Controversial Rounded Back Lifting Will Bulletproof Your Spine

April 9, 2024 by VAHVA Fitness

Eero teaches the vast history behind rounded back strength and how to do it safely & correctly. This can bulletproof your spine.

We can say that the modern fitness culture began at the turn of the last century moving from the 1800s to 1900s.

Eugen Sandow's famous book, “Strength and How to Obtain it”, was published in 1897. Milo's Barbell company was founded in 1902 and America's first Muscle Magazine, “Strength” came out in 1914.

Despite modern fitness culture being in its early phases, a lot of the methodologies and techniques of the old-school bodybuilders and strongmen were highly developed and effective.

These methods not only produced strong and muscular bodies but physiques that radiated health and functionality as well. In my view, the physiques from the Bronze and Silver eras of bodybuilding are still unmatched today.

Some of the exercises utilized back then have almost vanished completely from today's mainstream fitness landscape. These include all sorts of lifts performed with a rounded spine.

round back deadlift

Considering the dread at which people nowadays react to round-back lifting it may be surprising for you to hear that this used to be the NORM at the beginning of the 20th century and up until around the 1980s I would say.

For instance, It's difficult to find an early photo of the bent-over row being performed even with a neutral spine let alone with the hyperextended arched back like is the common way nowadays – I actually haven't seen one at all.

As the name says, bent-over row was performed truly fully bent over with a maximally stretched spine. From this position, the weight was pulled to the stomach. There are multiple photos of famous bodybuilders showing this.

Likewise, straight leg deadlifts, performed with the flexed spine were also stable exercises in the back and lower body routines of the bronze and silver era bodybuilders and weight lifters alike.

There was no negative stigma to rounding your spine, quite the contrary. Below is a citation from John Grimek.

“There are, as regular readers of MD magazine know, various forms of deadlifting, although the stiff-legged variety differs somewhat from the regular type of dead-lift, in that, while this exercise does strengthen the back, it also helps to firm up and reduce the buttocks and does increase suppleness of the back.

The truth is, if this or any other type of low-back movement was done regularly by the average individual, most of the present-day back ailments would be unheard of, nor would one hear so much about the common backache that now plagues people.

There would be fewer slipped and herniated discs, too, simply because exercise, when done regularly, will keep the back supple and strong that will support the body upright without strain... therefore, no back ache.”

John Grimek, (Muscular Development, Issue Jan 1971)

John Grimek, multiple-time Mr America winner, was a big proponent of the stiff-legged deadlift performed with a flexed spine and specifically emphasized its role in fixing and preventing back pain. 

It's good to note that Grimek was still doing squats with 400 pounds in his late 60s which is telling of the longevity of his methods.

In modern times, gymnastic athletes, professional Olympic lifters and strongmen still regularly use exercises with a rounded back to strengthen their bodies and even perform competition lifts such as the Atlas Stone lift.

This is all to demonstrate that there is nothing inherently dangerous or detrimental about round-back exercises. In fact, it should be approached with similar care and attention as any other exercise.

There are many ways to approach round-back exercises systematically and gradually even if you suffer from existing back ailments.

You never have to lift heavy weights with a flexed spine anyway to get major benefits from training it.

However, it is crucial that you possess the underlying mobility and control to have the most capable and freely moving body together with a healthy and flexible spine.

This is why we've added a detailed lesson on training the rounded spine position to the
Iron King Method. It's one of the many training modalities centered around true Old-School bodybuilding that we cover inside the Method.

5 New Lessons Added To Iron King Method

Last year, we released the Iron King Method, our newest method. We just added 5 additional lessons to the program and have plans to update it even further.

While we get better and continue our research, our training methods improve alongside us.

Last week, we added a whole new course to Athlete 20XX Method called "Superior Athletic Ankles & Feet Course". For athletes, martial artists and for people who have weakness or problems in these areas this course is especially useful.

Last year, we also made a massive expansion to Movement 20XX Method with 30 new movements and 5 new routines. This is some of the best movement training you can do and cutting edge knowledge in this area.

We also added many bonus workouts to Warrior 20XX Method in 2022-2023.

And today, we added 5 lessons to Iron King Method. These lessons are:

  • Rounded Back Strength (full lesson with the exercises and tips)
  • An advanced mace mastery lesson (elbow flexion & body pendulum)
  • Kettlebell exercises for grip & wrists
  • 2 ways to use the hand gripper for the best results (surprisingly many people get this wrong)
  • Wrist strengthening exercises with a resistance band, cable and weights

1 new lesson in Mace Mastery, 1 lesson in Old School Frame and 3 new lessons in Old School Exercises.

We also have plans to add more mace training to Iron King Method among many other things (TBA).

Stay strong!

samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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