A man stretches his hip flexors and quads in a half kneeling position.

Lumbar and knee pain routine A La Joe De Franco’s Limber 11 and Stu McGill’s Big 3

Low back pain. Knee pain. Most of us have probably encountered these all-too-common issues before, and all of us know or have met somebody who has suffered from either chronic pain or a traumatic back or knee injury at some point in their lives. According to the ACA and Global Burden of Disease 2010, low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives; and according to The BMUS (Burden of Musculoskeletal Disease), in any given year, 12% to 14% of the adult population will visit their physician for back pain. As far as knee pain is considered, the

stats aren’t any better. According to the Virtual Medicine Centre, knee pain occurs in approximately 19% of the American population.
Low back pain and knee pain affect your ease and enjoyment of life at the simplest level, and impact your ability to use your body in most physical and athletic endeavors as well. Not only that, but once an injury or chronic pain develops in one of these (or many other) areas, we often develop an altered gait and compromised way of using our body to get around and perform physical activities. Those range from standing up off of the couch, to the way we stand when stationary, to the way we walk, and to the activities, exercises, and sports we enjoy – which in turn leads to potentially incurring further overuse/chronic pain in new areas that were used in inappropriate ways while we moved and worked with our altered movement pattern (Cumulative Injury Cycle).

A six-step illustration showing the progressions of the cumulative injury cycle.

Don’t push through pain! Training with injury causes more injury!



Fortunately, many cases of low back and knee pain are caused by a lack of, and can be fixed by, musculoskeletal mobility and core strength. CAUTION: Don’t begin any physical activity routine before clearance by your doctor, and that includes stretching! Especially post-injury! Even without ever incurring a single “traumatic” injury (think injury incurred in one fell-motion that results in tissue trauma, eg. sprained ankle, torn ACL, broken toe, etc.), we can and will develop musculoskeletal imbalances as a result of altered and inappropriate length:tension relationships between the muscles, bones and joints of our body as a whole. To put it simply, the body requires a specific amount of mobility to move into and out of positions both statically and dynamically, while needing the stability to protect muscles, joints, and bones from improper movement and injury from forces incurred through activity.
Too little mobility due to a laundry-list of factors combined with a lack of stability (think ligament, tendon, bone, and muscle density and strength to protect the spine and knees) is a recipe for disaster when you have to move and are carrying awkward, heavy objects, or when you work and pick up and carry medium weight objects with high frequency…or when you lift weights or play a sport. Think of our body and muscles as a rubber band, and imagine a continuum with stability on one extreme and mobility on the other. If our rubber band is so stable that it’s rigid to the point of being completely immobile, it obviously can’t perform any movement; it can’t be stretched and contracted. On the other hand, if our rubber band is so mobile that it is looks and flops around more like a wet noodle, then obviously it has no stability and strength. In either situation, our rubber band, aka our muscles, tendons and joints are unsafe and unfit for many activities.
Enter the aptly named Limber 11, a series of mobility movements put together by a great coach and trainer, Joe DeFranco, and a series of core strengthening movements developed by world-renowned spine health doctor and researcher. Dr. Stuart McGill. Using the combination of these two routines, we can set ourselves up to be mobile enough for our given sport or activity, while having the core strength and musculoskeletal stability in general to protect the spine, joints, and muscles from the forces found in movements with explosiveness/heavy resistance/etc. The Limber 11 to keep you mobile and able to move through required range of motion in key areas for athletic movement (particularly around the hips and knees), and the Big 3 for a bullet-proof spine and core.
Limber 11

Big 3

Lying down, performing a band-assisted glute and calf stretch.

Convenient and effective lateral hip stretch! While Lying down!

Whether you’re a powerlifter, crossfitter, football player, or general fitness girl/guy, you can and should implement at least some of the movements in these routines (if not all) to reduce, eliminate, and prevent low back pain and other injuries in daily life, in sports, and in weight training and other forms of exercise. Most would be surprised just how effective the combination mobility and core strength, executed properly with one’s own unique history and goals in mind, can be in eliminating and preventing low back and knee pain and injuries short-term (think warm up before your workout) and long-term (over your lifetime, through any and all activities).