By Coach Meredith
How can we increase movement throughout the day if we have a standard 9-5 desk job? My answer to you is: there are A LOT of ways to increase activity even if you have to remain at your desk for the majority of the day. Here I will go over just a few ways to focus on core strength and increase physical activity throughout the day.
Even with standing desks, parking at the furthest end of the parking lot, walking to meetings and trying to walk at lunch, most people STILL spend the majority of their workdays sitting. Booooo!
Fortunately, there is a way to sneak strengthening exercises into your daily routine, even if your day is packed with meetings. One trick is using isometrics. These are moves that use contraction and relaxation to engage muscles.
HOW ISOMETRIC EXERCISES WORK
On a basic level, muscles contract in three main ways. Concentric contraction happens when a muscle tenses, which means you’re shortening it. Eccentric contraction occurs when that muscle tension is prompted through lengthening, such as resistance or lowering a weight.
For example, with a bicep curl, you have concentric contraction as you bring the weight toward you, and eccentric contraction as you lower the weight.
With isometric contraction, muscles tighten without changing length, and there is no movement in a joint. Examples include pushing against an immoveable object like a wall or holding plank. You remain in one position without movement, but are still doing plenty of work.
Isometrics are also called “static strength training.” These exercises can be so effective they bring muscles to fatigue quickly and the effects last long after they’re done.
Try some of these isometric exercises throughout your workday. Although they seem like modest moves, they can help to keep your muscles working:
Clasp your hands or press your palms together in front of your chest, elbows bent, exerting equal pressure in both arms. Hold each press for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5–6 times. This will work your biceps, chest and triceps — maybe while you’re reading emails.
Sit up straight in your chair, with shoulders relaxed. Breathe deeply and engage your abs as if you’re bracing for a punch. Hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out while “crunching” your abs upward as if you’re doing a sit-up. Exhale completely, take a few breaths, then repeat. This can be a great exercise during long meetings, since the action is subtle and no one will know you’re doing a major ab workout while you’re taking notes.
Strong glutes help to protect your back, especially when you’re chair-bound for most of the day. A simple isometric exercise is to squeeze your glutes and hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release.
To get some movement in your shoulders and engage your core, stand about 3 feet from a wall and place your palms against it at shoulder height and width apart. Press firmly against the wall for 10 seconds, then release. You can also make this into a push-up by lowering your torso toward the wall and pressing back up.
The main benefit you’ll see with isometric holds is stabilization of the muscles. Isometric exercises are done in a static position which means they won’t help improve speed or athletic performance, however they can help maintain muscle strength.
Isometric movements are often used in physical therapy to rehab injured muscles, so if you’re trying to bounce back after injury or other issues, putting some isometric exercises into your everyday schedule can also be useful.
There is also another advantage to performing these movements, especially for work: Isometric exercises can help lower blood pressure. That means you can de-stress and fit in some workout moves at the same time.
You should try incorporating a few exercises per day, and do them at about 30% of your max effort. From there, you can start to build more into your workdays and increase intensity over time.
Like I mentioned, this is just one way to increase your physical activity with a desk job. There are also bodyweight movements and other exercises you can perform to improve your strength while on the job.