15 Feb Desk Jockey to Gym Junkie – Posture Session #1
Sitting at a desk all day is not ideal for your posture. We’ve known this for a while. A lot of people think that you should simply sit up straight and minimise your time slouched over a computer. But is this realistic? If you’re not hunched over a computer, you’re most like slumped over your phone, over the kitchen counter, over your steering wheel, or over your kids. Bad posture is everywhere, and unfortunately, it is mostly unavoidable. However, there are some ways you can fight bad posture and minimise the negative effects it has on your body.
Assuming that most people spend anywhere from 4-12 hours a day seated at a computer, or over a smart phone or tablet (or car or baby…), let’s review a few key areas that instigate bad posture for the everyday desk jockey.
Sitting creates tightness through the hip flexors and quadriceps muscles (along the front of your thighs and hips). This will also promote the knees to stay bent, increasing tightness in the lower hamstrings (back of the thighs and knees) and calves. The upper body slumps forward at the shoulders, creating roundness in the upper back and tightness in the chest and front of the shoulders. The mid-back muscles will lay in a lengthened, weakened state, while the ribs compress the abdominal wall and inner organs. In this slouched position, your chin will then protrude forward, emphasising tightness at the back of the neck and hunched shoulders.
So, what can you do to improve your posture?
Some people think going to the gym to smash out a workout or going for a run is the best thing for their posture. And it is… well, sort of. I’ve worked in gyms for nearly 15 years, and I see a lot people with good intentions, but not enough education. If you go straight from the office to the gym, you are most likely going to train in your poor “desk jockey” posture. If you train in poor posture, you will strengthen your body to maintain poor posture. This also includes running and cycling as while both are great forms of exercise, they promote this same poor posture as sitting at a desk all day.
The implementation of a few select exercises at the beginning of your workout can help bring your body OUT of bad posture, and IN to better posture. I would never advised someone to stop exercising because the benefits of exercise will always supersede an inactive lifestyle. However, I would advise on making your exercise selection more beneficial and allowing yourself to get “more bang for your buck” …. by being able to improve your posture AND your fitness.
“If you don’t have time to warm-up, then you don’t have time to workout” – Balanced Posture Online
Here is my desk jockey specific “7-minute Mobility and Activation Warm-Up” you can implement today:
Mobility and Activation:
Bench Quad Stretch – I like to start with this stretch to self-assess your tightness that day. Some days this can feel easier than others, so listen to your body and make sure to loosen up those hips before you train. Sit at the very end of a bench, hook one foot under the frame and hug the other leg into the chest as shown in the picture. Lower yourself down onto the bench, keeping the abdominals pulled in. A stretch will be felt down the front of the thigh of the lower leg. If this feels too intense, un-hook your foot and rest it on the ground. Hold for 30sec, 1x each side. Try this again at the end of your workout, holding for 60seconds, 1x each side (this will most likely feel easier after a workout).
Hip Opener – 1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Active Stretch – Kneel down on one knee, with both the front and back legs creating a 90 degree angle at the hip and knee as shown in the picture. Tuck the pelvis under, flattening the lower back and engaging the abdominals. Gently squeeze the buttocks of the back leg. You should feel a stretch down the front of that thigh. Maintaining the stretch, gently lean forward into the stretch a little bit more, as shown in the second picture, maintaining an upright posture. Keep the buttocks and core engaged. Hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat x5. Then repeat on the other leg.
Quad Release with Spiky Ball (or tennis ball) – Lie on your side and place the ball in front of the top of your thigh. Gently lean your body weight onto the ball so the outer quadriceps muscle press into the ball. This may feel tender; only go as far as you can tolerate. “Roll” on/off the muscle 3-5 times, then move the ball down the thigh about 5-10cm. Repeat this rolling pressure release 3-5 times at each 5-10cm segment down the thigh until you reach above the knee. Repeat on the other leg. Some areas may be more tender than others and may need extra attention.
Crocodile Bites – Side Lying Trunk Rotation – This one is great to open up the back, chest and shoulders. Lying on your side with the hips and knees creating 90 degree angles, reach the arms straight out at shoulder height. Slowly raise the top arm and rotate the upper body as you reach the arm towards the floor behind you. Try to rotate your chest to face the ceiling and get both shoulder blades to touch the ground. Do not force it, if your arm doesn’t reach the ground that is ok. Focus on rotating through the trunk, rather than making the hand reach the floor. Keep the legs together, making sure they don’t move. This movement is all about the trunk. Repeat this 5x on each side.
Hip Bridges / Glute Activation – Lie on your back with the knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Begin with a slight posterior pelvic tilt (flattening the lower back against the floor) and engage the glutes to lift the hips up. Once up, make sure to draw the rib cage inwards so they do not flare open to the ceiling. Abs are pulled in, and the glutes should be on. Re-engage the posterior pelvic tilt to maintain glute activation and minimise your lower back muscles trying to dominate. This is NOT a lower back exercise. You should be lifting with the glutes. Hold for 2 seconds at the top before lowering. Repeat x 15.
Mid-Back Activator + Chest Opener – I call this one “standing ski jumper” because you will resemble the position a ski jumper takes (perhaps it is the Canadian in me coming out!). Stand about 10-15cm in front of the wall, with your back facing the wall. Engage the core, lift up through the chest and down through the shoulders, then gently press the side of your hands against the wall as shown in the picture. Press into the wall as if you trying to push the wall over. You should feel the muscles in the mid-back, around the shoulder blades, triceps and the lats turning on (as well as the core). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times. Try this one throughout the day at the office to break up your time at the computer, it is great for opening the chest and relaxing those hunched shoulder and neck muscles!