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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)

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Interesting, is it common to have apartments distinguished by letters instead of numbers stateside? That would be certainly harder to mix up, but wouldn't fly in my area where buildings can have dozens or hundreds apartments each.
No, I’m not sure how apartments choose numbers or letters. I’ve been been in plenty of both. The last apartment was Apt C, the one before was Apt 202, the one before that was 301, the one before that was Apt B… in the case of 202 and 301 those numbers had their own meanings - 200 or 300 meant 2nd or 3rd floor, and the last digit was the apartment number. So 201 was on top of 101 and under 301. But on others A/B/C/D we’re first floor and E/F/G/H were second floor. Not sure the rhyme or reasons here!
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
From what I've seen of people with upper cross syndrome compensating for poor shoulder mobility via big ole swaybacks / excessive APT, it's lumbar extension that is the phantom menace.
 
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Philippe Geoffrion

Level 7 Valued Member
Did Tommy actually use the term "chaos training"?

That seems a bit surprising that he would use that term.
No…I couldn’t remember his actual quote.

I don’t have Beyond Bodybuilding on hand but it was a very articulate metaphor like …
“If the lifter’s position is static and trained without variance, it will become like cast iron and in the face of deviation, instead of bending, will break….” (Paraphrased)

I forget who coined “chaos training”… may have been Louie but I’m unsure.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
Came across this today and thought it could go here. An (admittedly kind of simplified) visual representation of some of the things I was trying to explain earlier in the thread:


This is the same guy I've mentioned who has a 2x bodyweight Jefferson curl
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Great topic and there’s been insightful remarks here.

For the record, we’re talking about loaded flexion yes?

Call me crazy, I think lifters who rigidly (as more often than not they should), have a higher risk of flexion related back injuries than nonlifters, even in non competitive atmospheres. Maybe outlandish, but these athletes train to purposefully avoid this position as often as possible, while a normal person with no concept of proper form, will do everyday activities with no second thought about flexion.

I remember @kennycroxdale posted an article on this topic about an experiment where back flexion strength was measured across powerlifters and regular people and the powerlifters demonstrated no superior strength to an untrained individual.

That being said, Tommy Kono used to do his deadlifts, which seem similar to Jefferson DLs, for this specific reason - as “chaos training.” Louie implemented round back good mornings, perhaps for similar reasons, as I’m not sure such an exercise would aid in a properly executed lift.

However, there are “healthy” ways to practice at least maintaining the ROM of flexion: hanging leg raises, Cat Camel, hollow position anythings, pull throughs, hip thrusts. As far as I know, many of these at least put the back in flexion while strengthening surroundings areas. Perhaps it is enough?

Just thoughts on observations.
As I understand it, the general population has a much higher incidence of lower back issues needing treatment than the lifting poulation. This has been argued as proof that good form is overrated, to me it means good form is demonstrably important.

The info re flexion strength also shows that in most cases it is the bony aspects if the spine supporting a lot of the load rather than the musculature. Incidental rounding is not triggering adaptive response in a predictable manner.

As someone with lower back arthritis, I can support all sorts of load with a neutral back. Static lift under flexion to another transition is OK, like an Atlas lift. Flexion to neutral under load is absolutely murder.
 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Came across this today and thought it could go here. An (admittedly kind of simplified) visual representation of some of the things I was trying to explain earlier in the thread:


This is the same guy I've mentioned who has a 2x bodyweight Jefferson curl
Really interesting, never heard about tensegrity before. Do you have a primer you could share? And in our spines, what are the rubber bands (from the model) that are holding it together?
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
Really interesting, never heard about tensegrity before. Do you have a primer you could share? And in our spines, what are the rubber bands (from the model) that are holding it together?
I'll do my best. I wouldn't consider myself very well versed in tensegrity; however, I think that if one has a mechanically-inclined or visual mind, it's not terribly hard to grasp the idea. Tensegrity is an idea that exists outside of biomechanics, but was brought into it.

I believe the rubber bands are an idealization of the forces acting on the spine. See the video below.

From wikipedia:

A quick word on biomechanics theories:

I love biomechanics. I'm going into physics, but I don't see my love of biomechanics going away any time soon, especially as the two are related. There are a lot of people who have put out various biomechanics models. I would say that, just like in the realm of training, it's not so much about which idea is best, as it is how different ideas cross concepts with each other. The tensegrity model of biomechanics is really interesting. I haven't done a deep dive on it, but if it lights a spark for anyone, I suggest Thomas Myers work.

Thomas Myers is the guy who made fascia a thing that anyone cared about. Caveat here, some people out there took his ideas and ran wayyyyy out into woo-woo land with them. They do not represent his ideas, from what I understand.

This video covers quite a bit of ground, and might be worth a re-watch, or a watch-and-pause, if you really want to get the juicy tid bits out of it. It is important to remember that this is a presentation of the overarching theory. To understand individual structures, or how the systems of the body work, you'd have to dig deeper.

 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I'll do my best. I wouldn't consider myself very well versed in tensegrity; however, I think that if one has a mechanically-inclined or visual mind, it's not terribly hard to grasp the idea. Tensegrity is an idea that exists outside of biomechanics, but was brought into it.

I believe the rubber bands are an idealization of the forces acting on the spine. See the video below.

From wikipedia:

A quick word on biomechanics theories:

I love biomechanics. I'm going into physics, but I don't see my love of biomechanics going away any time soon, especially as the two are related. There are a lot of people who have put out various biomechanics models. I would say that, just like in the realm of training, it's not so much about which idea is best, as it is how different ideas cross concepts with each other. The tensegrity model of biomechanics is really interesting. I haven't done a deep dive on it, but if it lights a spark for anyone, I suggest Thomas Myers work.

Thomas Myers is the guy who made fascia a thing that anyone cared about. Caveat here, some people out there took his ideas and ran wayyyyy out into woo-woo land with them. They do not represent his ideas, from what I understand.

This video covers quite a bit of ground, and might be worth a re-watch, or a watch-and-pause, if you really want to get the juicy tid bits out of it. It is important to remember that this is a presentation of the overarching theory. To understand individual structures, or how the systems of the body work, you'd have to dig deeper.

That video was really interesting. It seems to provide a model for a lot of things that I've encountered or experienced. I'll have to dig into Myers a bit. Thanks!
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Not being argumentative, but do you have links or sources? Curious about the study design, etc.

^ This is not the study I was referring to by memory, I’ll keep looking…

Also a phenomena where the lower back muscles literally get turned off at end range flexion. I’d suggest that loading a Jefferson Curl with more load than is needed to pull the passive trunk into full flexion may be pointless.
 

Denys Carthusian

Level 2 Valued Member
I've actually heard the dead pig spine bending cited as a reason not to do sit ups.
I seem to recall Brett Jones talking about kinesiology or physiology classes back in the day talking about the patellar tendons based on cadaver studies and it being complete bollocks compared to how they actually behave in real life, but have forgotten the context.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Denys—you may be referring to the concept of lateral tracking of the patella which was thought to be due to the quad or lateral structures pulling the patella laterally (where surgeons used to do lateral releases to get the patella to track better in the trochlear groove) but under weight bearing MRIs what was happening was medial/internal rotation of the femur due to poor hip control creating lateral "stress" but not because the patella was getting pulled laterally.

RE: lumbar flexion
Because we already know that "neutral is a range" it highlights (even more in my mind) the need to aim for neutral in our lifting.

Beyond that "neutral range" when the spine changes "shape" under load is the "danger zone" IMO.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Elite Certified Instructor
From what I've seen of people with upper cross syndrome compensating for poor shoulder mobility via big ole swaybacks / excessive APT, it's lumbar extension that is the phantom menace.
I commend Robin McKenzie's, "Treat Your Own Back" to you. He thinks, and my experience agrees as both patient and teacher, that flexion is the culprit. McKenzie specifically cites being relaxed while in flexion, and the more warmed up you are, the worse prolonged, relaxed flexion can be. He doesn't touch on lifting at all. Using myself as an example, I don't lift with a belt, but I sit with a lumbar support.

Don't take my word for it - the book is well worth $10 or so it costs.

-S-
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
I commend Robin McKenzie's, "Treat Your Own Back" to you. He thinks, and my experience agrees as both patient and teacher, that flexion is the culprit. McKenzie specifically cites being relaxed while in flexion, and the more warmed up you are, the worse prolonged, relaxed flexion can be. He doesn't touch on lifting at all. Using myself as an example, I don't lift with a belt, but I sit with a lumbar support.

Don't take my word for it - the book is well worth $10 or so it costs.

-S-

Oh, I don't have any issues.

I was just observing movement patterns in others.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
After another exchange about back pain and forward folding, I have found:

Conclusions: Changes in the passive flexion stiffness of the lumbar spine may increase the risk of low back injury after prolonged sitting and may contribute to low back pain in sitting.

Reduced reflex may indicate that the spine is less stable following prolonged flexion-relaxation and, therefore, susceptible to injury. The absence of recovery in reflex after a substantial time indicates that increased low back pain risk from flexion-relaxation may persist after the end of the flexion task.

To me, this might be extrapolated as "remaining in one position for prolonged periods of time may contribute to [insert pain pattern here]," which I doubt anyone here would disgree with.

I might tentatively argue that it's not the position itself as much as it is the time spent in ANY position that puts strain on the body and increases injury risk.

RE: lumbar flexion
Because we already know that "neutral is a range" it highlights (even more in my mind) the need to aim for neutral in our lifting.

Beyond that "neutral range" when the spine changes "shape" under load is the "danger zone" IMO.
I agree with this. We know that the spine flexes under load even when we try to not let it flex. It makes sense to resist it.

The double-bodyweight jefferson curl I posted is certainly not how everyone trains them. Moses Bernard even goes out of his way to explain that it took him a very long time (starting with an empty dowel!) to acheive it. He is clear to tell people how light to start and how slow to progress. In the post I linked, he even explains that to achieve the 2x-bodyweight j-curl, he only trained ONE, heavy, slow rep PER WEEK. That's a lot different than set and reps of high weight. FWIW he is also big on CARs (controlled articular rotations) and his social media is full of him doing them, especially for the back.

Where I get off the bus is when I hear statements that want to relate lifting to day-to-day activities, e.g. "our daily activities should mirror how we lift." As Watchnerd was saying, he used to hinge to lift the toilet seat. Nobody packs their shoulder to grab a plate out of the cabinet.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
In the 22nd century, I'm not surprised that we're still learning things in molecular biology and biochemistry.

What is a bit surprising is that we're still having medicable debates about gross anatomical structures like the lumbar region.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
Just did some slow (30 seconds down, 30 seconds up), light (little 12 kg cerakote bell) Jefferson curls from an 18" step stool.

The really long ones give me a slight head rush when I come back upright.
 
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