At-Home Mobility Exercises for Desk Workers
Many of us are working from home right now, even if your job is typically done in person (like personal training!). While all the adaptations that many individuals and companies have made to provide safe business experiences have been awesome, people are sitting in front of a computer more now than ever before. Lots of sitting throughout the day can cause stiffness in certain areas of the body, which can lead to postural imbalances over time.
If you’ve been spending more time in front of the computer and less time moving around you may notice stiffness in your upper back, neck, shoulder, hips, and low back. In addition to making sure those areas are mobile, corrective strength exercises will ensure those joints have the ability to support your body in all ranges of motion. Below you will find a list of my favorite exercises for those that work at a desk all day. These will keep you mobile, comfortable, and stable!
1. Lax ball traps- This is a great self myofascial release (SMR) exercise to release tension in and around your upper back, neck and shoulders. When you sit in front of a computer all day, you are more likely to sit with your head drifted forward and your shoulder shrugged. Your muscles get used to being in those shortened states, and that’s how poor posture is created. Tennis balls, racquetballs, or baseballs also work well. 60-90 seconds each side can help loosen your traps up, and may even help reduce tension headaches and neck stiffness that come with stiffness in that region.
2. Foam roll quads - Another SMR exercise that releases tension, except this time in your quads and hip flexors. Constant sitting can stiffen up those muscles because they get used to being in that shortened position. This can lead to things like hip pain, knee pain, and discomfort when doing any movement like squatting or bringing your leg up. 90 seconds each leg with some side to side movement, bending and straightening the leg, and holding more pressure on tender areas will really loosen those tight quads up!
3. Lax ball pecs - If you are sitting at a desk all day, chances are you have super tight pecs. Even those that are super aware of their posture tend to slouch and round their shoulders while typing and and writing over a period of time. This can lead to movement issues and impingement within your shoulder later on. Spend a minute or two on each side, breathing deeply and spending extra time on the tighter spots.
4. Floor TYIWs - These are a great mobility exercise that can be done as part of a warm up, active recovery routine, or even by themselves for a quick movement break during your work day. Exercises like TYIWs take your joints through a wide range of motion and “loosens” up stiffness. This exercise can also be done from a standing bent over position. Try doing 5 reps of each shape/letter daily during a break from work.
5. Single leg glute bridge - For those of you that suffer from stiffness and pain in your low back region, try including this in your weekly routines (if this sounds like you and you work with one of us, chances are we'll sneak these into your program). A major contributor to lumbar discomfort is weak glutes. Strengthening them up creates a strong connection between your spine and hips that can prevent major injuries and lessen postural dysfunction. The bonus of single sided bridges is that they correct strength imbalances on each side of your hip! 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps works wonders.
6. Bear holds - Bear holds are a fantastic core exercise that keeps your torso strong and stable. While a strong core is important for every aspect of training, it is particularly helpful for those that sit and work at a desk frequently. It creates solid posture and stability around your spine, which can prevent all of the other imbalances we already discussed! Shoot for 2-3 sets of 30-45 seconds holding this position.
7. Sink stretch - This is a great stretch to open up your shoulders, and feels AMAZING. The sink stretch lengthens your pec majors and minors, biceps, and a little bit of your anterior deltoids (shoulders). Make sure you take big deep breaths while holding the stretch, and see if you can sink a little lower as your body relaxes into it. This can be done with a barbell, countertop ledge, banister railing, or anything else roughly shoulder height. Try to take little breaks throughout the day and hold this stretch for 30-45 seconds.
8. Couch stretch - This is an excellent stretch for your hip flexors and opens up that whole area. As the name implies, a low ledge like a couch cushion or chair is the perfect support for your foot on the side you are stretching. If you cannot get into the full position shown in the video, move your back knee forward away from the couch or chair until you can comfortable hold your torso upright while still feeling the stretch. Try 90 seconds each side, relaxing into the stretch while contracting your glutes.
Obviously, these exercises are a great start. But what REALLY helps you keep from getting locked up while sitting at a desk all day...is not sitting at a desk all day! The more you can get moving throughout the day, the better.
Something else that will help you avoid chronic tightness is beginning a well balanced workout routine. You need something that works your entire body and helps counter the positions we get stuck working in too often. If you're interested in having me or one of the Straight Shot Coaches personally write a program for you and provide 1-on-1 accountability, just head back to the main blog page and click Request A Coach to get started today!