If you’re like most people nowadays, you probably work at a desk which means you spend a decent chunk of your day sitting on your butt. This is no fault of your own as technology has evolved, allowing us to work smarter, not harder. The days of back breaking work with our hands are behind us for the most part.
But this also means the days of getting plenty of movement and indirect exercise are behind us as well. Since computers handle a majority of our workload nowadays, our bodies aren’t subject to much manual labor anymore. This is good from a convenience standpoint, not exactly good from a keeping us healthy standpoint.
You see, our bodies CRAVE movement whether you like to admit it or not. Human bodies are designed to move, and when they are deprived of that, issues pop up in the form of tightness, nagging pains, or any other number of less than desirable outcomes. This makes working at a desk less than ideal from an ‘optimal health’ point of view.
But this doesn’t mean you need to switch careers and become a construction worker. All your body needs is some simple TLC every day to keep it working like it should. And these movements are a great start.
1. Cat camel
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause many of us to slouch forward, so you need to do something to get that spine moving… specifically in the form of extension. If you’re not sure what spinal extension is, imagine standing nice and tall, and without moving your feet, bending backwards as far as you can without falling. That’s spinal extension.
Regularly extending the spine after spending large chunks of time flexed forward is a nice way to help offset any postural issues you may develop from being rounded forward all the time. This preserves the natural curves of your spine a bit better, which can help you avoid things like shoulder and neck pain down the road.
Just make sure all the movement occurs at the spine when you do this one. Keep those hips and arms still!
Sitting at a desk does a couple things to your upper body. It protracts your shoulder blades, flexes your spine, and internally rotates your humerus (arm bone). There’s nothing wrong with these motions… until you do them every day for hours on end. When these actions are done often enough, it can cause your upper back and rotator cuff to weaken, as well as cause tightness at muscles like your pecs and lats. Combine these things and BAM, you’ve got horrible posture and probably some nagging shoulder pain to boot.
The facepull is a shoulder saver extraordinaire because it strengthens and reverses essentially all of those negative things listed above. It strengthens your upper back, rotator cuff, and gets your spine out of a flexed position.
If there were a poster child for exercises office workers need to do, this is it.
This can be done on a TRX, like in the video, using a cable machine, or tying a couple bands to a squat rack or other stable surface.
3. Hip flexor work
Being in one position for hours on end, day after day can actually cause your body to become ‘stuck’ in those positions when you try to get out of them. Muscles can become weak, tight, or weak and tight which prevents them from keeping joints in proper alignment. The hip flexors are one of the biggest victims of muscles becoming weak and tight, so failing to address this issue can wreak havoc on your low back and hips.
A clear sign that your hip flexors are weak is failing to be able to lift your knee past 90 degrees and hold it there, without your low back rounding over.
An easy way to help fix this is to perform end range isometrics.
This will strengthen your hip flexors in the range of motion that office workers rarely get to, which is past 90 degrees. Weakness in this range of motion has a high correlation with low back pain…and no one likes low back pain. I guess chiropractors, but that’s it.
From here, we can further mobilize that hip with a nice combo stretch, the pigeon to half kneeling hip flexor stretch. Just be sure when you switch to the half kneeling hip flexor stretch, squeeze your butt and abs as you push your hips forward. You should only feel this at the top of your hip, not in your low back.
4. Hip bridge march
Prolonged sitting can not only weaken and tighten your hip flexors, but it can certainly do the same thing to your glutes. Glutes extend your hips and that definitely doesn’t happen when you’re sitting. So over time, your glutes weaken, atrophy, and just become a sorry excuse for a butt overall.
A weak butt is possibly one of the biggest factors when it comes to overall aches and pains throughout the body. Low back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain… all of them can be a direct cause of your butt being too weak. So obviously, we need to fix that!
The hip bridge march is a great way to get those glutes working while incorporating some core work in the process. Your glutes will work to keep those hips in the air, while your core muscles, like your obliques, abs, and lats, will work hard not to let those hips twist or rotate out of position.
The band used in the video is a great way to create tension in your upper body and core, which will only increase the efficiency of this lift. It’s a solid recommendation to start off using the band and progress to not using it over time.
5. Sit on the very edge of your chair
This is a beyond simple adjustment to make throughout your day, but some of you might be asking why.
When you sit all the way back in the chair, the back and sides of the chairs take all of the stress off your body, mainly your core. You’re able to relax, kick back, and let the chair do all the work of keeping your body upright. But do you know what’s supposed to be keeping you upright?
The core’s purpose is to keep the spine in a nice neutral position, or in a relatively good posture. When you lean back in your chair, you give all these muscles permission to reeeeelaaaaax and take some time off. Done repeatedly, and you’re headed for a future filled with lots of weakness and issues, guaranteed.
Shifting yourself to the very edge of the chair will semi-force you to keep good posture as you remain in a seated position. It might not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than sinking into that comfy, weakness causing chair of yours. Take breaks when needed, but try not to rely on that chair to do your core’s job.