You may have heard phrases like, “Don’t lift with a round back”, or “You really should only be lifting through the legs.” You have probably heard critics in the fitness world say very bad things about rounding your spine.
In some situations it does make sense to lift with the legs. But being able to round your back smoothly and touch your toes is a primal ability that people need to have. When we reach down to pick up children, we don’t lift like you see on Warehouse Safety posters. We just bend down and grab them – until we lose that ability.
This is why the Jefferson Curl, or “Weighted Pike” is an important exercise. When I’ve introduced people to it with proper care, they have nothing but good things to say. And the Jefferson Curl not only restores your ability to pick up kids, but also allows you to increase your active flexibility without doing any extra work!
Think about our ability to fold over. And what the weight is doing is simply assisting gravity’s pull. Have you ever hung upside down from an Aerial Yoga sling or when you were a kid on the monkey bars? It feels great!
The Jefferson Curl assists gravity by loosening up the spine to give you some space between the little bones in your spine. Since gravity is always pressing your vertebrae down when you’re standing up, it’s a great way to just get a little space between the pieces of your spine. This feeling is probably the most gratifying part of it – feeling loose and relaxed.
All of the movements I do are very slow and deliberate, and that’s the biggest thing to watch for when trying out the Jefferson Curl. Go slowly so you can feel all the small muscles between your shoulder blades stretch apart and give it some space.
This is also why you want to start the movement from a standing position. You want to keep the muscles around your spine squeezed, like you’re bracing for a punch. It’s important to say this because you can’t really see it in the tutorial videos. You’re not just stretching here to maintain what you’ve got, you are actively building mobility that you can control.
It can even help you improve your Forward Fold for free without any extra work.
You are building your ability to squeeze and protect your low-back in a very compromised position. This is exactly the skill that helps when you want to lift small children up without pain, or pick up your car keys without feeling twinges.
The first step to start on is just seeing where you are at with the toe touch. Then picking up a light weight, stand on a box about 12-24” high. Just see what it’s like to bend over with the weight, and be sure to keep your knees straight. This might give you a kind of stretch response. And it is just important to assess your ability before trying to increase anything.
Remember – the Jefferson Curl can really strengthen the hamstrings and low back, as well as decompress the muscles and spine. It can be both strengthening OR soothing, depending on your intention.
And they just feel plain good! That’s reason enough to try them.
So now I’ve talked about two movements that can help you with strengthening the lower-back and hip region:
1. Pigeon Squat
2. Jefferson Curls
How about we teach you about how to improve your shoulders next?
Talk to you soon,