McGill Abdominal Curl Exercise Alternative to Avoid Prolapse Worsening

The McGill abdominal curl may provide you with a pelvic floor safe alternative to abdominal curl exercises.

Women with prolapse problems can increase loading on their pelvic floor with traditional abdominal curls 1.

Read on to learn:

  • Problem with traditional abdominal curl exercises and prolapse
  • McGill Physiotherapy abdominal curl video demonstration
  • Tips for avoiding prolapse strain with the McGill Curl
  • About the McGill abdominal curl

The Problem With Traditional Abdominal Curl Exercises and Prolapse

Many women are now aware that unsafe abdominal curl exercises increase pelvic floor loading and potentially worsen pelvic prolapse problems.

Abdominal curl exercise and prolapse

Traditional abdominal curl exercises increase downward pressure on the pelvic floor 1 (shown above).

This can have the effect of pushing down on the prolapse and forcing it towards the entrance of the vagina when the pelvic floor muscles aren’t working well.

Bending the trunk forwards during abdominal curls increases the downward force and strain on the prolapse potentially causing prolapse symptoms and worsening prolapse problems.

Abdominal Curl Technique to Avoid Pelvic Floor Overload

The McGill Curl is shown in this Physical Therapist video below. You can see that the technique is quite different to a traditional abdominal curl.

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Correct McGill Curl Technique:

  • Start lying down on a firm, flat supportive surface
  • Slide one heel towards your buttocks
  • Keep your other leg extended
  • Place both hands behind your body in the curve of your lower back
  • Keeping your gaze towards the ceiling raise your head and shoulders just off the ground
  • Lower your head and shoulders back to the ground
  • Rest and repeat

Tips for Avoiding Pelvic Floor Strain

  • Maintain the inward curve in your lower back throughout
  • Breathe out as you raise your head and shoulders
  • Breathe normally during this exercise – avoid holding your breath
  • Avoid intense abdominal contraction or bracing
  • Avoid bending your neck and upper trunk forwards during this exercise – your spine must remain straight with the normal curve throughout
  • It can be useful to imagine you’re resting your head and shoulders on a set of bathroom scales when starting and that you’re simply lifting off the scales to register zero
  • Start out with a couple of repetitions only and monitor your prolapse symptoms
  • Avoid prolonged holds especially at the outset when learning this exercise
  • When proficient keep to a maximum of 10 second holds before relaxing
  • Cease this exercise if it causes you prolapse symptoms

About the McGill Abdominal Curl

The McGill abdominal curl provides women with a safer alternative to abdominal curls for abdominal strengthening and toning exercise.

Devised by Professor Stuart McGill, this core abdominal exercise was originally designed for core strengthening and protecting the spinal discs.

The McGill Curl eliminates the forward bend of the trunk which is a feature of traditional abdominal curls. Eliminating the bend of the trunk reduces downward pressure and potential strain on the pelvic floor (and prolapse).

It’s vital to use the correct technique to minimise the pressure on your pelvic floor during the McGill Curl.

Key Points

  • Traditional abdominal curls are inappropriate for women with prolapse problems and poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles.
  • The McGill Abdominal Curl is a core abdominal strengthening exercise
  • Some women with prolapse may find that the McGill Curl provides a safer alternative to traditional abdominal curls for abdominal strengthening and toning
  • Correct technique is important for avoiding prolapse strain.

Further Reading

» 12 Unsafe Abdominal Exercises for Prolapse and After Prolapse Surgery

» Safe Abdominal Exercises – Pelvic Floor Safe Core Exercises

» Side Plank Abdominal Core Exercise for Women With Prolapse


Barton A, Serrao C, Thompson J, Briffa K. (2015) Transabdominal ultrasound to assess pelvic floor muscle performance during abdominal curl in exercising women. Int Urogynecol J. Dec;26(12):1789-95.

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