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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We spoke to a strength expert about the Laura Dern Sitting Challenge

Illustration for article titled We spoke to a strength expert about the Laura Dern Sitting Challenge
Photo: Kevin Mazur / Contributor (Getty Images)

The tweet that led us to this gem says it better than we ever could, so here you go:


Zero lies detected; it is what we needed as well.

This most thrilling challenge comes to us courtesy of writer Jake Arlow, who’s got a very cool-sounding book coming out next year. But one need not be a novelist to participate in this challenge; you’ll need only a chair and some nerve. Watch the clip above and then come back, we’ll wait. (If you choose instead to watch all of Jurassic Park, the movie from which that clip springs, that’s totally understandable; see you in a couple hours.)

Great! We at The A.V. Club wanted to approach this challenge with the seriousness with which anything involving Laura Dern should be approached. So we turned to Neal Starbird, General Strength athlete and Laura Dern enthusiast (“Citizen Ruth all the way”), for his insight. [Disclosure: Starbird and this writer are acquainted socially.]

The movement would target “primarily hamstrings,” Starbird told us, “but it would engage the entire posterior chain, as well as the full shoulder girdle.” As to whether or not the challenge would do you any good from a fitness perspective, it all “depends on how this aligns with your larger fitness goals.” This movement is similar to “Romanian Deadlifts or Good Mornings,” Starbird says, adding:

If your primary goal is to excel at the Laura Dern Sitting Challenge (LDSC), then you would want to train it the majority of your training days, possibly every training day. If LDSC is something you just want to “add in,” then you could do it once a week as part of a general warm-up or closer. Anything in-between is fair game, again, depending on how this movement plays into your larger fitness goals.

As demonstrated it’s a full body, body-weight only exercise, so I would say between 2-5 sets depending on your goals, and higher reps, upwards of 20 reps per set depending on your ability.


We wondered if adding weight to the hands in the form of two full bottles of wine would increase the resistance—let’s call that “Renata Klein modification”—but Starbird suggests another tactic might be more effective. “Adding weight to the hands would challenge the shoulders muscles primarily, [but] the hamstrings, and to a lesser extent, the glutes, are the prime movers in this movement.” He recommends one of these alternatives (the names are ours):

  1. “You could do the movement at a very slow tempo. Something like a five-second descent, with a three-second hold at the bottom. Then explode back to standing.” Let’s call this the Diane.
  2. “You could add external resistance using something like a stretch band looped under your feet and across your shoulders. This provides something called ‘Accommodating Resistance’ which generally means that it makes the movement easier/light at the hardest portion (the bottom of the movement in this case) and more challenging in the easier part (the top).” Let’s call those Jellicoes.
  3. “The other way to add external resistance might be something like a weighted vest, or a backpack full of books. The backpack could be combined with the wine bottles?” So that’s still the Renata Klein modification.

Starbird won’t be adding the LDSC to his own regimen (“Because I currently have access to a well-appointed gym, I don’t think LDSC would be the best choice to meet my current goals”) but he encourages others to give it a try.

“If you’re doing it for un-weighted higher reps, then it could have some positive effect on muscular endurance of the involved muscle groups; that is, your ability to produce force for longer stretches of time. If you start adding additional resistance, you might see some hypertrophy increase in the targeted muscles... I’d say give this a shot and see how you like it. If it feels fairly ‘natural’ or ‘easy to learn,’ then it might give positive results. The most important exercises are the ones you’ll actually do.”


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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!