With all that inactivity for long periods of time, muscles in the body can begin to weaken and cause all sorts of structural and metabolical imbalances if not corrected. And while, we can’t all quit our desk jobs or work in a physically active environment, there are steps we can take to combat the effects of “desk body.”
Today, we’re going to go over five major muscle groups in the body and how sitting for long periods of time can affect them. But, don’t worry we’ll also walk you through exercises that will strengthen these muscle groups. The best part is that you can do these strength training exercises anywhere … your office, cubicle, hotel room, at home, really anywhere you have access to a chair and desk.
This specific workout falls under the category of bodyweight exercises, a form of strength training that uses your own weight to build lean muscle mass. You can do sets between checking emails, on your lunch break or as a quick pick-me-up before a long meeting. Let’s get started.
Problem: Your back is probably one place where you most feel the effects of sitting for a long time. It can be tough to maintain perfect posture at all times at a desk, and the erector spinae muscles that run parallel to your spine can become weakened. Upper back muscles that give you good, upright posture lose tonicity, and pectorals and chest muscles can become stiff … all of this can lead to back pain and hunched posture.
Solution: The Desk Row
- You’ll need a desk and chair for this (preferably a non-rolling chair).
- Sit on the floor with your back to the desk opening where your legs normally are, legs straight in front of you and chair just beyond your feet.
- Reach up and grasp the desktop with your hands.
- Place your heels on the chair.
- Straighten your legs and bring your butt up so your body is in alignment. This will require you to pull up on the desk.
- At this point, your head is up underneath the desk, your feet on the chair and your body straight. Maintain this form as you pull yourself upwards and then lower yourself from the desk. This motion is called a row.
- Start with 10 reps of rows. Work up to more reps as you become stronger.
Problem: Your legs contain more muscle groups than any other part of the body, so naturally, if you’re sitting and not bearing any weight on them, all of these muscles will begin to get weak. Fortunately, all you need to keep your quads toned is a small space large enough to accommodate a squat position.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Arms out straight.
- Bend your knees, weight in heels and push hips back while squatting.
- Keep your back in a straight position, head up.
- Squat as low as you can.
- Drive through your heels to push back up to standing position.
- Start with 30 reps. For a tougher version once you’ve mastered the basic squat, Google “pistol squat.” This is a progressed, more challenging version of the squat.
Problem: Ever heard of “secretary’s butt”? Inactivity in the form of sitting can cause the glutes to take on a flattened, flabby look. Gluteal muscles are grouped into the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and the gluteus medias. When these weaken, lower back problems can show up, as well as piriformis syndrome. Luckily, there’s a move that will keep your glutes strong (and your butt round)!
Solution: Squats (see above)
Problem: Your ab muscles are grouped into four types: transverse abdominis (deep ab muscles that wrap around your spine and help with stability); internal abdominal obliques; external abdominal obliques (along your sides and front); and rectus abdominis (along the front, aka the “six pack”). These muscles can deteriorate with prolonged sitting causing poor posture, a thicker waist and less defined mid-section.
- Get on the ground in push-up position (arms locked, legs together).
- Squeeze your butt and make sure your body is in perfect alignment.
- You can either hold this position or rest on your elbows for a bigger challenge.
- Hold this position. Start with 30 seconds and work your way up from there.
- Planks are great because they work your core synergistically, meaning the front and back at the same time.
Problem: Your biceps, forearms and triceps take a hit when not used regularly. This can show up, especially obvious, as extra flab on the triceps (aka. chicken wings). Fortunately, all you need is a desk to firm up those arm muscles.
The Solution: Desk Push-ups
- Stand facing your desk, feet at least three feet away.
- Hands on the desktop a little bit wider than shoulders.
- Keep your body in a straight line (engage core, squeeze glutes).
- Lower yourself down until your chest touches the desk.
- Keep elbows next to your ribs as your chest approaches the desk.
- Then straighten your arms, pushing yourself away from the desk.
- Start with 20-30 reps.
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