The Daily “Big 3” Exercises for Reducing Back Pain

The “big 3” exercises consist of the McGill curl-up, bird-dog and side plank. These three exercises are designed to challenge the muscles of the core while putting minimal compression on the spine. Studies have shown that to achieve the full benefits of the three exercises they need to be performed daily (McGill, 2016). It might even benefit you or your clients by performing them multiple times (2-3) per day, after performing the “big 3” you get a temporary stiffening of the core which can lead to enhanced spinal hygiene therefore less pain. The “big 3” can also enhance performance in elite athletes by creating proximal stiffness to create distal athleticism. Really at the end of the day anyone can benefit from doing these exercises daily.


I incorporate variations of the “big 3” with all of my clients here in Toronto. I like to include them in my warm-up to increase athleticism and reduce pain. Start with holds of 7-8 seconds with back pained individuals, this will build endurance which is more important than strength when it relates to back pain. For example, I perform reps of 7-8 seconds for sets of 4-3-2 twice a day in my back rehabilitation program at the moment and will be building up to sets of 4-3-2 three times per day. I personally get pain relief for a few hours after performing the “big 3” so in a way it has replaces any need for pain relievers.

Start with performing one set of 3-2-1 of each of the big 3 and build up in sets from there.

Stay tuned for a video on how to perform the “big 3” properly.

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