Prof. Stuart McGill is a professor in the Dep't of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He is the director of its Spine Biomechanics Laboratory.
His famous textbook, "Low Back Disorders", examines back injuries in the light of biomechanics' scientific knowledge, and prescribes exercises and tests for the rehabilitation of injured backs and the prevention of future injuries.
Only in the very last chapter 13 does he consider "Advanced Exercises", those for high-load workers and top performers in sports and athletic competitions, who already have established a solid base of fitness and overall strength.
This new book, "Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance", picks up from there, amplifying the last chapter of the textbook, and is a training manual dedicated to preserving back fitness in high-level physical performance.
In our modern Western lifestyle afflicted with a total lack of demanding physical activity, constant sitting and overeating, strength seems to have become somewhat less useful than in the pre-industrial age. In the new context of our national obsession with heart disease, running and aerobic activity have become the dominant trend in popular fitness, and they are unarguably vital for cardiovascular health.
But they should not obliterate a concern for musculoskeletal fitness, which is essential in all tasks of everyday's life and sports involving lifting, pulling, pushing, throwing and even hitting. Musculoskeletal fitness calls for a more technical and demanding kind of training, where a thorough knowledge of the biomechanics of the back is necessary.
It is amazing how quickly "Ultimate" has become a voguish term in recent fitness literature and on the Internet. You'll find it used and overused all over the place.
"Ultimate Back" constantly cautions us that, when aiming at the "ultimate" performance of top athletes, progression of training is a fundamental principle, too often disregarded, with injuries as the unavoidable penalty.
In this light, "Ultimate Back" is an essential manual for all members of the 3F club (Physical Fitness Fanatics) who want to do their best to avoid back injuries.
Preserving one's back from injury is vital, the more so that most physical fitness fanatics are urban professionals who tend to spend an inordinate portion of their lives sitting -- not a natural posture for the architecture of the back, and, in the long run, a very damaging one to disc integrity. And, as we grow older, our back becomes more fragile and vulnerable.
I have both books by Stuart McGill, and, clearly, "Ultimate Back" is the one we will spend more time with.
In addition, McGill's DVD, "The Ultimate Back: Enhancing Performance," offers good demonstrations of his techniques.
The meat of "Ultimate Back", for readers who want the lowdown on specific training exercises, is in the last chapters, ch. 10 to ch. 16.
Stuart McGill presents "Ultimate Back" as a self-contained training manual, a standalone that doesn't require the full scientific analysis buttressing the "Low Back Disorders" biomechanics textbook.
So, he starts afresh from the same basics, while dispensing with many measurement tables and other biomechanics data. Hence, a certain overlap of material in the two books -- same facts, same conclusions, same illustrations. Which feels a bit repetitious if you happen to use both books simultaneously. Revisiting the basics is unavoidable in fitness books, as a necessary reminder to readers who are not specialists.
Regretfully, there's no useful cross-referencing between this "Ultimate Back" and "Low Back Disorders"
In spite of some readers' objections, Stuart McGill is justified in presenting again in the fitness manual the biomechanics of how the back works -- basic facts about which most people have not the faintest idea.
And it remains imperative to study the whole of "Ultimate Back" and not just the exercise section. And even, whenever possible, to check repeatedly in "Low Back Disorders" for more details in the anatomy, neurophysiology, and biomechanics of the back.
Stuart McGill does a first-class job at giving us the fundamentals.
For instance, he introduces us to the structure and functioning of the vertebrae and the discs. A disc between two vertebrae is a complex biomechanical link that will inexorably fatigue and deteriorate all the way to failure with enough repeated flexions of the spine.
As measured on special machines, herniation is eventually experienced after about 20,000 cycles of flexion at low levels of spine compression, such as encountered in ordinary life, most often in sitting.
But at higher levels of compressive loads, herniation will occur after only 5,000 cycles of repeated flexions. Workers handling high loads and athletes creating high compressive loads during repeated flexions of their spines are particularly at risk of damage and herniation. Most of them live in the danger zone of biomechanical overload very close to ligaments and disc failure.
Guided by the good professor, we get a better look at our key muscles.
For Stuart McGill it is a must to first identify, in a structural approach, which muscle does what -- in any movement of flexion and extension, adduction and abduction, internal and external rotation -- in order to design, in a functional approach, training exercises and programs that will maximize stability and power.
As we get familiarized with all the members of this complex new family -- back muscles; abdominals; 17 basic "hip muscles"; plus the quadriceps and hamstrings, primarily "knee muscles", but also involved in hip flexion and extension -- we are in good shape to absorb Prof. Stuart McGill's instruction.
We regain acquaintance with the powerful "Latissimus Dorsi," but also rediscover our three back supports in extension, "Longissimus," "Iliocostalis," (the "Erector Spinae" in the old nomenclature) and "Multifidus". These extensors are often divided in two functional groups exhibiting different properties: "pars lumborum" (attached to lumbar vertebrae) and "pars thoracis" (attached to thoracic vertebrae).
We encounter our old familiar, reliable "Rectus Abdominis", which happens to be single and not, as we wrongly thought, a family of six. We get a full picture of the "Abdominal Wall," with the silent "Fascia" and the more famous "External and Internal Obliques" and we learn we cannot isolate "Transverse Abdominis." All together they form our natural back belt.
We get to meet our new friend, "Quadratus Lumborum", a vastly important muscle involved in stabilizing the pelvis and the spine in nearly all loading modes and all athletic activities.
We acknowledge the vital importance of "Psoas" and "Iliacus" in hip flexion and stabilization, assisted by "Tensor Fascia Lata", with a participation of "Rectus Femoris" (the largest quadriceps muscle) and "Sartorius" (the longest muscle in the body, running diagonally across the quads, from the ASIS, the iliac crest of the pelvis, down to the top of the tibia).
The five muscles of the "Adductor Group" ("Adductor Brevis", "Adductor Longus", "Adductor Magnus", "Pectineus" and "Gracilis") also contribute to hip flexion.
We cannot value highly enough the powerful contribution of the "glutes": "Gluteus Maximus" (hip extension and external rotation), "Gluteus Medius" and "Gluteus Minimus" (abduction, important in single-leg stance or directional change, and external rotation of the femur, a vital function in squatting). The other gluteal muscles, the "Deep Six", assist in internal ("medial") and external ("lateral") rotation.
The three muscles in the Hamstrings ("Biceps Femoris", with a "Long Head" and a "Short Head", "Semitendinosus" and "Semimembranosus") perform extension of the hip and flexion of the knee.
The Quadriceps, largest muscle group in the body, number four ("Rectus Femoris", and the three "Vastus" -- "Lateralis", "Medialis" and "Intermedius") and primarily perform extension of the knee, with "Rectus Femoris" alone involved in hip flexion.
This kind of knowledge should be taught in high school to all children. Knowledge of the musculoskeletal system is fundamental for all sports and the conduct of our daily lives.
Sadly, most people know nothing about the biomechanics of the back beyond the simplistic and conventional dogmas spread by school coaches and commercial fitness trainers whose primary interest is making money by popularizing fads and vogues, and not providing basic scientific information on the musculoskeletal function, of which they are lamentably ignorant.
In that sense, "Low Back Disorders" is an indispensable companion to "Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance." Both books are complementary, and should be used together.
Central to Stuart McGill's concepts are four important tenets.
McGill's fundamental fact: limbs provide mobility, shoulders and hips deliver power, mostly by means of "Pulses" and "Shockwaves". Muscles in the abdominal wall, torso and back provide stability and act as a stiff spring to relay power.
First tenet: The importance of maintaining the "Neutral Posture" of the spine, respecting the natural lower-back curvature of the lumbar spine ("lordosis"), and not imposing extra flexion to the spine. McGill wages a relentless campaign of warnings against any motion that tends to bend the lower spine or round the back. Flattening the lower back does flex the lumbar spine and endangers the posterior annulus portions of the disks.
We are taught by him to become aware of spine posture at all times, to learn how to restore the "Neutral Spine" and recognize the lumbar extensors by palpating them.
We can then correct untrained ordinary stances by learning how to stand properly (no poking chin, shoulders back), how to sit (evolution not having designed us for sitting all day, this is a flexing activity that is eventually damaging for the lower back; and for which, unfortunately, there is no perfect posture, the best being varying the position and frequently standing up and stretching the arms upwards to decompress the vertebrae), how to walk (fast, with swinging arms).
Second: "Abdominal Bracing" is also key, a mild active (and voluntary) isometric tensing of all the abdominal muscles, thus forming a natural stiffening girdle. This becomes another fundamental factor for providing stability and protection to the back. Learning to maintain full efficient breathing is not immediately easy and requires training of the diaphragm.
Solidly "Locking" a stable torso to the pelvis provides the necessary core stiffness to create a central spring relay for the forces generated mostly by exploding pulses from the hips and shoulders, and not by the back. "Stiffness" should not be confused with "Strength".
Systematically activating the "Abdominal Brace" and "Locking the Torso" becomes an essential part of the new routine. This can be learned by various exercises ("Wall Roll," "Floor Roll," "Back Bridges on Swiss Ball," and the tremendous "Turkish Getup").
Third: Developing the "Hip Hinge" is essential for leaning forward and lifting. The motion to train is "hip flexion", leaning proceeding from the hips, to replace the spontaneous "lumbar flexion" from bending the spine. This allows always keeping the spine in neutral posture.
A keen perception of this new motion can be developed with Half-Squats (bending the knees) and various exercises such as the "Short-Stop Ready Position".
Leaning, in everyday's life, seems such a banal motion, but it is a vital skill that most people have never learnt. This new motion of the "Hip Hinge" has to be constantly practiced until it's grooved and becomes automatic.
This leads Stuart McGill to an iconoclastic debunking of many traditional exercises, such as sit-ups and all varieties of crunches, as they are dangerous exercises which create extreme lumbar flexion, high levels of compression in the spine, and undermine back stability -- a most valuable warning to physical fitness fanatics, worth alone the price of the book.
Fourth: Squatting with good form-- with legs wide apart ("Spreading the Floor") and externally rotated -- should replace bending the back or stooping that tends to spontaneously occur in most lifting, pulling and pushing activities.
Proper "Squatting" uses the "Hip Hinge" (and not lumbar flexion), and activates the powerful gluteal muscles in initiating the movement, even in the simple act of standing up from a chair. The fundamental muscles are "Gluteus Medius" (developed with exercises such as the "Clam," "Lateral Leg Raises" and "One Leg Squats"), and "Gluteus Maximus" (developed with "Back Bridges").
Stuart McGill is famous for his preferred "Big Three" exercises for the back: the "Curl-up," "the Side Bridge," and the "Birddog," all of them with stages of increasing challenge and complexity.
There are quite a few more, nearly as basic as the "Big Three", like "Stirring the Pot", all detailed throughout the book, with an abundance of good pictures. Among them: "Squats," "Lunges," "Overhead Cable Pulls," all essential to build back stability.
For warm-up of the spine, nothing better than the "Cat/Camel" exercice to reduce the natural viscosity of tissues and discs.
Stuart McGill recommends waiting about one hour after getting out of bed before doing any back exercises because of the nightly hydration of discs (the discs, having no blood vessels, get nourishment and water from the vertebral bones through osmosis) which tends to tighten the ligaments in the spine.
Squatting can be developed in many stages: from "Potty Squat" (or "toilet squat" for us non-prudish Americans) to "Goblet Squat"; from basic "Two-Legged squats" to "One-Legged Squats". Practice on wood blocks and wobble boards, and progress to "Bowler's Squat", "Step-Up", "One-Legged Squat while pulling up a dumbbell", and "Lunge Squat while pushing a dumbbell overhead".
The "ultimate" level of proficiency would be the challenging one-leg squat called the "Pistol".
At a higher level of fitness, traditional "Pushups", with their advanced variations, are acceptable abdominal exercises. But some extension exercises ("Roman chair," "Superman") put too much load on the spine and should be avoided.
Twisting is the subject of much controversy: Twisting under load is generally unadvisable, and especially dangerous at the extreme end range of the twisting motion, but twisting torques (resisting them without effective twisting) are acceptable, and good exercises if keeping a neutral spine.
Prof. Stuart McGill stands at the confluence of neurophysiology and biomechanics that launched the modern school of "functional training"
Note that the McGill Curl-Up is a one-legged adaptation of the famous "Janda Curl-Up". For the "Janda Curl-Up", in the supine bent-knee position, you forcefully pull your calves towards your buttocks against the resistance of a partner's hands on your ankles, or of a blocking gadget (strap, band, padded bar), while contracting hamstrings and glutei, which also act as hip extensors. As a neural consequence this inactivates at the same time the hip flexors (psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris). Curling up without hip flexor assistance recruits the abdominals much more intensely.
This "Janda Curl-Up" was popularized by Tsatsouline in the brutal form of a full sit-up in his "Bullet-Proof Abs" book (peddling his newfangled contraption, the Rube-Goldberg "Pavelizer"!). This forced extreme is not recommended to anyone who wants to protect against lower-back damage. The curl-up achieves excellent results without the extra risk of a full sit-up.
Interestingly, the "Janda Curl-Up" follows from the historic "Sherrington's Law of Reciprocal Innervation" of 1898, linking excitation and inhibition of muscles as polar opposites: a strongly contracting, or antagonist muscle may at the same time relax or inhibit by reflex its agonists, thus enabling smooth motion.
This relationship was enlarged in "The Integrative Action of the Nervous System" of 1906, an epoch-making book explaining the neural origin of reflex actions, and their functional role in muscles and movements.
Sir Charles Sherrington (1857- 1952, age 95) is the founder of modern neurophysiology. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1932.
Vladimir Janda was a very influential and legendary Czech neurologist and kinesiologist (born in 1928, trained in Canada by John Basmajian, the father of EMG biofeedback therapy, died in 2002, age 74). He focused on the interdependence of musculoskeletal movements and neural motor controls from the central nervous system, which he showed could not be separated functionally.
This interdependence has informed, in the second half of the 20th century, the whole modern school of "functional training" for fitness, athletics, and sports, leading it away from the simple mechanistic concepts of the 19th century promoters of "physical culture".
McGill's special contribution has been to relate the precise measurements in the biomechanics lab to all the new concepts of neurophysiology and functional training.
He acknowledges the insights of Russian fitness doctrine with its "eight" principles of training, as popularized for instance by Leo Matveyev (Fundamental of Sports Training), Michael Yessis (Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness and Training), Vladimir Zatsiorsky (Science and Practice of Strength Training), Pavel Tsatsouline (Power to the People, Naked Warrior), and Yuri Verkhoshansky (Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sports) who pioneered plyometric training in 1964. McGill also recognizes the superior merits of the Russian kettlebell for many exercises.
Among his abundant references of highly specialized research, mostly published as articles in professional journals of biomechanics, sports medicine, ergonomics, etc..., McGill especially recommends the more general works of Nikolai Bogduk (Clinical Anatomy of the Lumbar Spine and Sacrum, 4th Ed.), David Butler (The sensitive Nervous System), Roger Enoka (Neuromechanics of Human Movement, 4th Ed, an indispensable textbook), Kandel/Schwartz/Jessel (Principles of Neural Science), Michael Boyle (Functional Training), and Mel Siff ("Facts and Fallacies of Fitness"; and "Supertraining", an encyclopedic scientific review of the field of physical training for top performance in athletes and competitors, a textbook far too complex for your average coach).
Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff collaborated in developing plyometrics, where power = strength x speed, using the elastic energy stored in the muscle and tendon during the eccentric phase just before explosive contraction. This dynamic approach requires a prior foundation of solid strength to avoid injury. Its now classic form of "shock training" is for use by well-conditioned athletes. In this "ultimate" school, training has become a very precise biomechanical and neural-control method that requires expert supervision and constant concern for avoiding potential injuries.
In general, Stuart McGill recommends the use of free weights, one-handed dumbbells (preferable to two-handed barbells), kettlebells, cables, stretch bands, resistance tubes, and even chains!
He favors activating only one side of the spine musculature at a time so as to minimize the load on the spine: asymmetrical, unilateral exercises, such as "one-armed" and "one-legged" motions are more challenging to each side of the body than symmetrical exercises.
Alternating sides is of course a must to re-establish balance, and thus requires that more time be devoted to the exercise, but with far better results.
In the same vein, the good professor warns against the use of most machines available in commercial gyms, not just the "Roman chair," but also all kinds of "back flexing machines" or "back twisting machines," and "leg press-up machines".
He objects to the permanent sitting required for these machines (more sitting, even in the gym!), thus losing the benefit of gravity, and to the fact that they constrain joint motion to a strict mechanical, artificial pattern, depriving all the tissues (vertebrae, cartilages, discs, ligaments, tendons and muscles) of their natural range of movement, while inhibiting the training of neural control that drives real movements.
He deplores the perversion introduced by bodybuilding in the current trends of physical training that focus on isolating and hypertrophying individual muscles.
An impressive-looking strongman is in fact too specialized, and does not have overall fitness. Just pull sideways on his sleeve, and the strongman may well lose his balance.
Stuart McGill's famous motto is "Train the Motion, not the Muscle". Functional training that preserves balance and joint stability, not isolated muscle hypertrophy, is the goal. This is in line with the teachings of Vladimir Janda, Mel Siff, and all the other references listed above.
Equally, "Train the Whole Body Movement," in order to train the neural systems that trigger motion stimulation, which in turn drives muscles. Accordingly he much prefers training that mimics the environment of athletic activity.
"Proprioception" further enhances the control of movements. Closing the eyes perfects exercises where balance is a key factor.
Stuart McGill criticizes a misguided conception of "passive flexibility" training for the back, and the overuse of artificial "passive stretching" exercises for their only sake. He recommends avoiding the extreme end range of motion in exercises, and in general not going beyond the natural range of motion required in specific athletic activities, in order to maintain integrity of the tendons and ligaments.
He is thus very skeptical of many practices currently fashionable in fitness vogues, such as yoga, or Pilates, which mostly sell "feel-good" exercises of short-term effect -- an industry which any fit young person can freely enter as "fitness trainer" without much scientific education or clinical background. Celebrities join in the act, spreading more half-baked notions in the whole field.
McGill's comment: "There's a lot of mythology out there", echoing Mel Siff's critical book on "Facts and Fallacies of Fitness".
Loose joints without the tight support of tendons and ligaments are like masts without rigging, or unstable constructions without guy wires, and so dangerous for athletes, only making them injury-prone.
"Active Flexibility" that does not artificially stretch tendons and ligaments is much preferred. It can be developed with specific dynamic exercises: "Snatch Squat," "Wall Squat," and "Walking Lunges with one-arm dumbbell press".
Some specific stretches are found acceptable, as long as they spare the spine, which must always be kept in neutral posture (not easy at all): "Quad Stretches"; "Hip Flexions"; "Runner's Stretches," with careful use of rubber bands; and gluteus stretches with the "Hip Airplane". Included is a tricky " Psoas Stretch".
Unwittingly, many physical fitness fanatics work too hard in training with wrong programs. They follow exercises invented by coaches, or the fads popularized by fitness celebrities and presented as unquestioned dogmas. They brutalize their body, still victims of the old saw "no pain, no gain", with overtraining leading to fatigue.
Fatigue can result from one or a few excessive loads, or from a series of easily repeated lower loads, or a prolonged sustained load (including a sitting task). Fatigue weakens tissues, and destroys control of good form. The athlete is then entering the danger zone: If loading continues, he will lose his margin of safety, and overshoot the limits of his tolerance to cumulative loading, opening the door to accidents and injuries.
The overriding principle of training becomes: Never sacrifice good form for higher loads. Exercising without fatigue and pain is the sine qua non of maintaining good form. This calls for a subtle mix of science and clinical art.
McGill, in his wisdom, reminds eager-beaver "training-vores" of the insidious impact of chronic fatigue, of the refreshing value of taking days off training and the irreplaceable benefit of a good night's sleep.
A good exercise program must carefully combine the findings of biomechanics and neurophysiology, and remain concerned about protecting the spine from potential damage. It must develop awareness of the danger zone where injury becomes unavoidable.
It must favor functional training and its neural control component, make an absolute priority of learning correct motions, grooving them with total control to obtain perfect form before progressing to more challenging levels and higher loads in the training program.
"Ultimate Back" is sprinkled with tests to detect bad form in motions, and gives us the corrective actions to establish good form.
A well-designed training program must also aim at overall development of fitness and thus avoid multiplying redundant exercises that target the same motion (all too frequent in the popular fitness industry).
Once good form is ingrained, endurance comes before strength, and is promoted with a higher number of shorter sets with fewer reps and lighter load, and rest periods in between.
This makes obsolete the old-fashioned practice of long sets with too many reps that bring the muscles to exhaustion, and keep the athlete continually fatigued.
The "reverse pyramid" of sets with declining numbers of reps, or declining loads, allows the training of endurance without creating fatigue.
Strength can be developed only once endurance is established, with higher loads and sets of fewer repetitions, but caution and expertise are paramount as the athlete is entering the danger zone.
Then comes the culmination of performance training in developing speed and power, involving Stuart McGill's cherished concept of "Superstiffness". Top athletes require advanced training of "Pulses", a combination of deep relaxation followed by instant contraction in key motions, such as throwing, swinging, sprinting, jumping, hitting, etc..., all explosive motions in which instant power has to be delivered -- a skill of extreme value to athletic competitors.
Stuart McGill wisely warns that Olympic Lifting is an expert specialty better left to the professionals in this sport, who are in fact mostly "self-selected". Only a few have the very special physical requirements to excel in Olympic Lifts. McGill bemoans the fact that Olympic Lifts are blindly used in schools to "build" strength in youngsters, and he knows from his own practice that many young lifters, even though aware of his warnings, still manage to damage their backs.
He insists that regular 3F members, ordinary urban physical fitness fanatics, should be very cautious in trying to imitate too eagerly the training programs of top professional athletes before they have established enough advanced fitness and strength. This is a mistake many physical fitness fanatics make, a sure way to injury and even death.
Stuart McGill reminds us that top professional competitors are unlike 3F-club members. They are not into sports for simple fun and fitness, or for health and losing weight, or good looks, but to compete against adversaries. They are modern gladiators, Samurai warriors engaged in intense fights where the only goal is crushing an opponent and "winning" a contest, thus gaining fame and riches.
Some critical comments are in order concerning the production and distribution of "Ultimate Back".
Even if Stuart McGill is self-publishing his book and marketing it through his commercial outfit "Backfitpro Inc" in Waterloo, Ontario, Amazon's direct participation would have been useful to McGill's ultimate goal of a wider distribution.
Also, the English in "Ultimate Back" is often unnecessarily heavy, a kind of engineering/technical jargon that may not be immediately clear to us readers -- physical fitness fanatics, competitive athletes, or even coaches.
"Passive" sentences predominate, with long strings of nouns that become quickly hermetic. Reading about "ballistic hip external rotation cable pulls" is hard to digest and not easy to remember as a concept. No wonder that some of the practitioners taking McGill's classes or reading his book seem to misunderstand him.
McGill mentions the "athlete who is flexing their backs," or "have the person drop their buttocks to their heels." One happy solution to avoid sexual bias would be to alternate "he/his" and "she/her".
This misuse of English is annoying from a scientist otherwise finically rigorous when it comes to his specialty. There are style manuals dealing with "Ultimate English Fitness and Performance".
"Ultimate Back" is sorely missing four indispensable features to navigate through this complex technical text (whereas they are available in "Low Back Disorders"):
- a completely detailed table of contents of all the concepts;
- a complete list of all the exercises;
- an extensive index at the end enabling the reader to zero in immediately on any item of interest.
- a glossary of technical terms, with a complete list of the various acronyms.
Especially the absence of a comprehensive index is a frustrating inconvenience, hugely diminishing the usefulness of this book.
For instance, where are all the instances of the "Neutral Spine Position", the "Abdominal Bracing", the "Hip Hinge" and "Activating the Glutei", the four key tenets of Stuart McGill's doctrine?
Same for any other kind of research: Where are the variations of "one-leg squats" or the "deadbug" mentioned and illustrated? You have to waste precious time just leafing through the chapters to find them.
The self-references within the book itself are poor, and the cross-references between both books non-existant.
In addition, "Ultimate Back" uses a much larger font, with huge blocks of blank space. Many of the same publication references are repeated after each chapter, instead of being all combined at the end of the book. I counted about 15 blank pages. This feels like the packaging in supermarket cartons, where a good part of the box is empty.
All these gimmicks -- too frequent these days in fitness book publishing -- are used to push the book to 318 pages. But the quantity of text is not comparable to that of "Low Back Disorders."
And "Ultimate Back" has no hard cover. After only a few weeks' use, some pages are coming off the spine.
The presentation of "Ultimate Back" is nowhere as professional as "Low Back Disorders" -- an indispensable textbook on the back, superbly fashioned by Human Kinetics, with clear and fluid text, superlative presentation, key editing features, and a joy to read, easy to consult again and again. "Ultimate Back" did deserve the same quality of publication.
Self-publishing is the reason for the book's obvious deficiencies, omitting essential features because of the cost involved (making it look amateurish), and it is also an obstacle to its general distribution.
So, let's hope that some of these deficiencies will be corrected in the next, 5th, edition. Only thus can Stuart McGill hope to spread among the larger public the teachings of this new fitness training gospel.
In spite of our reservations concerning the disappointing presentation, the absence of key editing features, and our regret that "Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance" was not published to the standards of Human Kinetics, it still deserves five stars for the high professionalism of its content and its three unique aspects:
- It defines for the training athlete the correct motion and good form in any fitness exercise or any task of lifting, pulling, pushing, throwing and hitting.
- It allows the trainer to detect those mistakes that prevent the athlete from achieving perfect form of movement, with various tests illustrated throughout the book and appropriate corrective actions.
- It emphasizes the progression of increasingly challenging levels of exercise with heavier loads, that is an intrinsic part of a good training program, with an overriding concern for the prevention of potential back injury.
There is just nothing else like it on the market.