Michael K. Ryan, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Alabama, tells us why the Jefferson curl is his favorite move for desk jockeys.
THE JEFFERSON CURL is the stretch with the highest return on investment, helping the most muscles in the least amount of time. It’s ideal for anyone who stands for long periods of time, or who have desk jobs—basically all of us.
The curl addresses posterior chain issues, referring to the muscles that run from the base of the neck to the heels. Typing at a computer or cradling a phone on your shoulder lead to neck and shoulder tightness, which can pull up on the middle back, glutes, and hamstrings. Sitting stiffens calf muscles and glutes, pulling down on the mid-back and shoulders. Either way, your posterior chain needs TLC.
To do the curl, stand tall at the edge of a bench or plyo box, without a weight or holding a light kettlebell in both hands. Keeping legs straight, slowly bend over, starting with the head and neck, then progressing down one vertebra at a time. As you get to your lower back, keep knees locked out and fold over until kettlebell bottom goes past toes. Hold at the bottom, then tuck chin and draw chest toward thighs. Hold again, then slowly reverse, focusing on activating the core, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
Do this pattern 4 or 5 times, ideally every day. The combination of forward and reverse means each muscle gets an eccentric and concentric stretch—or stretch and release. Not only does this curl target every major muscle group up and down your back and legs, it also stretches out the smaller muscles, ligaments, and joints that make up the spine, which helps you bend and move in all directions. Done properly, it’s one of the few stretches that can completely alleviate tight posterior chain muscles after a long day, week, or month.