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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

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.

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