Jefferson curls are a great exercise to practice bending forward under load. They are safe to do and have been helpful in conquering fear of bending with back pain and with getting my clients back to lifting pain-free.
Here are 4 reasons why you should do Jefferson curls:
Having motion in the spine is a good thing. We need it. A lot of people are lacking spinal mobility and the Jefferson curl is a great stretch to open up some motion into spinal flexion. We need to be able to bend forward for activities of daily living.
Improved Loaded Position Tolerance in Flexion
We try our best to lift things with a perfectly neutral spine position (think deadlifts). That being said, we need to respect that not everything in real life mimics what is done in the gym. People round their back, sometimes to end range, to pick up things from the floor at home. With the Jefferson curl, you are loading up the tissues throughout the range of motion. The load should NOT be maximal. Rather, you should just be working through the entire range of motion allowing the structures of the spine to feel and adapt to load.
Evidence shows that lifting a load under 12 kg (roughly 26.5 pounds) with a rounded spine is not dangerous. This helps solidify the safety of the Jefferson curl under low loads.
Oddly enough, there is a widespread fear of spinal flexion. People are very afraid of bending over. In the fitness world, people are told over and over again that they need to brace their core and maintain a neutral spine. Yes, these are good things to keep in mind while lifting. However, people seemed to have missed the point and a lot of people think that somehow bending over will throw out their back. There may be certain instances where we don’t want to encourage aggressive spinal flexion (i.e. sit-ups) while recovering from an injury, but for the overwhelming number of people it is not something we need to avoid.
The Jefferson curl allows us to feel safe when flexing the spine. It is a great way to reintroduce bending over to pick something up when you are not sure if you can handle it. With a Jefferson curl, you move slowly and controlled. The stretch is performed segment by segment and really lets you improve your body awareness. You can start with your hips against a wall for added support.
Improved Body Awareness
Sometimes people have difficulty differentiating between hip hinges and lumbar flexion. When you do a hip hinge, all of the motion happens at the hips. With lumbar flexion, each segment of the spine should move in isolation. Many people will perform a combination of the two and aren’t aware of their body enough to separate the two motions.
Improving body awareness helps with being comfortable in certain positions as well as feeling where your body should be when exercising.
If you have any questions about whether or not Jefferson curls are right for you, contact us.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT