How Gymnastic Strength Training Improves Lower Back Flexibility
Gymnastic Strength Training contains a unique blend of exercises that will not only help you build world-class levels of strength but also the flexibility of a gymnast, which most adults lack. One of the most common areas of tightness for many of us is the lower back. This is often a result of lifting heavy weights or spending countless hours on “desk patrol”.
When Coach Christopher Sommer developed the training methods for GymnasticBodies he understood the importance of having good lower back flexibility. This was not only to achieve high levels of athleticism but also for pain management and quality of life.
Whether you are an athlete or you spend many of your waking hours at a desk, stretching your lower back can greatly benefit you.
What is the lower back and why should we stretch it?
The lower back is the area between your lowest rib and the top of your pelvis. This area houses the spinal erectors and other muscles that are collectively responsible for stabilizing the spine. This portion of your body also plays a role in transferring force during physical activity, whether it’s from running, jumping, or walking. The demand we place on our backs, whether it’s from physical activity or lack thereof, cause the muscles around your spine to tighten.
There are dozens of exercises from the GB Courses that will show you exactly how to stretch the lower back along with all the other muscles of the posterior chain, including the calves, hamstrings, glutes, lats, upper back, and neck.
Here are two exercises that you should do to help loosen up those stiff back muscles.
GymnasticBodies Jefferson Curl
This weighted mobility exercise is discussed in great detail by Tim Ferriss and Coach Sommer in Tools of Titans and should be a staple in your gymnastics training. By using an external weight the Jefferson curl can help you articulate each vertebra from the cervical spine all the way down to the lumbar by breaking up the fascia that restricts movement.
As shown in Foundation One, it’s important that you are able to perform this exercise through a pain-free range of motion. This being said, you may need to start out with a light weight from 5-10 lbs and then gradually increase the weight in increments of 5-10lbs every few months.
To perform the Jefferson Curl start by standing on top of an elevated surface, such as a box or bench and hold a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, or a kettlebell. With your feet together, keep your knees straight and begin by tucking your chin towards your chest. Feel the tension crawling down your spine “like a string of pearls” as you curl each vertebra downwards. Lean forward slightly as you curl down until your wrists are below the level of your feet. From here simply reverse the motion until you return to the starting position, curling your head up last.
When implemented into you gymnastics home workout plan, the Jefferson Curl can help provide incredible improvements in the mobility of your posterior chain. Many GB students have experienced alleviated chronic lower back pain and even recovered from injuries using this exercise. One of the most notable is Gymnastic Bodies Affiliate, Ashleigh Gass. Ashleigh, the owner of GymnasticBodies Tampa, has had great success using the Jefferson Curl as part of her rehab protocol following reconstructive surgery to her spine.
Learn how to perform and master the Jefferson Curl using the Foundation One Course.
The standing pike, also known in yoga as the forward fold, is one of the most well-known stretches for the lower back and hamstrings. This simple but effective stretch will help develop the flexibility needed to perform more difficult gymnastic exercises, making it the perfect exercise to complement your GymnasticBodies Training.
While this is usually the go-to stretch when we feel tightness in our lower back, many people often perform it incorrectly by rounding through the upper back first. Performing the standing pike this way fails to pull the slack out of the lower back and hamstrings thus making the stretch ineffective.
To get the most out of the standing pike stretch, begin with your feet together knees straight. Hinge forward at the hips until you feel a moderate stretch in the back of your legs. Lean forward slightly as you slowly continue folding forward towards the ground. Aim to lengthen your torso downwards as you compress your body towards your knees. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then slowly release the stretch as you return to a standing position.
The standing pike stretch can be found in the Front Split Stretch Series, which contains the best exercises to help you gain the flexibility in the hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors to do a perfect front split.
- The spinal erectors of the lower back are susceptible to becoming tight during physical activity or while sitting for long periods.
- Performing the Jefferson Curl regularly can help break up tight fascia in the spine, helping to reduce chronic tension and possibly rehab injury.
- To get the most of the standing pike, perform this stretch weekly as a part of the Front Split Stretch Series.
Be sure to check out our GB Foundation Courses to learn how to safely train your lower back flexibility.