your heals in the bands. Walk your hands out so your body is in a face up reverse plank. Now, bend your hips/legs so that you pass your hips through your hands and arms. Repeat.

It's one of the most fantastic core exercises I've found.

05-28-2011, 05:27 PM
Well, I'm not going to defend Dr. McGill, someone who has spent alot of time doing research of the spine. I only referenced him because I felt he had some credibility.
I'm not going to critique his physique either. I don't think that has anything to do with his research.

I currently have herniated discs in my cervical spine and am on a quest to learn everything that I can to prevent my spine from getting any worse. If a reputable PhD that has studied the spine tells me that crunches 'might' cause my spine to be compromised, I'm gonna listen. I can do planks, bird dogs, back extentions, etc. instead.

My physical therapist showed me with a model of the spine of how my forward head posture and rounded upper back has contributed to my disc problems. I can see how forward bending of the spine with crunches can cause disc problems elsewhere in the spine also. It's a risk that I'm not willing to take.

05-29-2011, 01:04 AM
ddc, agreed. And I think what you wrote is the whole point - that everyone is different - and we should be aware of expert opinion. And because everyone is different, to each her own. Sorry to hear of your disc problem. That really sux. I had 2 bulging discs in my neck and feel so blessed that my PT was able to cure the problem with his treatments and the exercises he showed me.

I think his physique under normal circumstances has nothing to do with research, but in this case, his research deals with the physical body. We can study and theorize all we want. Any two people can have the same paper credentials. To me, the one who talks the talk AND walks the walk has better credentials over the one who does not. Would Jillian Michaels have as much respect if she were not so physically fit? Just my opinion.

05-29-2011, 10:28 AM
I don't know that Dr. McGill is unfit.
I haven't researched him a whole lot, but I did read an article on T-Nation in which the interviewer was very impressed with him.
And being physically fit and looking physically fit are two different things.

As for Jillian, I think she lost a little respect when she started selling supplements.

05-29-2011, 12:06 PM
So true about Jillian, ddc, but not because she sells suppliments, but because she out sold herself. Frankly, as much as I respect her strength, I'm a little sick of seeing her ads for everything all over the place.