Engage Core Properly & Fix Low Back Pain With This Exercise

I’ve recently begun using Dr. McGills first movement of his “Big 3” Exercises, the curl up. It’s a simple movement, but as with anything he prescribes, it has serious benefits.

What I love about it is the minimal effort required to get serious activation and neural drive to your core. This then makes it easier to move on to the following exercises of the “Big 3“, and eventually your intense training!


  • Have one knee bent with ankle under knee
  • Have other leg straightened with heel pushing out and toes coming towards shin
  • Focus on keeping a firm foot in the ground also being firm with the straightened leg.
  • Your chin will have the tendency to jut out forward
  • Solve this by tucking your chin in towards your throat as you set up for the movement
  • Push the back of your head into the ground
  • This will engage your neck in the proper fashion then begin the movement
  • Then begin performing the movement

Some Key Points on The Curl Up

You’ll have the tendency to really want to “curl” forward, as the name of the exercise suggests. Rather than curling like a traditional crunch or sit-up, the focus should be on bringing the chest and head UPWARDS toward the ceiling. You’ll also find by doing this that you’ll have more increased engagement of the core musculature than if you rounded into the curled position.

How To Incorporate This Into Training

This should be part of your prep work for your training. In whatever time you allocate to warm up and “prime,” this should be a staple.

I advocate doing 2 to 3 sets and pyramid down such as a 6, 4, 2 format.

Pair these with the other exercises in the “Big 3” that I linked in the beginning of this article and you’ll be moving in a position to trust your body and have a “strong” training session in more ways than one!

I cover more performance training tidbits at mobillitytraining.com that will help you prepare, recover, and perform better on the mats!


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