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Three Hours of Conversation With Dr. Stu McGill

By October 3, 2013January 3rd, 2017Interviews, Low Back Reconditioning, Spinal Health

Last week, I posted an article that described my visit to Waterloo, home of The University of Waterloo where Dr. Stu McGill’s spine biomechanics laboratory resides. Click HERE to read the article.

Due to the impressive response in the comments section, I asked Dr. McGill if he’d be kind enough to discuss the things mentioned in the article in an interview, and he obliged.

I warned him ahead of time that we’d need a few hours to get through everything, and luckily he was okay with it. I suggest dividing the interview up into three one-hour segments and listening on multiple days so you can catch all of it.

Click on the player above to access the interview. I hope you enjoy it!

Stu McGill with Pavel Tsatsouline

Stu McGill with Pavel Tsatsouline


  • Neal W. says:

    Would we be able to get a Mp3 so we can listen in the car?

  • I’m through my first one-hour segment, and I just want to say this is great stuff. Thanks to you and Stu for taking the time!

  • Lee says:

    Could you release this as a podcast?

  • Mario F. says:

    You can download the interview as MP3 via the DownloadHelper extension for Firefox:
    AFAIK it is also available for Chrome.

    Thanks for the interview!

  • Rhys says:


    Any way this could be made available as a podcast? Should be a very interesting listen, the content on here lately as been excellent and almost daily updates.


  • Trev says:

    If you have firefox, you can download an extension called Flash Video Downloader 3.9.6. via the Options menu.

    It creates an arrow on your toolbar that chages to blue when it detects somethig it can download. Navigate to this page, click on the arrow and the audio will download in a minute or so (depending on your connection speed.) Enjoy!

  • Bill Williams says:

    Flash Video Downloader is great, but you don’t need it to download the MP3 in firefox. Just right-click on a blank part of this page, choose “View Page Info”. Then go to the media tab and scroll down until you find the audio file. Then click “Save As”

  • Chris says:

    Even easier way to get the MP3, as it’s linked right in the source:

  • Brett, nice to hear the 2 of you chatting. Any chance of a transcript? It’s so good I have to stop it every few minutes just to write things down!


    • Bret says:

      Hi Craig, thanks so much my friend, glad you like it. Seriously that means a lot to me. If I hire a transcriber, can I pay them extra to take out my “uhhh’s” haha? I need to get better at that! Anyway, I don’t think I’ll go down this path for now as I’m too just too busy. My apologies for the annoyance. Regards, BC

  • Bret says:

    I didn’t even know how to link to the MP3 as I’m a technological caveman. Thanks for figuring it out peeps!

  • Will Arias says:

    Hi Bret,
    Firstly, thank you for the interview. I’ll listen to it for future reference, for sure, like watching again a clever movie. Now, I have some humble comments to make, “spiced” with questions:

    1. Do you have some bibliography to recommend in regards to compression and shearing loads. For instance, how did you get to that conclusion that guys like Andy Bolton might negotiate around 40.000 N while pulling a 1000 lbs DL?

    2. In the past I read an interesting article in T-Nation where you stated some flexion ROM limits for the upper segments of the Lumbar spine, when deadlifting in the elastic recoling kind of way soooo prefered by many world class powerlifters. Any changes to your way of thinking in that regard, after spending so many hours of conversation and lab testing with Dr. McGill?

    3. By the way, Shirley Sahrmann made a great review of rotational limits for the lumbar segments in “Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes”, which I strongly belief you might be quite familiar with. If so, it would be great to know your opinion and also your updated version about ROM limits in regards to lumbar flexion

    (I was going to ask your opinion on “rotational force limits”, but I guess that relies heavily on the stability strength and CNS – adaptation levels of the performer)

    4. I know the 6th Edition of “Supertraining” was only credited to the late Dr Siff, due to a Verkhoshansky’s request, (for unknown reasons). Later on, in 2009, Verkhoshansky released an extended 6th edition of Supertraining (a dense, depth and compact reading that makes you get back more than once to learn things that you missed the first time you read it. Is that bloody good!) Anyway, here is another question: Is there any particular reason for Dr McGill mentioning only the name of Dr Mel Siff but skips citing Verkhoshansky’s when referring about “Supertraining” quotes and/or it’s priceless contribution to science?

    5. In regards to Jacek Cholewicki, that brilliant McGill’s former student that you mentioned in the conversation with McGill, is one of the 3 Co-Editors of a new book released last August, which I humbly want to recommend to your readers. It’s title is “Spinal Control: The Rehabilitation of Back Pain: State of the art and science”. Even McGill and Shirley Sahrmann contributed to it, by the way.

    The others 2 editors are Jaap Van Dieen and Paul Hodges, who, with Carolyn Richardson and others, wrote “Therapeutic Exercises for Spinal Segmental Stabilization in Low Back Pain: Scientific Basis and Clinical Approach” which first edition started the “Aussie TVA hollowing revolution” in the late 90’s, a technique made popular by great holistic marketers such as Paul Chek, Ideokinesis followers, Pilates academies and the like.

    We all know that McGill agrees with late Dr Siff in many ways, like preferring “core embracing” rather than “hallowing”, which might be a therapeutic strategy for rehab models (by improving endurance) but becoming unreal and rather inconvenient when transferred to athletic performance and strengthening strategies. Your opinion would be more than welcome, as I keeping IAP, tightness and lumbar stability is so important when it comes to deal with heavy Hip Thrusts (which can potentially be so unforgiving if untreated LBD are present, regardless of anterior core strength levels, anthropometry, bench dimensions, psoas elasticity, proprioception sense development, etc).

    6. Impressive to see that even guys like Craig Liebenson got glued to the interview.

    Thanks so much for reading
    (assuming that someone had the patience to do so).

    • Bret says:

      Hi Will,

      1. References

      Here’s Cholewicki:

      And Granhed:

      Based on these we speculated about Bolton/Magnusson’s compressive loading.

      2. Upper back rounding

      Stu and I probably don’t disagree on this topic. If trying to lift the most weight possible, the back will round a bit. So if trying to maximize pure performance, try to hold an arch, but if you round, go with it.

      However, if safety and longevity are the goal, then keep the spine in neutral. I don’t know anyone in all of S&C who would say that heavy round back lifting is safer and better for long-term health.

      3. Agree with Sahrmann’s views on lumbar rotation. Wasn’t aware of her updated ROM limits – please share.

      4. Stu knew Siff and even stayed at his place; they were friends. Not sure if he ever met Verko.

      5. Hollowing might be useful in some situations such as in quadruped to enhance glute activation – to be honest I’ve never employed it with clients. I encourage bracing as per McGill, and the level of bracing should match the task IMO. With hip thrusts, I don’t cue bracing with clients unless they tend to overextend. I wasn’t aware that Siff was a proponent of hollowing. If Siff were alive today, he’d likely have changed his mind and he’d also defer to McGill on most topics that are spine-related. He’d also be slaying gurus by the dozen!

      6. I agree!

      Thanks Will, glad you listened all the way through!



  • Jeremy says:

    Hy bret, thanks for your good post 😉
    Can we have an abstract of the conversation ?

  • Joonas says:

    Hey Bret,

    Good stuff really looking forward to hearing this!


  • Greg Miller says:

    Hi Bret, great interview and wonderful resource. I have a quick question in relation to something Dr. McGill said about supplements. At around 1:13, he mentioned that he started taking glucosamine, chrondroitin and MSM at the same time he was using glute exercises to rehab his hip joint. I’d be interested to hear your take on the use of these supplements. Is there any evidence or experience to suggest that they can benefit joint health or cartilage? Or rather, is it something people are willing to try because it’s felt they really can’t really do any harm.

    Obviously, Dr. McGill had a good outcome, because he’s still got his hip, but the question is whether the supplements played a role or if it was really all from sorting out the biomechanics.

  • Hey Bret

    Epic interview. Thanks for providing so much free information. McGill is one of the most eloquent speakers out there.

    A couple of point from the comments above

    1) Mel Siff in his book Facts & Fallacies of Fitness has a section called Transversus Abdominis in Wonderland where he quotes McGill extensively and is very much in the bracing camp.

    2) With regards to Glucosamine, there is an interview where Craig Liebenson asks Stu the question. He basically talks about the scientific method, a study may find no significant effect but within the study group you could be the person who responded exceptionally well or you could be the person who has no response depending on your genetics etc. So you might very well be the person who gets a very good response to glucosamine, omega 3 etc even if the literature can’t support its use in the wider population. The power of the case study I suppose.


  • MarieDee says:

    I am just 2/3 through the interview and though I could not understand everything properly (I am not a native english speaker) I am fascinated by all these new informations that open a whole new world to me. Thank you for that!

  • Pedro Sun says:

    Awesome interview Bret.

    You know what would be an epic interview?
    Interviewing both Jason and Stu within the same podcast to talk about their differences and similarities in their approaches to pain. I feel like the world would be a better place if we can get both sides of the spectrum to talk together about pain science together:)

  • Bill fleming says:

    Great interview.
    However I keep losing my place and can’t figure out how to search it.
    I have to keep starting from the beginning.
    I am ready to give up.
    Can you help me.

    • Dr Jo Stanley says:

      Just sign in and start up, then grab start pointer on the time bar, and scroll it across L to R and release at THE TIME YOU LEFT THE INTERVIEW. Which latter you will have made a note of
      Dr Jo, Cambridge UK

  • Bill fleming says:

    Thanks to Mario F.
    I followed your link and listened to the whole interview.
    Great stuff Brett

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