Knees over toes guy: Jefferson curl – my thoughts

Knees over Toes guy: Jefferson curl – my thoughts

“Knees over toes guy: Jefferson curls & back pain-your thoughts, Brian.” This is a question that I get pretty often. For those who wonder what I’m talking about, The knees over toes guy did a podcast with Mark Bell, and they chatted about back pain. From there, the KOT guy explains he is an advocate of utilizing mobility work, i.e., the Jefferson curl, to treat back pain. However, he also said, “I don’t think we fully understand how to train our backs.” But I digress: back to the Jefferson curl; This could work depending on the injury, but it can irritate and make them worse for others. In this article, I will give my experience, thoughts, and some brief science as we discuss in Gift of Injury.

Knees over toes Guy on Mark Bell Powercast 

First, I want to say that KOT seems like a nice guy, and I believe his intentions are noble. But that doesn’t mean he’s helping people how he thinks he is, at least concerning the Back. During the podcast, KOT discusses instances of back pain with Andrew, a producer for the show. Almost immediately, without knowing Andrews’s pain generators, injury, or history, KOT explains that he should be doing specific mobility work. The issue is that KOT hasn’t assessed the client properly because Dr. McGill has assessed Andrew, and his directive to Andrew was the exact opposite of KOT. Let the back pain settle and wind down as flexion  + compression are one of his pain triggers (disc bulge). I’ve even spoken briefly with Andrew myself to know and understand his injury when we did our podcast together. Pain in the Back is sensitized when stimulated and not left alone. You get better when the winding up of the pain & inflammation process winds DOWN. Expecting results other than more pain is likely to disappoint.

Knees over toes guy & Jefferson curl = Dr. McGill & his big 3?

I’ve read and heard this comparison a lot, and while it may seem congruent on the surface, it’s more than problematic. The Jefferson curl creates a lot of flexion and compression forces. It’s also a deadlift – a compound lift. It’s also not very well tolerated by many in pain. And while the big three (Birddog, Side plank, curl-up) are all relatively low compression and handled well by many of those Back injured. And some are acute and in moderate to severe pain/flare-ups to avoid the big three exercises for some time. Dr. McGill is clear about those who should start with the big three or regressions depending on the client’s particular injury.

Particulars and training the core

In my included video on this topic, I discuss the analogy of the willow branch and the oak tree (from McGill). The point here is tuning the body for the demands of the sport. Dancers and gymnasts must train the core via unique-to-their-sport approaches and be much more flexible, like a willow branch. Yet, a strongman, powerlifter, or sumo wrestler would need to train much more core and overall stiffness and only fine-tune their mobility as necessary. They are akin to an oak tree. An oak tree is inferior at bending but very efficient for the compressive load. And the willow branch is meant to bend and sway, yet is a poor load bearer.

Every exercise MUST have a specific purpose. Every movement is a tool; there are no inherently wrong exercises, just lousy application/timing. For some, the Jefferson curl might help some in certain situations, but blindly telling people to do the Jefferson curl without knowing anything about their back injury is misinformed at best. Choose what information you follow wisely. You only have one body, one shot! To understand your specific pain mechanisms and generations, use the self-assessment guide in Back Mechanic. Back Mechanic will also guide you to understand which exercises are suitable for your case.

For those who want help from someone who’s been there and understands what it’s like to deal with back pain, CONTACT ME. 

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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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