The 10 Best Exercises For The Desk-Bound Professional
My client's name is Randy (not really). Randy works longgg hours at his desk job as the founder of a law firm.
When I say long hours, I’m talking desk bound for 60+ hours a week.
That’s a fair chunk of time to be stuck in a chair.
Randy has no big aesthetic aspirations. Sure, it would be great to get a 6-pack and bigger arms, but he likes to think there’s more to life.
Instead, Randy wants to counter his desk-bound lifestyle so he can:
Live a longer and healthier life
Play with his kid's pain-free
Continue to perform highly in the office.
We’ve been training together for a while now, and he’s implemented some lifestyle changes which have put him in top shape. Most importantly, his training has been directed towards exactly what he needs.
Being desk-bound can limit mobility and strength in certain joints and muscles. Countering this must be priority number one.
Through our time together, I compiled the 10 best exercises for you, the desk-bound professional.
The Face Pull
WHAT TO DO: Take the rope attachment of the cable machine with an overhand grip. Pull it towards your face, allowing the hands to end up higher than the elbows.
WHY IT WORKS: This one exercise opposes everything a desk job does to your upper body. It pulls your shoulders back and strengthens the upper back muscles, leading to better posture. It strengthens your shoulders, defeating the rounded hunchback look. It also trains core stability and upper spine and neck alignment.
Talk about a money exercise!
The Greatest Hip Stretch Ever
WHAT TO DO: Get into a pushup position with one foot outside of your hand. Try to keep your chest up and spine long. Straighten the back leg if possible. When this becomes easy, throw in some arm rotations to make this stretch live up to its name.
WHY IT WORKS: This position puts your back leg at full hip extension and front leg in deep hip flexion. It’s the best of both worlds hitting the full range of the hips. In this position, you are lengthening your groin muscles, too. Adding the arm rotation also makes it effective for upper back mobility.
Greatest. Hip. Stretch. Ever.
The Romanian Deadlift
WHAT TO DO: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees bent about 5-10 degrees (just unlocked). From there, keeping your back straight, push your hips back as far as you can. Keep pushing those hips back until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, then return back upright.
WHY IT WORKS: There are two reasons this phenomenal exercise made the list.
It works the entire posterior chain (that’s your hamstrings, butt and lower back). Sitting at a desk, your whole life is in front of you; computer, notes, phone. Your posterior chain is weakened in a sitting position and long periods like this cause all sorts of back troubles. This single exercise hits all the right muscles.
It teaches you to hip hinge. This is a movement pattern of bending over using the muscles of the hamstrings and glutes to support you. This spares your lower back and will save you a lot of pain down the road.
Headache-curing Neck Stretch
WHAT TO DO: In this series, you will see two stretches. Hold each for 20-30 seconds, making sure to stretch both sides.
WHY IT WORKS: There are some main culprits for a stiff neck. One is the trapezius, which is located at the back of your neck. The other's are a bunch of muscles located at the front. Stretching these relieves tightness all around the neck and will allow for tension-free movement.
Shoulder Taps For The Core
WHAT TO DO: From a pushup position, place your feet wider and hands closer than usual. Tense your core and lift one hand to touch the opposite shoulder. Don't let your hips wiggle!
WHY IT WORKS: Your core needs to be strong for any activity you do in life. Your core is also important in staying injury free and minimising lower back pain. This exercise trains the core in a classic plank position but adds dynamic stability by moving your hands. It's harder than it looks!
Draw The Arrow
WHAT TO DO: Lay on your side with hands out in front and legs bent in front of your body. As you turn, imagine yourself drawing an arrow in a bow. Each vertebrae will begin to turn one at a time. Exhale as you turn and relax into it.
WHY IT WORKS: The upper back is a troublesome beast. If you are lacking in range of motion it can impact much of your functional life. This movement frees your upper back and allows it to rotate smoothly in its full range of motion.
The 3-Point Row
WHAT TO DO: Get into a split stance with your feet and put one hand on a bench. Grab the dumbbell with your other hand, tense your core and pull to your belly button. Focus on pulling back with the shoulder blade and don’t let the elbow come too high behind you (in line with your body is best).
WHY IT WORKS: This row targets both your back muscles and core. Anything you can do to pull your shoulder blades back will improve your posture ten-fold. Also, who doesn’t like having a bulletproof core?
The Hunchback Remover
WHAT TO DO: Place your elbows on a bench and, kneeling before it, look down as you exhale and move downwards. Use your body weight to drop your sternum towards the floor. Your arms should bend behind your head as you ease into the stretch.
WHY IT WORKS: This is numero uno when it comes to upper back posture. Being hunched over a desk all day leads to a curved spine. This stretch reclaims lost mobility by curving your spine in the opposite direction and recovering a fully mobile, pain-free spine.
The Butt Builder (and variations)
WHAT TO DO: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Push through your heels to bring your butt off the ground. Hold that top position and squeeze your cheeks. Play around with the variations shown in the video. It’s all about the glutes, man!
WHY IT WORKS: It’s been shown that sitting on your butt all day can cause your glutes to forget how to fire properly. This causes them to get weak. From that, lower back and knee pain starts to occur. This is the simplest isolation exercise to target the glutes and get them activated again.
The Couch Stretch
WHAT TO DO: Find something which you can prop your foot up against (a bench or couch works) and ease into the position in the picture below. Squeeze your butt on the side of whichever knee is down.
WHY IT WORKS: Hip flexors are always stiff in people who sit a lot. This is the deepest stretch you can do for them, and also couples nicely as a great quad stretch.
These top 10 exercises should make up the basis of any desk-bound professional's program. Right now, it's not about biceps and ripped abs. It's about allowing you to move pain-free and feel a whole lot better in your daily life.
Improve the quality of your life first. The biceps and abs can come after.
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