The number of Americans joining gyms continues to grow, yet their pant sizes aren’t shrinking. Unhealthy eating deserves some of the blame, but so does your job. The American Heart Association reports the number of physically active jobs in the U.S. has significantly decreased over the decades, now making up just 20% of the workforce. While hitting the stationary bike before heading to the office is a good way to counteract all that sitting, it just isn’t enough.
Spending your days tapping at a keyboard while seated has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and dementia. All of these could contribute to a lower quality of life down the road as well as an early death. Some of the effects are even more immediate. The Washington Post illustrates how a desk job leads to tight hips, weak glutes, a flabby stomach, an aching neck, and a sore back. Essentially, you’ll find yourself in a downward spiral of feeling pretty crummy.
It’s time to fight back against the damage your desk inflicts on your body. For starters, getting up to move around every 30 minutes will help significantly. A little bit of targeted strength training and stretching will also go a long way toward helping you feel better. Try these six moves to boost your fitness and flexibility today.
1. Glute bridge with march
Sitting on your rear end all the time means it’s doomed to become increasingly weak. While lacking strength in your posterior might seem like a tiny problem, it can lead to some significant injuries. Weak glutes cause your surrounding muscles, including your hip flexors and quads, to work harder, especially during exercise. All that exertion could easily lead to a strain. Insufficient strength in this area also contributes to some more unexpected problems. According to Runner’s World, weak glutes can cause IT band pain, tight calves, and aching knees. Keep your backside strong, and the rest of your lower body will follow.
Plenty of exercises are designed to target these muscles, including the basic glute bridge. This move is a variation on the standard, which incorporates individually lifting your legs to help target both sides and challenge your stabilizing muscles. Get into position by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat against the ground. You can keep your hands resting at your sides. Raise your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold the pose, then lift your left leg and drive your knee towards your body. Return your foot to the ground, then repeat with your right leg.
The Huffington Post Canada says the key to this move is keeping your hips stable and using controlled movements. The article recommends 20 repetitions for each leg, but it’s more important to get the motion right than it is to do tons of volume. As you get stronger, increase your repetitions.
2. Grok squats
When you sit in the same position all day, the muscles around your hips actually shorten and become tighter. This makes it more difficult to move in general, and it’s even worse for athletes. AZCentral.com explains tight hip flexors can cause your pelvis to tilt and wreak havoc on your posture. In short, you’ll end up with an aching back in no time. Even if you don’t care all that much about sports performance, this tightness is also bad news for the bedroom. Without mobility in your hips, you won’t be able to do much with your lower body.
Sometimes a little bit of stretching is the best medicine. This move looks unusual, but it will really help open up your hips while stretching some other areas of your body. Art of Manliness compared the grok squat to a catcher’s stance you see in baseball. To get into position, lower yourself into a squat until your butt touches your ankles, keeping your feet firmly planted and your back straight. The article recommends holding the stance for 30 to 60 seconds to get a good stretch.
3. Thoracic bridge
Most exercises are designed to target one specific area, but this move will help your hips, back, and shoulders. We’ve already discussed hip mobility, so it’s time to touch on the other two. When you sit at a desk, it’s easy to find yourself hunched over the computer. By the time you finally get up for lunch, you may find your neck and back hurt from holding this obscure posture for so long. The thoracic bridge is one of the best moves to undo that damage since it boosts mobility in those areas.
Start on your hands and knees with your arms extended directly below your shoulders. Plant your weight on your toes, and raise your knees so they’re just a few inches off the ground. Simultaneously lift your right hand and left foot off the ground, then rotate your chest to the right until you can plant your foot to the left of your right leg. Making sure both feet are firmly planted on the ground, drive your hips up towards the ceiling while keeping your left arm planted and extending your right arm slightly towards the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position, and switch sides. Check out James Clear for a detailed tutorial.
4. Bird dog
The same slouched posture that strains your shoulders also contributes to a weak core. These muscles make up the center part of your body, so they play a central role in balance and stability for nearly every type of physical activity. Planks are a great go-to move to target your core, but the bird dog provides even more of a challenge since you have to work harder to keep yourself aligned. Men’s Fitness explains core exercises that challenge stability are more beneficial than stagnant movements, such as crunches, because they’re more true to life.
To perform this move, get on your hands and knees with your knees planted directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Keeping your back flat, simultaneously extend your right arm and left leg until they are aligned with your back. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your left arm and right leg. Livestrong explains the key to this exercise is keeping your back from sagging and your hips from rotating. You’ll be on your way to hunch-proof posture in no time.
5. T-spine smash
Our classic desk position involves a lot of slouching and doesn’t allow for much shoulder movement. This can lead to some mobility issues, which is bad news for any guy who likes to hit the golf course over the weekend. According to Professional Physical Therapy and Training, the T-spine smash can help restore your range of motion and improve your posture. All you need is a foam roller.
Position yourself on the ground with your knees bent, feet firmly planted, and a foam roller sandwiched between the area just above your shoulder blades and the ground. Look towards the ceiling, and hug your arms across your chest. As you hold the hug, slowly roll the foam roller down your back and then return to just above your shoulder blades. Check out Switch CrossFit for a great video demonstration.