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Other/Mixed Should You Fear Lumbar Flexion?

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

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
if I fail or otherwise lose control while doing sit-ups, my spine will just extend and I will safely go to the floor. If the same happens during a set of J-curls, it's the bar that is going to the floor, while I'm on my way to the snap city.
This seems to highlight one of the points I made above. Any coach/trainer worth listening to would tell you to start J curls with like 5 pounds, and maybe even an empty PVC pipe. While I cite folks like Moses Bernard who can do a double bodyweight J curl, they almost always spents years (he spent 5 I lthink) getting there. I saw a source (it escapes me atm where) in which the author said something like "start with bodyweight to be safe." It bothered me, because I thought to myself, "body weight, as in nothing in your hands? or body weight, as in, body weight on the bar?" Which brings me to. . .

Well, is it that irresponsible to blame a supposed "expert" if something they advise ends up injuring you? An average person has little basic understanding of complex topics related to fitness. If a purported coach tells them to deadlift with crooked back, or shrug their shoulders while locking out their overhead presses, shouldn't they blame that coach if something goes wrong? What is more irresponsible: falling for stupid or misaimed advice or spreading it in the first place?
I was originally answering as to why I thought we don't see a ton of nuance in fitness education. Part of that answer amounted to it being due to content providers protecting themselves from liability issues, because they ultimately can't control what people do after being exposed to their content. I, however, think there is a list of things in the training world that are misunderstood and spread as some sort of ubiquitous thing everyone ought to do. I think the fitness space would be better if nuance and context were more commonplace.

I think it's a both-and situation, like much in life. There are definitely "experts" that give vague, poorly-communicated, misinformed, and/or otherwise dangerous advice. There are also people who watch videos saying "do 100 pushups a day to get super healthy" and injure themselves. As I said, trainers and content creators ultimately cannot stop folks in the general public from doing stupid stuff. They can, however, take the time to educate themselves to spread better knowledge and advice.

It's never going to be perfect, and it's always probably going to be messy. It certainly doesn't help that there are PhDs out there giving contradictory advice to each other, and there are also people with zero credentials getting equal or better results than the PhDs.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
Is there any evidence that J curls or other progressive round back loading has a protective effect on the lower back?

Cirque du Soleil gymnasts seem to do them for some reason.

It may not be for pre-habilitation, but I don't think they'd practice it just for giggles given they have an acute risk/reward envelope to manage.

It maybe an accessory strength move for acrobatic tricks.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
Is there any evidence that J curls or other progressive round back loading has a protective effect on the lower back?

In this video on the Jefferson curl, this guy cites some studies about how how mileage cyclists had healthier lumbar spinal tissue adaptations.

Of course, that doesn't mean that a loaded Jefferson curl induces that, too. But perhaps it's not crazy to think it might.

 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
In this video on the Jefferson curl, this guy cites some studies about how how mileage cyclists had healthier lumbar spinal tissue adaptations.

Of course, that doesn't mean that a loaded Jefferson curl induces that, too. But perhaps it's not crazy to think it might.

Mileage cyclists are supporting the upper body with their hands.

I’m not suggesting any of these are bad for you, just wondering about the effect aside maybe from a loaded stretch.

Personally I have to do some flexion during the day, esp when driving. Fascis arthritis does not like direct pressing with extension, so normally I tuck tail when seated.

When pulling loads or even just bending over I keep it neutral. If forced to round back I’ll drop my hips under my shoulders before standing.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
Mileage cyclists are supporting the upper body with their hands.

I’m not suggesting any of these are bad for you, just wondering about the effect aside maybe from a loaded stretch.

Personally I have to do some flexion during the day, esp when driving. Fascis arthritis does not like direct pressing with extension, so normally I tuck tail when seated.

When pulling loads or even just bending over I keep it neutral. If forced to round back I’ll drop my hips under my shoulders before standing.

Might be tough to know until we do cadaver studies on populations that do a lot of Jefferson curls. ;)
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
This is a HUGE extrapolation on my part, but it's the logic my brain puts together.

We know that anterior pelvic tilt is often seen alongside back pain, which would, to me, indicate some sort of excessive lumbar lordosis. This would implicate that the disks would be compressed posteriorly. A herniated disk is pushing the inner matter of the disk away from the zone of compression, so we would expect to see the herniation happening anteriorly. So if someone is suffering from something like that, it would make sense, at least on paper, that performing the opposite motion would relieve that stress; that is, flexion would unload the compressed area of the spine. Obviously there are different kinds of injury presentations with back pain.

Continuing with some armchair theory here.... the general idea among people who like to train "all angles" is that if you balance strength in as many directions as possible, you give your body/joints more control and resiliency. You would have to do some digging, but there is an athlete/trainer out there who at point (and maybe still is?) affiliated with GB. Her name is Ashleigh Gass. She was there when I took a seminar from Coach Sommer back in 2015 or so. She had had a terrible back before incorporating GB-style movements, and had MRIs to show the before and after states of her spine. IIRC, she had a herniated disk that totally healed.

Now, that's a LOT of anecdote, but I'm not aware of any studies of the J curl yet.

My takeaway is that training mulitple ROMs in the spine ought to give the disks more space, so to speak. You are never chronically compressing one side, and you are giving the disk exposure to changes in mechanical stress. I don't know how disks adapt, but I do know that tissue in the body in general adapts to the stresses imposed upon it. I kind of wonder if never exposing disks to anyting outside of "neutral" prevents them from experiencing adaptation. Then again, that's just a speculation of mine.

My general thought is just to load what feels good, and gradually expand that. Less movement options = less resiliency, very generally speaking. I think expanding movement options will probably make anyone feel better.

Last little note/tangent: one thing I liked about GBs training ideology was the idea of training in such a way as to make the tissues themselves stronger. That, I think, is one thing that might be missing from low-rep minimalist training. Tissue adaptation, from what I've read, needs a certain degree of volume.
 

TimothyGander

Level 5 Valued Member
I was hip hinging just to lift up toilet seats.
I do that too, is there something particularly wrong with it? Shouldn't you generally do daily tasks the same way you lift?

Part of that answer amounted to it being due to content providers protecting themselves from liability issues, because they ultimately can't control what people do after being exposed to their content. I, however, think there is a list of things in the training world that are misunderstood and spread as some sort of ubiquitous thing everyone ought to do. I think the fitness space would be better if nuance and context were more commonplace.
Maybe so. But I do also think popular fitness content should be tailored to the common audience and common needs. An average person needs to un-learn flexion and learn extension. A fitness personality saying flexion is dangerous isn't likely to ruin an elite powerlifter's career (because such a person will already have enough experience and knowledge to make their own assessment), while claiming it's not an issue is likely to set up many fitness normies for lifetime of back problems.

Another issue that often gets ignored is that many people just don't understand nuance or context. A major formative experience in my life was working as a pizza delivery man and gradually realizing how many people don't actually understand what their home address actually means, that is if they know it in the first place. If I were to become a fitness influencer, I would definitely keep in mind these guys may watch my content too.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
I like having the option of being able to bend at the waist and use lumbar flexion for mundane and light everyday tasks if I choose.

It makes tying my shoes easier.
Yeah, but do you need to do the Jefferson curl thingy to tie your shoes?

I'm NOT saying this is you at all, but there are a chunk of gym rats that probably would do just as well to freaking stretch once in a while or do full range of motion or do RDLs properly - but will they? No, they won't but they'll load up a Jefferson curl oh boy!
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
Yeah, but do you need to do the Jefferson curl thingy to tie your shoes?

I'm NOT saying this is you at all, but there are a chunk of gym rats that probably would do just as well to freaking stretch once in a while or do full range of motion or do RDLs properly - but will they? No, they won't but they'll load up a Jefferson curl oh boy!

If you can't tie your shoes, you probably shouldn't be Jefferson curling. ;)

Pilates curl up / down was also eye opening for me -- the fact that there was a time when I couldn't do it.

My TVA was also a bit "sleepy" -- improving that also dramatically improved my pelvic control, which improved my hip mobility, which also improved my hamstring mobility, which improved my hinges.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
I'm NOT saying this is you at all, but there are a chunk of gym rats that probably would do just as well to freaking stretch once in a while or do full range of motion or do RDLs properly - but will they? No, they won't but they'll load up a Jefferson curl oh boy!

I've never actually seen a true meat head attempt a Jefferson curl.

Crossfitters, on the other hand.....
 
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bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
An average person needs to un-learn flexion and learn extension.
I used to think that until I started learning more of the intricacies of posture. Posture, imo, can be thought of as how we orient our skeletons in space to keep our center of mass over our base of support, so we don't fall over.

I think there's a lot of people who have too much kyphosis of the thoracic spine, but that can often be tied to anterior pelvic tilt, which is tied to lumbar extension. If the hips dump forward (for whatever reason) the only way you can stay upright is to hinge backward through the back (lumbar extension/lordosis). Then the only way to keep the head in a place where you can function is to crane it forward.

Then there's "swayback posture," in which the pelvis can be stuck posteriorly tilted, causing the ribs to shift back in space, and also maybe causing the lower back to lose some of its lordosis. Since the ribs shift back, just like with the above example, neck has to crane forward.

Then, there's the crowd that thinks flexion is the devil, and they spend all their time in extension, which creates its own problems by compressing the back. The thoracic spine is stuck too straight (yes) and thus the ribcage is stuck in a "flat" position posteriorly, and the ribs themselves are in an externally rotated position (they are stuck in the "inhaling" position). This puts the diaphragm in a lengthened. stretched position which makes it harder to contract. Since it can't contract well enough, the person might end up using neck muscles to breath in an effort to expand the ribcage, where the lungs are located. The flat upper back can also lead to shoulder issues, since the scapulae cannot effectively glide on it anymore.

All that is to say that it's not as simple as "flexion vs extension." It's certainly not as simple, imo, as "flexion bad, extension good." As Conor Says in the videos, there's not as strong a correlation as you might think between "bad" posture and pain.

I think these videos do a good job of outlining the basic principles I wrote above. Conor is a younger guy, but notice that he never makes ubiquitous statements, outlines scope of practice, and highlights nuances.


This is about swayback posture, but the first 5-ish minutes outline many of the principles I wrote out above.

As I outlined in a previous post, if you have to hinge at the hips without letting your spine bend to do anything, you have lost movement in your body.

Lastly, I've brought this up elsewhere on the forum, but it is interesting to note that the facet joints of the lumbar region only allow flexion and extension.... The lumbar spine is meant to have less mobility than the rest of the spine, but it is not meant to have zero mobility.
 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Since it can't contract well enough, the person might end up using neck muscles to breath in an effort to expand the ribcage
I want to preface this by saying I’m not trying to be argumentative. How do neck muscles help breath? I was only aware that the diaphragm did by creating what I think of as a vacuum, forcing the lungs to expand. I haven’t heard of neck muscles doing that, and not sure how it would work.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
I want to preface this by saying I’m not trying to be argumentative. How do neck muscles help breath? I was only aware that the diaphragm did by creating what I think of as a vacuum, forcing the lungs to expand. I haven’t heard of neck muscles doing that, and not sure how it would work.
No worries. I'm never trying to be argumentative here either. I just feel that there's a lot more to biomechanics than the vague stuff that we read in most places. I try to bring awareness to nuances that many people aren't aware of.

The action of the diaphragm creates a vaccum in the ribs, which draws air in, and expands the ribs. If the ribs didn't expand, the lungs couldn't expand either. If the diaphragm is not contracting or cannot contract effectively, the body will look for ways to make space for the lungs to expand. The scalenes and pec minor are some of the muscles that attach to the ribs at points where they can facillitate that expansion. In essence, they "lift" the ribs to create that space. The scalenes and pec minor are sometimes considered secondary or "accessory" breathing muscles. The intercostals also function to expand and contract the ribcage when needed.

I don't recall if Conor Harris touched on it in the videos I posted, but extending through the spine also gets the ribs to raise. It's more subtle than you might think. You can experiment on yourself and see: when you take a deep breath, does your back arch? It shouldn't, really. The posterior ribcage should expand as well as the anterior, the sides...... If it can't, the body looks for ways to expand the ribcage wherever it can.

Watch how the ribs expand:

Anyways, that's a derail from lumbar flexion...but all that stuff ties into back health and posture.
 
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