Desk Job Blues

Do you struggle to get get full range of motion on your press?  Do you feel a deep “stretch” in your forearms every time you do a frog stand?  Do your wrists hurt every time you do a handstand?  Do you have trouble keeping your chest tall on a front squat?  Do your shoulders consistently round forward with your body row?

A large majority of the population is “lucky” enough to have a job that requires countless hours of staring at a computer, slouching at a keyboard, and reaching out toward a mouse all while cranking their neck to balance a phone between their ear and shoulder.  Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about!  Although these “outstanding” postural habits are what bring home the bacon , they also bring about tight thoracic spines, horrible wrist mobility and locked up hips.

            

Now I know I can’t ask you to quit your job that is causing these postural problems and mobility issues…but will you?  Ha…kidding!  I am going to ask you to make sure that every 15 minutes you get up to lengthen your hip flexors, pull your shoulders back to where they are supposed to be and maybe even…yes I’m going to say it…stretch!  Below are a few helpful mobility exercises you can do DAILY (multiple times is ideal) to help improve your mobility which will result in better performance in the gym and just make you feel better!  Worth a shot, right?!?

WRISTS

1) Wrist Rotations: Rotate your wrists 10x counter clockwise and 10x clockwise.

2) Desk Planche Position: Standing, put palms flat on desk with fingers facing forward.  Keep arms locked out (elbow pit forward), rock body forward until you feel a good stretch…stay here for 1 min (rock more forward if you can throughout the minute).

3) Desk Reverse Planche Position: Same staring position as above but with fingers facing toward body.  This time, keeping arms locked out and plans flat, rock away from desk and hold for 1 min.

HIP FLEXORS

1) Chair Death Stretch:  We all know the death stretch!  This one is the similar but doable at your desk.  Kneel on one knee with foot up on chair.  The other leg out in front with foot on floor and knee at 90 degrees.  Ideally your back shin is vertical (like on the wall), but if that isn’t doable then just scoot your knee out a bit (or chair back a bit).  Hold for 1 min each leg.

2) Kneel: Simply “take a knee”.  Same position as above, but back foot is on floor instead of on chair (this may be more ideal for the ladies wearing skirts).  From here tighten abs and simultaneously press back hip forward (making sure not to arch back).  Note, you can still work from this position if you’re high enough to be in good position for your keyboard (just remember to switch legs).  WAY better than sitting in a chair.

THORACIC SPINE

1) Sit Up Straight:  Simple…don’t slouch!  While sitting at your desk (or anywhere for that matter), make sure you are sitting tall, shoulder blades are back and down, and chest is open.

2) Behind the Back: Interlace fingers behind your back.  Roll shoulders back.  From here, if you can gently lift your hands up WITHOUT your shoulders rolling forward, do so until you feel a stretch.  If you can’t then just stay with hands interlaced and shoulders back.  Hold for 1 min.

In addition to these stretches, keeping a softball at your desk is a must.  Now, not so you can toss it up in the air while thinking about what you’re going to add to your presentation, but rather using it more for mobility purposes.  While sitting at your desk (or in your car if you travel a lot for work), put the ball between your hamstring/glute and the seat.  You can even get crazy and move your body around a bit to feel the ball “massaging” those muscles.  Make sure you switch sides.  Using this same technique you can use the ball on your low back and upper back while sitting at your desk as well.

Our muscles are supposed to “glide” by one another.  When we sit for too long in one position our muscles start to laminate together and become one massive unit of glued up gunk.  Do your job outside of the gym to make your muscles able to do what they are supposed to do in the gym.  That will make the rest of your life way happier! :)

Another thing to take into consideration is getting set up with a standing desk.  Studies across the board show that people who switch to standing desks feel better and are healthier.  Even if you hit the gym everyday, if you spend the majority of your day sitting you are at more of a risk for health issues than if you did not.  If a standing desk isn’t in the near future, start thinking about your posture while sitting.  Scoot your chair in so you’re not reaching/rounding forward, have both feet flat on the floor, sit up tall and off the back of your seat so you have to actually engage your core muscles, pull shoulder blades back and down, keep neck neutral.  You may have to adjust your desk set up to make this all happen, but I promise that you won’t regret it.

As a coach and someone that’s never had a desk job, I am very fortunate to not have to sit in one spot all day.  However, I still do have a set up at home where for the few hours I do have to spend on the computer I am in an ergonomically sound position.  If you have any other strategies you have found that work for you, please include them in the comment section.

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Written by Jenny

Jenny LaBaw has been an athlete her entire life. As a 3-sport collegiate athlete, she competed in soccer, indoor and outdoor track and field. Post college she found her need for competition fulfilled through endurance running races anywhere from 5K’s to marathons. Her competitive drive led her to CrossFit in 2010 where she started training to compete at the elite level. In 2011, her first year competing in CrossFit, Jenny placed 2nd at the Northern California Regionals earning herself a spot to The 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games where she gained the title as the 6th Fittest Woman on Earth. In 2012 she improved her regional standings, taking 1st in Northern California and once again a spot to The Reebok CrossFit Games. She still competes at the elite level in CrossFit, but outside of competition, Jenny loves being outdoors mountain biking, hiking, waterskiing, snow skiing, camping and more with her boyfriend, Marcus and two yellow labs, Ziggy and Pogo. With her love for sport and exercise, Jenny chose a career as a personal trainer so she could share her passion of health and fitness with others. Attending Cornell College, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education with an emphasis in Fitness and Wellness. Prior to Norcal, she has trained in gyms, private training studios, and coached soccer. Her 10+ years of coaching experience has allowed her to work directly with a wide variety of people from children trying to discover their coordination to adults wanting to shed a few pounds to professional athletes looking to be the best in the world. No matter what walk of life you are coming to her from, her mission is to make you realize your potential and get you there. She will prove to you that you can be stronger, more fit, and healthier than you think you can be. With her inspiration, motivation and dedication, she will challenge your body, encourage your mind, and help you to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Jenny will help you be your best!

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11 Comments

  1. Matt B

    Love it Jenny! Great post! Do it people!

  2. I’m so guilty of slouching at my desk. Also, I tend to lean on my left arm and use the mouse with my right. I’m trying really hard to break these habits, though, and since starting at Nor Cal I am much more aware of my shoulder blades and trying to keep them in my back pockets ;)

    I’ve been trying our regular stretches at my desk, but maybe these will be less conspicuous. Thanks, Jenny!

  3. I have a yoga mat rolled out by my desk. If I feel tight or stiff, I just drop down and do a few stretches. My boss asked me what it was and I just told him the truth: “I have low back issues and I need to stretch out my muscles to deal with the pain.”

  4. Shawn G

    I like it! Great post!

  5. Brian Hancock CSCS

    Love this article. I work in a coporate fitness setting of sorts and see these issues w/ 90% of our clients. Some of the things I already have my clients do (tennis/ lax ball at desk. I just wish the fed gov could possible set the example w/ standing desks and mandatory breaks. Again great post.

  6. Anne Yates

    Thanks Jenny. Great stretches and and exercises. Love the way you wrote this. Especially targeting all the right places.

  7. Katie D.

    Great post and stretching tips Jenny!

  8. Mona Dagy

    This relates to everyone here at River Partners. Great post. And the answer to everything “is squeeze your glutes and engage your core.”

  9. David Parent

    Very informative post, thank you!

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