Desk workers and flexibility are rarely a happy couple! Annoyingly, lots of us work at desks – I’m currently sat tapping away at my snazzy bluetooth keyboard, in (admittedly) a fairly slouched position – and lots of us suffer the same postural issues as a result. Lots of us are especially tight through the muscles located in the front of our bodies. The typical problem muscles in the anterior (front) of the body include (but are not exclusive to) the hip flexors (and thus quads), abdominals, shoulders and chest.
The rounding of the shoulders and tightened anterior muscle groups are also intensified by the consistent use of portable electronic devices like phones and tablets, and are also more common with taller people.
Whilst we do not expect you to sit with perfect posture all day every day (especially on those horrible 9 – 12 hour days!), we do encourage you to perform some simple actions daily that can help assist with improving your posture, and reducing the tightness through the front of your body. These steps would aim to help with everyday posture and stop these tight muscle groups negating from your workouts. Chronically tight muscles can cause:
- Poor range of motion (through your joints and exercises) and hampered technique
- Reduced ability to lift heavy on most exercises, especially complex barbell and dumbbell compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press)
- Increased likelihood of injury from weight training, sport and from general ‘wear and tear’
- Muscular and frequent back (and knee) pain
- Underactive glutes and overactive quads (muscular imbalances)
- Headaches, increased stress and reduced physical and mental performance
The negative impact of tight muscle groups are most noticeable on compound lifts, which are multi-joint (complicated) exercises we (usually) use the most weight with, and in layman’s terms – exercises we make the most progress with! The four articles below tie into this article well, and would be a good read for any active individual looking to stay in peak condition:
As well as the stretches detailed in our upper body and our lower body stretching routines, these key stretches below would be great to perform at lunchtime or to break up longer periods of sitting. We would suggest:
- Performing 1-2 stretches on both sides of the body/each limb
- Holding each stretch for around 15-30 seconds
- OR hold each stretch for 3 slow breaths – relaxing a little more with every exhale
- Trying your best to relax into the stretch rather than resist the stretching sensation
- Avoid bouncing, although some slow and controlled pulsing can benefit some stretches to work more range through the joint (as demonstrated by dynamic stretches and mobility work pre-activity
Hip Flexor Stretch:
- Take a large stride forwards, sinking to the bottom of a lunge position with your rear knee on the floor.
- Push the hips forwards, and keep the shoulders and head back. You should feel a stretch though the front of the hip of the rear leg.
- Extend the arms overhead or turn away from the rear leg to increase the stretch through the abdomen, ribcage and shoulders.
Abdominal and Back Stretch:
- From a crawl position move the body forwards and hips down, but keep the arms straight, until your feel a stretch through the abs (looking upwards here).
- Slowly rock back and sit on to your heels, keeping your hands planted, and let the body move towards the ground to allow a stretch to be felt through the back and chest.
- Repeat by moving backwards and forwards (10 times), and holding each stretch for around 3-5 seconds.
Chest and Shoulder Door Stretch:
- Place your forearm flat and vertical on a door frame, with the elbow the same height as (or slightly below) your arm pit.
- Step through the door, allowing the chest and shoulder joint to open, and a stretch to be felt through both muscle groups.
- Repeat on both sides, and avoid tightening/bunching up through the traps/upper back.
- Sit on the floor and draw the left foot into your right knee, whilst keeping the right leg flat against the floor and extended.
- Reach out to your right foot with both hands, finding an intensity of stretch down the back of the right leg you can tolerate, before resting the hands on the shin.
- Repeat on both sides.
Table Hip and Glute Stretch:
- Stand face on to a table, before placing the outside of your lower leg on the table – at least your foot/ankle will touch the table here, and ideally you should be able to touch the outside of your knee on to the table top too.
- Bend the back knee to lower the body, and increase the intensity of the stretch.
Here are some secondary stretches that may help avoid other issues like elbow problems and a tight upper back associated with desk work (see the photos in this article):
Seated Trap Stretch:
- Sit upright on a chair, before grabbing underneath the chair seat on the right hand side.
- Keep the right elbow extended and lean the head to the left hand side until you feel a stretch throughout the right hand side of your neck and upper back.
Wall Bicep Stretch:
- Find a flat wall and place your hand at shoulder height upside down.
- Try to keep the hand flat against the wall and elbow extended so a stretch is felt through the bicep and forearm.
- Extend your right arm in front of you, and pull the fingers of the right hand towards you with your left hand until a stretch is felt through the right forearm.
Improving your flexibility and mobility, and actually becoming more aware of good and bad posture, can really benefit your long term progress and health. We include stretching and ‘prehab’ work in our flagship guides for ladies and gents, to ensure you progress efficiently and safely over the duration of your chosen guide.
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