Written by Katie Lauder, DPT
Just when you thought you had all of the lifting and fitness terminology figured out, we are throwing a new one at you: the J curl or Jefferson curl.
The J curl is not necessarily a new movement in the strength and conditioning world but it has recently gained attention when a popular physical therapist touted it on social media. In short, the J curl is awesome. I have begun to use it as an active stretch (not a stretch that you would hold for a minute, a stretch that you would simply move through slowly) for myself and many of my patients. It is also very useful to strengthen the small muscles of the low back to improve the stability at this very commonly injured body part. I can also see this movement being extremely useful for body types that tend to have a big arched curve in the low back and who do not often achieve a rounded back/flexed position (see image 1. If your back muscles look like this, please do the J curl).
One great thing about the lifting that we do at ResoluteFit, is the coaches focus and guidance on proper form. Our coaches always remind us to keep a flat back when squatting, deadlifting and the like. And this is the right thing. To keep our backs safe under heavy weight we should keep the lumbar spine neutral and stable. But what about those times when we are not under weight and we go to pick up a pencil or empty the dishwasher? Our body should be prepared for those times when our backs round into flexion and this is where the J curl comes in handy. The other thing we should be prepared for is that chance time in the 10th round of a difficult deadlift WOD when our low back DOES round. Our backs should be prepared for that, just in case it happens. The J curl will help us with that.
The J curl is not a movement that will be in a WOD, this movement will be seen in a warm up or cash out because this movement should be slow, very controlled, and not done with heavy weight.
If you want to get a jump start on your low back health, try 10 J curls very slowly without holding any weight initially, and then perhaps hold onto a 5-15# dumbbell (lighter if you weigh less, heavier if you weigh more). The dumbbell should stay nearly in contact with your legs through the entire movement.
Could the J curl be more ammunition against the age old enemy of low back pain? I certainly think so.