You can deadlift 250 kg, yet you slipped your disc lifting 15 kg heavy child. Never Round The Back!!! It’s a widely accepted idea in the commercial fitness industry where mobility has very little emphasis over strength and body image. The idea is that by maintaining the neutral curve to the spine, you will protect the discs from injury by evenly distributing the compression on the discs.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a very valid and smart point when you are about to squat 200kg or deadlift some crazy weight. But why should you, no matter what, avoid flexion in your lower back ? Apart from specialized lifts, standing still upright or sleeping on your side, when in real life movement or athletic performance will your spine strive to maintain neutral position ? The simple answer is nowhere.
The reality is that we are not always in the controlled setting of a gym training session. Most of us will round and twist our spines at some point. The demands that outdoor activities, manual labour or sports put on our bodies are unpredictable, so it makes logical sense that one would want to prepare their body for those situations.
What Does It All Mean ?
The drawback to always training with the lumbar vertebrae in a neutral or arched position is that your mobility and strength will become seriously compromised in a flexed position. If you are forced beyond a certain range of motion, your connective tissue and muscles will be exposed to a magnitude of tension that they are not conditioned to handle, which in turn might mean tears, strains, and sprains. You will simply become strong only in a limited range of motion. It usually starts with the stiff back and ends with the back injury during the simplest of the movements. In other words, we need to prioritise mobility. Today we will focus on flexion and introduce to you, Jefferson Curl.
What Is Jefferson Curl ?
Jefferson Curl is a weighted mobility exercise that emphasizes multi-segmental flexion under load. It is a fantastic exercise to stretch and strengthen your entire posterior chain. The idea behind the move is to increase your resiliency to loaded flexion. It is a very popular exercise among weightlifters, powerlifters and gymnasts. Apart from being a great tool to loosen the back from all the hyperextension, it can be a very effective tool in preventing spinal flexion injuries.
Benefits Of Jefferson Curl
- Lengthening of the posterior chain connective tissue.(Hamstrings, glutes, lumbar fascia, spinal muscles, low traps)
- Strengthening of the posterior connective tissue
- Increased control of spinal mobility
- Improved back health under load
- Possible injury prevention
How To Perform Jefferson Curl
Before we start it’s important to remember:
- It is imperative that in the beginning, this exercise is to be performed at very light weights or perhaps with no weight at all and absolutely pain-free. If you experience the slightest pain you should back off and address the issue before training this movement.
- If you train your mobility with the same intensity that you do your conditioning, it is simply asking for an overuse injury. Your connective tissue takes much longer to adapt. Exercise some patience with progressing of Jefferson Curls, and aim to add anywhere from 2-5 kg every 2-3 months on this movement. You should aim to reach additional 50% -100% body weight lift within a space of 2-3 years. Initially, 5 repetitions in 1-3 sets performed 2-3 times a week at the beginning or end of your exercise routine will be all you need.
- You will need a stable, elevated surface such as a box or bench. With a barbell, kettlebell, or other weight in your hands, stand up tall with your legs straight and perfectly together.
- Begin the movement by tucking your chin into your chest, then slowly rounding your back one vertebrae at a time.
Imagine rolling down one vertebra at a time like a string of pearls.
- Continue lowering, making sure that you do not lean back. Leaning back with your hips will decrease the stretch, as it counter-balances the weight making your body work not as hard.
- Towards the bottom of the movement, your entire spine should have one uniform curve to it. Lower as low as you can while keeping your legs locked out and perfectly straight. Don’t forget to breathe consistently throughout the movement. Keep your arms relaxed and let your shoulders protract. This will help you feel a stretch in the upper and mid back as well.
- From the bottom position simply reverse the movement, articulating the spine one vertebrae at a time, beginning with the low back, mid back, and then upper back. Finish with untucking the chin from your chest.