Backfitpro – McGill – Back Mechanic & McGill Method Level 3 Course Review

Just this weekend gone I attended the two workshops (Back Mechanic and McGill Method Level 3 – High Performance Training)  that was delivered by one of Stuart McGill’s educators Joel Proskewitz who travelled out from London.  The course was hosted by Ben Lustig at Crossfit Moreland (check out Crossfit Moreland instagram page here.)   The course was attended by a range of health care professionals and strength and conditioning coaches, with my osteopathic colleagues Jarrod Testa (soon to be osteopath), Nick Efthimiou (Integrative Osteopathy) and Exercise Physiologist Nik Cupic (Optimal Health Exercise Physiology) in tow.  Both days were action packed with a range of lecturers, small and large practical workshops.

I have literally followed Stuart McGill’s work since I graduated as an osteopath in 2003 and have bought and read all of his books.  So to attend two of his workshops was fantastic as it gave me an opportunity to revise and also learn from someone who practices this approach on a daily basis the intricacies of theory and application of Stuart McGill methods.  It was also great to see how research can be applied to the individual and how this then translates into real life application with clients.

Day 1 – Back Mechanic Workshop

The first day was focused on Stuart’s recent book Back Mechanic – The secrets to a healthy spine your doctor isn’t telling you.  Key take home messages from the days teachings include the following:

Myth busting –

A quick review of the many common myths with regards to an individual with back pain and the common misconceptions related this i.e. my MRI is a statement of who I am and what treatment I need.  There are many myths that we as health professionals deal with on a daily basis that we must look to dispel.  Many of these myths can often be detrimental to the client and as part of the consultation process it is our duty to provide an evidence based rationale with regards to our treatment, management and advice given.

Anatomy and back pain mechanisms –

A review of the spine and the many different types of back pain complaints and mechanisms of injury.   Included in this was a focus on the various back complaints and how these often change/progress throughout the different age categories.

Back health strategies – focusing on how we can look to maintain good back health on a daily basis.  This involved educating the client to undertaking daily healthy practices, identifying triggers or aggravating postures or activities, being mindful of passive treatment interventions when results aren’t correlating with improvement and taking an individual approach to each and everyone’s back.

The self assessment process –

Joel took us through the self assessment process as described in the back mechanic book and taught us how to apply this in the everyday clinical setting.  Joel discussed in detail common questions to ask of the client to gain insight into the type of pain, location of pain, pain triggers relating to postures and activities of daily living.  Physical assessments performed looked at how the back copes with sitting postures and compression, the heel drop test which helps one determine if dynamic loads are causing pain, prone lying and acttive standing extension to identify if mechanical positions or movements can aggravate ones pain, the wall plank with pelvic movement to identify triggers and relieving positions, an anterior load hold to determine if the back can handle external loads as well as the pelvic motion test with a barbell to review position and compression tolerance.  On top of this we looked at standing posture and how back copes with static standing postures.

Removing the cause of pain – implementing basic movement tools –

During this component of the workshop we covered all things ranging from abdominal bracing strategies, identifying and implementing pain free postures (lying, sitting and standing) as well as pain free movement strategies that included squatting, the lunge, stop twist, walking, bending, pushing and pulling

The Big 3 – The Curl Up, Side Plank, Birddog –

We then went into great detail on how and when to implement the big 3 movement patterns into ones exercise rehab or strength and conditioning program.  It was great to see how to instruct these and have our clients perform these with appropriate regressions or progressions so to avoid aggravation of ones back complaint.

Addressing Other Functions – Walking, The Hip Complex –

Strategies were taught to educate our clients on how to implement walking and when/how to address hip function to assist the back pain client.  This included the prescription of waking strategies and looking at the function of the hip muscles from ground through to upright function with various exercises.

Day 2 – McGill Method Level 3 – High Performance Training: Progressing backs from pain to performance

Day 2 of the course was very much focused on looking at the athlete or individual who regularly trains to prevent and also improve management of back pain.  We applied many of the principles learnt from day 1 and then took this to the gym setting and applied it to push, pulling, bracing, squatting, deadlifting and carries with a focus on optimal technique and how to rebuild the athlete or person from ground up (engraining movement patterns, building stability and motor control, increasing endurance, then strength and finally looking at power and agility).

For those individuals who are currently dealing with back pain, be sure to check out Stuarts book – Back Mechanic.  For those health professionals or strength and conditioning coaches working with the general population or athletes, be sure to check out all of Stuarts books.  Apparently Stuart is attending Australia next year to run more workshops.  So hope to see you there.

This article was written by osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.  Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD leading osteopathy clinics. We are located on Level 4 of 178 Collins St (within Pleasance House) alongside Optimal Health Exercise Physiology.  We have a fully equipped strength and conditioning exercise rehab space with osteopathic consult rooms.  Our team of osteopaths have an interest in manual therapy, str