The office work that engulfs the majority of today's society today is one reason people have such bad posture.
Some would even argue that posture started to deteriorate with the invention of the chair. Being hunched over is an easier route to take than sitting up straight with your shoulders back, after all. For this reason, among others, the majority of the exercises that I would recommend for people to do at their desk are not necessarily for calorie burning but rather for postural correction.
I understand that people have busy lives, but at some point you need to make your health a priority and get to the gym to workout. Carve out 3-4 times each week where you can get a 45-60 minute work out in. Make it a priority. Even if it's a short 30 minute, workout it's better than nothing. You can get some serious heavy lifting in and get a serious sweat in that short amount of time.
During the day at your desk, though, I would want you to practice good habits that can keep you standing upright and help your spine stay healthy for your entire life.
If you notice most people's posture is too often in a slumped, slouched forward position. Any bending forward is called flexion. Bending backward is called extension. Most people spend all day in flexion. For this reason, I want you to go into extension as much as possible. (This is one reason I don't encourage crunches because people spend the majority of your day already in a flexion position, so crunches only further promote poor posture and a bad spine by pressing the back flat against the floor time and time again. There are better ways - scratch that - far better ways to train your abdominals.)
Exercise 1: Thoracic Spine Extensions
From a seated position, a standing position, or if you have a stability ball you can lay on that with the ball on your hips or stomach, I want you to arch your back and bend backwards going into extension. Your arms will be above your head like the letter “Y” - Both arms at a 45 degree angle from your body and your thumbs will be pointing behind you.
Pointing your thumbs behind you causes you to externally rotate your shoulders. This is another position that will hopefully help to offset the slumped, slouched position while at work. You can hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds and then return and repeat up to 15 times.
Not only will this help to work the back muscles and oppose a poor posture, but it will also keep that position at the forefront of your brain for when you are seated at your desk so that you won't continually sit with poor posture. Make sure you are trying to arch the back in the middle of the back and don’t focus on your lower spine.
Exercise 2: Thoracic Mobilization
Simply extend your arms out to the sides making a letter “T”. You can do this seated or standing. Look left out beyond your left hand. As you inhale, lift your right arm up slightly above horizontal and turn the palm up to the ceiling as well as lower your left arm slightly below horizontal and your left palm to the ground.
On the exhale, turn your head so it’s now facing right and reverse your arm positions. You rotate your head and reverse arm positions on your breathing pace. It should flow easy. You will always be looking at the hand that’s facing down.
Do 10-20 per set whenever you need to “wake up” a bit while sitting at your desk. It might not feel like you're doing much, but this actually can significantly help the health of the thoracic spine.
Exercise 3: Alternating Superman
This exercise can be done lying down or over a swiss ball. You should be lying face down with your arms above your head at a 45 degree angle to your body making the letter “Y”. Lift your left arm and right leg so they are at approximately the same height. Keep your arm at the 45 degree angle with your thumb pointing up to the sky. Hold for up to 10 seconds, then slowly lower your arm and leg and alternate to the other side arm and leg. Keep your head and neck neutral with the spine raising and lowering as the arms do. Repeat 5 or 6 times each side. This is another great exercise for health of the thoracic spine!
Timed (Cortisol Lowering) Breathing
Everyone gets stressed at work. Cortisol is riding high and people start to crave sweets or other processed carbs. This is known as the cortisol/insulin seesaw. I don’t want you to be stressed and I don’t want you binging on sugar. Stay lean & mean people!
Instead, try this breathing technique. Lying on your back is preferred but you can do it seated at your desk. Inhale big for 4 seconds. Feel your stomach expand and then your chest. Hold your inhale for 4 seconds. Now exhale for 4 seconds. Then hold your exhale for 4 seconds. 16 seconds have passed and you only took one breath. Practice this breathing for a minute or two and then try and do 5 second segments. Work your way up to 8, 9 or even 10 seconds. This will lower your heart rate and cortisol levels. It should help you during a stressful segment of your day to calm down a bit. Doesn’t that feel better?
A couple exercises NOT to do at work (that everyone says to do):
Triceps desk dip:
Many people love to put their hands on their desk behind them, lower their body down and then pushing off of the desk with their hands raise their body back up. You'll even see many trainers and trainees use this at the gym with their clients on a bench. This is called the bench dip. This is a brutal exercise on the shoulder joint and I do not recommend this at all. You need to save your shoulders, so do not do this exercise.
Crunches: (see above)
twoday magazine hopes that you will try these exercises at work this week and let us know if they helped you out! Facebook us your results and here’s to a happy, healthy you!
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About Phil Gephart:
Phil Gephart is a certified personal trainer with a Master's Degree (MS) in Exercise Science with a focus in Coaching & Athletic Administration, received in 2009 from Concordia University in beautiful Irvine, California. Phil’s passion for fitness is reflected in his involvement in sports throughout his life—in high school, he played basketball, baseball and soccer, in college he continued playing basketball and soccer. Phil also played basketball professionally for five years.
Phil Gephart is currently a professor in the exercise science department at Concordia University, where he teaches an Advanced Personal Training course to undergraduate students.