If you sit at a desk all day… THIS IS FOR YOU!
With every sport comes injuries. Baseball players have their shoulder and elbow injuries, football players with back and neck damage, and skiers with knee issues to name a few. And then there is the ‘sport’ of desk sitting. Of course I’m joking but with the amount of weaknesses and limitations I see from clients who spend gruesome hours at their desk week after week, it might as well have its own sporting category with its own common injuries.
So are you a desk warrior? Do you think you have bad posture? Is your neck hurting you? How about your back? Well, I have great news! I may be able to help prevent or even stop these pains. The answer is simple: resistance training and stretching! Simple of course if you know what it is you need to do. That’s why I’m here—to guide each and every desk dweller out there through a simple routine of exercises that will lead to a better posture and a less painful future.
I’m going to start this off by talking about the most physically affected postural problem seen on many people, a rounded upper back and rounded shoulders. You’ll see a lightly hunched upper back and overly relaxed shoulders. So how is it that we find ourselves in this position? Computers, phones, tablets…just about all those electric devices you own are your posture’s enemies. A lot of us tend to sit all day focusing on the computer screen or texting and this brings about slouching. As time goes on, the muscles in your upper back and rear shoulders (deltoids) become too relaxed and therefore become under-active, leading to weakness. This is also coupled with chest tightness. The solution? Strengthen your upper middle traps, your rear deltoids and upper back while focusing on stretching your chest. To clarify these muscle groups, just Google search them to get a better understanding of what you are working or stretching.
Follow these exercises for a better you:
Exercise #1—Wall Stretch
Start with this exercise trainers call the “Wall Stretch.” Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps at a slow and controlled pace. You can split these 3 sets throughout the day. It will mainly focus on your rear deltoids and upper middle traps, which will really help to pull those shoulders back. For some of you this will be surprisingly painful. “But it looks so easy!” Give it a try and let’s see how you do!
- Step 1) Stand with your back against a flat wall with no obstructions, making sure your heels touch, butt is firmly against the wall. Keeping your core always engaged (focus on trying to force your belly button through the wall) will help to eliminate that large arch between your lower back and the wall. Push your shoulders to touch the wall and bring your elbows directly out to the side of your shoulders. Keep the elbows and back of the hands against the wall (palms facing forward) the entire time of this Wall Stretch.
- Step 2) Slide your hands all the way up above your head to their absolute maximum while keeping everything against the wall until your elbows are locked. Try and touch your hands together.
- Step 3) Slowly return your hands to their original position.
Exercise #2—Bent Over “I”-“T”-“Y”
This exercise is named so because we are basically creating these letters with our arms and body. The main focus will be on all of those weak rear and side shoulder muscles that we hardly use and the “bent over” part will focus on a little lower back strength endurance. Do the entire set of 3 letters for 10 repetitions and repeat 3 times throughout the day.
- Step 1) Use light weights (1-5lbs) in each hand, bend over making sure your upper torso is held with good posture (slightly curved lower back, “big chest” and shoulder blades pulled together) and let hands hang to the floor.
- Step 2) Elbows locked and arms straight, slowly raise arms forward so that they are directly beside your ears and parallel to each other making the letter “I”. Hold for about a second and then lower slowly back to start position.
- Step 3) Elbows locked and arms straight, slowly raise arms but this time directly out to the side creating the letter “T.” Hold for a second and then lower slowly back to start position.
- Step 4) Elbows locked and arms straight, slowly raise arms to a 45° angle, making the letter “Y.” Hold for a second and then lower slowly back to start position.
Exercise #3 – Superman Swimmers
During this exercise, you’ll find yourself looking like superman or superwoman…well minus the flying part. Primary muscles that will be worked in this exercise are upper middle traps, rear deltoids, and lower back. These exercises will help zap that bad posture. For most of you, this will require no weight, as the weight of your arms will be enough. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions throughout your day.
- Step 1) Lie flat on your stomach with your head neutral (looking down). Put your elbows out to the sides, bend your forearms 90°, making two L’s.
- Step 2) Lifting just your upper torso off the ground as high as possible, making sure your chest and shoulders are off the ground as much as you can, pull your elbows and hands “to the ceiling.”
- Step 3) Slowly reach forward and try locking your elbows and touch your hands together.
- Step 4) Slowly bring elbows back to start and slowly relax to the floor.
Note: Think about pulling your shoulder blades together during the entire exercise to get best results.
Exercise # 4—Barbell Rhomboid Rows
Talk about a great exercise that will have you wanting more…this one I love. This will focus on strengthening your upper back (Latissimus Dorsi), increasing your lower back strength endurance, and engage those Rhomboids. Working these 3 muscles will help to correct your posture, thus your shoulder blades will be pulled back. You’ll look like the king/queen of good posture before you know it! As far as weight choices go, you don’t need much. Ladies try 15-20 lbs, gentleman try 30-40 lbs. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Step 1) Bend over making sure your upper torso is held with good posture (slightly curved lower back, “big chest” and shoulder blades pulled together). Hold a barbell, weight of your choice, at a close grip position below your chest and arms at full length to the ground.
- Step 2) Pull the barbell up directly beneath your chest while keeping your elbows in and hold for about 2 seconds. During this hold, really concentrate on retracting your shoulder blades together and squeezing.
- Step 3) Slowly lower to starting position and repeat.
Check back in next week for more exercises focusing on neck and lower back pain in Part 2, and the week after for some great stretches in Part 3! And to connect with me for a training session, visit my website BronCore Fitness.
Feature image courtesy of Benjamin Thompson