Other/Mixed Jefferson Curl - Purpose? For whom? and incredible soreness...

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)
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kiwipete

Level 7 Valued Member
Hi team,

Reading about Pavel's SF Resilience programme. It reminded me about my brief experimentation with Jefferson curls.

Often I'll look at an exercise or movement and think, "That's a great idea!" JC was one.

I tried it once a week, two weeks in a row with 2kg, doing 10 slow reps. I have pretty good mobility and flexibility already.

The day after I had the worst soreness through my hamstrings I've ever had. I'd rate it worse than DOMS. Perhaps it was even a nerve stretch?

It was enough to put me off ever doing it again but alas my stupidity wants to see if there is a benefit I'm yet to discover :)

So it brings me to many questions:

# For whom is the JC?
# What criteria would warrant it's use?
# Even with good spinal health are there any reasons where the JC is unnecessary or contraindicated?

What does severe soreness in the back of the legs indicate?

Thank you for any constructive feedback :)
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
The soreness indicates that all the load went to the hamstrings. Jefferson Curl - if done properly - spreads the load evenly to the whole posterior chain: from the bottom of the skull all the way to your heels.

The devil is in the details - that is the reason why StrongFirst RESILIENT covers step-by-step progression:

  • partial & full spinal wave
  • partial full > extended Jefferson Curl
  • unweighted > weighted.

Correct technique is as always a must - if done wrong, the load is usually either in lower back, or - as in you case - hamstrings.

Apart from detailed step by step progression with photos and description, StrongFirst RESILIENT manual has also an extensive article - history (from Calvert to Tommy Kono and beyond).

So, I suggest:

- stop doing JC's for time being. System/succes works better than trial/error.
- learn JC at the upcoming and any other future StrongFirst RESILIENT workshop.
- or wait until more info is published at the blog (we may post the JC or any other StrongFirst RESILIENT exercises article on our blog).
 
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fractal

Level 6 Valued Member
Back when I was doing lots of yoga, I was blown away with how much more effective the Jefferson curl was for forward bending mobility. I gained more ROM in a few weeks of 16-24kg Jefferson curls 1-2x weekly than I did in months of yoga
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
Back when I was doing lots of yoga, I was blown away with how much more effective the Jefferson curl was for forward bending mobility. I gained more ROM in a few weeks of 16-24kg Jefferson curls 1-2x weekly than I did in months of yoga

JCs rock, I am glad that they worked for you, excellent!

Few words of caution for other readers:

- proper technique is paramount
- many practitioners will benefit just from partial and unweighted movement (partial spinal wave)
- if a weight is used, use very light weight - and stay with it for weeks
- the goal is not (only) improving ROM, but getting stronger in current ROM

The reason I have included JC in the StrongFirst RESILIENT curriculum is that I know the benefits are many - but lots of people just jump into it with poor technique and heavy weight, and get injured.
 

fractal

Level 6 Valued Member
JCs rock, I am glad that they worked for you, excellent!

Few words of caution for other readers:

- proper technique is paramount
- many practitioners will benefit just from partial and unweighted movement (partial spinal wave)
- if a weight is used, use very light weight - and stay with it for weeks
- the goal is not (only) improving ROM, but getting stronger in current ROM

The reason I have included JC in the StrongFirst RESILIENT curriculum is that I know the benefits are many - but lots of people just jump into it with poor technique and heavy weight, and get injured.

One key for me is to lift and lengthen while rolling down each segment. The thing I really like about JC is is actually provides a traction effect on the spine. I always found traditional forward bending stretches seated, standing with or without pulling on a strap or the feet much more compressive.

I might have to start doing these again, but definitely not something to approach without focus and understanding. Thank you Pavel for bringing these back into our consciousness!
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
One key for me is to lift and lengthen while rolling down each segment. The thing I really like about JC is is actually provides a traction effect on the spine. I always found traditional forward bending stretches seated, standing with or without pulling on a strap or the feet much more compressive.

I might have to start doing these again, but definitely not something to approach without focus and understanding. Thank you Pavel for bringing these back into our consciousness!

Good analysis, thank you!
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
I first heard of the Jefferson Curl in a Tim Ferriss interview with gymnastics coach Christopher Sommer. Here's a link to the full interview if anyone's interested (be warned: it's over 3 hours long):


I remember thinking "Wow, that sounds awesome!" but it was made very clear that it's a move that needs to be very carefully coached and progressed: Approach with caution!
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
The only issues I have observed are from people who insist on trying to prove they are Conan by working too heavy and treating mobility work like it is the Bataan Death March. On the other hand, those people who are able to set their ego aside and start light with a moderate ROM have reaped enormous benefits from Jefferson Curls.

- Coach Sommer​
 

Bret S.

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
These remind me of a pike stretch, at least that's what I call it, lying on your back and pulling straightened legs overhead and touching toes on the floor. I used to do these every night until I could feel each vertebrae click to the floor while slowly coming down. If I hit a snag I would hang out holding the back of the thighs and gently rock until all vertebrae were moving. It was one of my favorite moves.

I've never tried J curls and will give them a shot unloaded to compare the difference. One big difference I think would be the lumbar loading, one exercise loads it from the top while the other loads from the bottom.

It will be interesting to compare ..
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
@Bret S. "Lumbar loading" is in my opinion exactly the reason why people get hurt. J-Curl - if done correctly - spreads the load all over the posterior chain.
 

Bret S.

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
@Bret S. "Lumbar loading" is in my opinion exactly the reason why people get hurt. J-Curl - if done correctly - spreads the load all over the posterior chain.
I assume then that if done correctly the Jefferson curl would be performed with slightly bent legs to transfer the load around to the rest of the lower portion of the posterior chain, mainly hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, calves and down through to the balls of the feet?
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
@Bret S. No, the legs are kept straight. I really like the name "curl" (instead of e.g. deadlift) - "curl" is the keyword. Vertbrae after vertebrae: no bending (and breaking), but curling.
 

Bret S.

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
@Bret S. No, the legs are kept straight. I really like the name "curl" (instead of e.g. deadlift) - "curl" is the keyword. Vertbrae after vertebrae: no bending (and breaking), but curling.
Interesting, I must admit my ignorance around this and ask this question, once the motion is bottomed out and the last lumbar vertebrae is 'curled' with the upper body hanging over toward the toes and legs are straight, how could the 'load' not be on the hamstrings as in a stiff legged deadlift?
I'll attempt to answer my own question..
When the upper body and spine are gently curled over and hanging down the weight is more heel-centric, the position of the legs being similar to doing heavy swings where the straight legs are hinged at the ankle. This would be a way to spread the load and take some pressure off the hamstrings?
I realize the best answer is come to the class and learn it but that's not in the near future for me so I'm trying to get the basic concept with safety in mind.
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
@Bret S. The load is of course in the hamstrings (too)- but not only in the hamstrings (or lumbar): it is spread all over the posterior chain. Most people simply bend at their lower back or kind of hinge, and either get really sore in the hamstrings, or (worse), get injured, especially in the lower back, or develop overuse injuries.

Proper technique, learned step by step (partial unweighted movement > full unweighted movement > partial movement with very light weight > full movement with very light weight > extended ROM). And each progression may/will take weeks, maybe even months. Only then you will reap the tremendous benefits. Wrong technique, too far/too heavy too soon - injury. That is the reason why I have developed step-by-step method for J-Curl - 6 main progressions with lots of hints and tips, plus additional article (which may be published on our StrongFirst blog).
 

Bret S.

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
@Bret S. The load is of course in the hamstrings (too)- but not only in the hamstrings (or lumbar): it is spread all over the posterior chain. Most people simply bend at their lower back or kind of hinge, and either get really sore in the hamstrings, or (worse), get injured, especially in the lower back, or develop overuse injuries.

Proper technique, learned step by step (partial unweighted movement > full unweighted movement > partial movement with very light weight > full movement with very light weight > extended ROM). And each progression may/will take weeks, maybe even months. Only then you will reap the tremendous benefits. Wrong technique, too far/too heavy too soon - injury. That is the reason why I have developed step-by-step method for J-Curl - 6 main progressions with lots of hints and tips, plus additional article (which may be published on our StrongFirst blog).
Thanks Pavel, I'll look for the article..
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
@Bret S.

Sorry for hesitating to post online tutorial - your spine is to precious, I would prefer to coach and explain in person. We will see if there will be opportunity for more detailed article about J-Curl and/or other StrongFirst Resilient exercises. My advice would be (for time being) - when I doubt, don't do it.
 
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