The “jefferson curl” is a little known but very beneficial exercise for the health of the entire posterior kinetic chain. It allows, without the use of any tools, to stretch all the paraspinal, femoral and other muscles and also helps the development of a good proprioception of the most delicate and important trunk structure: the vertebral column.
The execution is as follows:
Stand on a raised surface (a step or a step of the stairs) keeping the gaze slightly raised, the chin retracted, the sternum slightly raised (chest out), the transversus of the abdomen
(TVA) contracted (belly in), glutes slightly contracted and knees extended.
The feet should be even and parallel and slightly extra rotated. This is the starting position. From here start by flexing the head, then the cervical spine, then keeping the arms drooping according to the force of gravity flex the thoracic column, then the spine and finally retrovertere the pelvis as much as possible.
This whole process should lead to total flexion of the spinal segments and the hands should be brought down. The goal of this exercise is to feel the movement of each individual vertebra, this should be accompanied by an incomplete inhalation and a deep exhalation (to maximize flexion).
Maintain the position of maximum flexion for twenty or thirty seconds and then perform the reverse movement: bring the pelvis anteversion and then slightly contract the buttocks, extend the lumbar spine and then contract the TVA, extend the thoracic spine and elevate the sternum, extend the cervical spine and retract the chin and finally extend the head up and position the gaze slightly
Specifically the whole exercise consists of a flexion of each single spinal unit accompanied by a subsequent extension. However, everything is done with maximum control.
The benefits of this exercise are as follows:
The health of the spine is improved thanks to the benefits of stretching on muscle fibers. During the whole day and even at night we do not pay attention to the position of every single vertebra (and we cannot even imagine doing it) this leads to maintaining the same position with a consequent creation of muscle tension and accumulation of waste metabolites. This leads to a sense of stiffness and loss of movement, and sometimes even problems.
The various vertebrae are also intercalated by fibro-cartilaginous discs or the intervertebral discs. These have a strong affinity for water. If the disc compresses, the water is "squeezed" out of the structure while if the disc stretches the water is "sucked" inside. A movement of maximum crushing followed by a maximum flexion leads to a sort of flow of water that brings with it waste metabolites and nutrients, also helping to maintain a good elasticity of the connective tissues.
The best posture is the result of an increased proprioception of the vertebral structure. This is achieved by performing the movement in a very controlled way and vertebra by vertebra. The non-use of a
structure leads to "forgetting" of the existence of this or to a partial loss of control.
For example, we are better at writing with one hand than with the other because we use the first hand much more than the second and therefore we have greater control and awareness of the movement.
Proprioception is the awareness of the position of the body in space and this is closely linked to the control that one has of the affected structure. The ideal position during the day should coincide with the alignment to be maintained at the beginning of the exercise.
This increased awareness of the body also carries over to training allowing the spine to be kept in safe alignment when it is subjected to loads.
This exercise can theoretically be performed several times a day. To make the most of the benefit of releasing tension and metabolic turnover, it is more useful to perform the exercise in the evening; maybe before every workout and every night before going to sleep.
You can add some weight but you have to be VERY cautious: adaptation of connective tissues is much slower than muscle tissue. A good idea might be to start weightless and add two kilos in your hands each month up to a maximum of around 10 kg. Always focus on correct execution and maximum control. The benefits should stimulate consistency.