Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: McGill 3 Core Exercises

Introducing the McGill 3 Core Exercises, considered to be among the healthiest options for our spines. The exercises include: The Curl-Up, Bird Dog, and Side Bridge.

Contributed by Deniz Hekmati – Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Sport Scientist 

In this tip of the week, we want to introduce the McGill 3 Core Exercises. These are considered to be among the healthiest options for our spines.

The exercises include: The Curl-Up, Bird Dog, and Side Bridge.

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Curl Up: with one leg bent and one straight, place the hands under the lower back, flex the spine to lift off the shoulder blades and create pressure on the hands by deliberately contracting the abs, while keeping the elbows lifted off the ground. Maintain long neck, and head looking straight up – just like the bodyline in the water. Imagine that someone is pulling a string through our head and spine – this long line should be maintained throughout all of the following exercises.

The Bird Dog: from a table top position, maintain a neutral spine through the movement. Simultaneously, reach the arm forward, and kick the leg back.

Avoid excessive kicking to round the lower back and shrugging the shoulder to the ears.

The Side Bridge: let’s go over 3 simple progressions:

First the set up – keep the elbow right under the shoulder and the other shoulder in the same line the entire movement with a maintained neutral spine.

Progression 1: both knees are bent and stacked on top of each other. Push through the ground with hips, obliques, and shoulders.

Progression 2: extend the top leg and put even pressure from top and bottom leg with both thighs in one line.

Progression 3: both legs are extended – keep the top leg over the bottom leg – it’s easier on the hips.

All these exercises can be progressed and regressed based on the proficiency in movement execution. Use these as the base of your core work before advancing further.

Swimmers are notorious for having crazy ab, or core routines. At certain points, this drives us insane because we see swimmers performing exercises they are not strong enough to complete, or that the exercise selections may be inflicting more damage to the spine, rather than helping athletic performance. These movements are often times “swim specific.”

Let me remind you that the main job for the core is to transfer energy to the upper and lower extremities. I am afraid that many swimming programs out there are progressing and expecting too much too soon, which then increases the risk of injuries.

I see many coaches being creative, but be creative with stability – as long as movements look controlled and stable, we don’t need to worry too much.

A good coach will have swimmers master these exercises, then build on them. There are endless amounts of variations that can be done for all three of these. I encourage you all to go out and experiment!

Next week, let’s talk about how to grip things in the weight room.

Thanks for watching!

See more videos from Swimmer Strength Coach Deniz Hekmati:

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Abdominal Bracing

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Strength and Dryland Technique Matters

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Age to Start Dryland Training or Strength Training

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Squat Problems

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Performing the Squat

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Fixing the Squat by Improving Range of Motion

Get more info about Coach Hekmati and his team training camps, workshops, online strength training, and in-person strength training.

Note: All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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4 years ago

Thank you, this is great. Do you have suggestions of yoga poses that would be good for swimmers.

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