Working from a desk all day can take its toll on the body. With more people performing most of their job functions from a computer, many people are sedentary for about 40 or more hours per week. If this sounds like you, we’re going to cover 10 basic exercises that can help to get you more active. These exercises can all be performed without any special equipment. With some of the exercises we discuss how to modify them to make it easier or harder to perform.
With bodyweight exercises we are typically trying to build endurance in our muscles so repetitions of the exercises are on the higher side. I recommend shooting for 10 to 20 repetitions for each set. If you’re just starting out, this number may be lower but try to increase it each week by 1 to 2 repetitions. Your goal is to do three sets of each exercise. It can be done one exercise at a time or 3 rounds of the whole set. For example, you could do 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, … Or 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4… Here are 10 bodyweight exercises that are great for the desk worker!
Strengthens: Most of your lower extremities. Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteal muscles, Calves
How to perform: Feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Squat down so that thighs are parallel to the floor. During this exercise try to keep your knees pushed outward, and not letting your knees go past your toes.
Modifications: To make it HARDER: Holding weights (dumbbells, kettlebell, bar, ect.), exercise band around top of knees, perform on bosu ball/balance board
Strengthens: Quadriceps, Glutes
How to perform: Starting with feet together, take a large step forward. Drop back knee down to the ground. Push back up and bring feet back together. Step with opposite leg and repeat process. Keep hands on hips or behind your head.
Modifications: To make it HARDER: Holding dumbbells by your side
3. Side Lying Leg Lifts
Strengthens: Gluteus medius/minimus, tensor fascia latae/IT band
How to perform: Lay on your side on the ground or flat surface. Your body should be in a straight line. You can rest your head on your downside arm and place the other arm on hips. Raise top leg till you start to feel your low back engage, then slowly lower back down.
Modifications: To make it HARDER: Exercise band around the top of the knees; start in a side lying plank position
Strengthens: Most of your upper extremities. Pectoralis, deltoids, triceps, biceps, forearms, upper back, abdominal muscles
How to perform: Lay face down on the floor. Hands should be placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Feet should be together or just slightly apart. Keeping the body in a straight line, push up with arms into the starting position. In starting position your body weight should be on your hands and toes, with your thighs and back in a straight line. Let the body slowly drop down so that there is a 90-degree angle in the elbows, then press back up.
Modifications: To make it EASIER: Incline push-ups against a wall, bench or chair; Do floor push-ups from knees instead of toes. To make it HARDER: Perform on a soft surface (foam); with a medicine ball under one hand; feet or hands on a bosu ball.
Strengthens: Rectus abdominis, transvers abdominis, lumbar paraspinal muscles
How to perform: Starting position is on elbows and toes face down. Body is held straight with the back and thighs in a straight line. This exercise is a hold for time. Recommended time per set is 15 to 60 seconds.
Modifications: To make it EASIER: Support body on elbows and knees. To make it HARDER: Hands or feet on bosu ball or yoga ball.
6. Side Planks
Strengthens: Transverse abdominis, obliquus abdominis muscles, gluteus medius
How to perform: Lay on your side on the floor. Support yourself on your downside elbow and your downside foot. Body should be held straight without dropping the hips and pelvis pushed forward. Hold this position. This exercise is a hold for time. Recommended time per set is 15 to 60 seconds.
Modifications: To make it EASIER: Support body on your knees instead of feet. To make it HARDER: Hands or feet on a bosu ball or foam surface; combine side planks with side lying leg lifts
Strengthens: Erector spinae muscles, back muscles
How to perform: Lay with your stomach on the floor, with arms overhead and legs about shoulder width apart. Bring the neck into a retracted position raising it off the floor. Raise all four limbs off the floor till you feel resistance in your body, then slowly return to the floor.
Modifications: To make it EASIER: raise one limb at a time; raise one hand and opposite leg at the same time. To make it HARDER: Hold contracted position for time instead of repetitions
Strengthens: Erector spinae muscles, gluteal muscles, back muscles
How to perform: Get on all fours on the floor (hands and knees), with hands under shoulder and knees under the hips. Extend one hand and the opposite leg straight outward and bring back down. Repeat with the opposite side.
Modifications: To make it HARDER: from the extended position, bring hand and knee together under the body and extend back out.
9. Tricep Dips
Strengthens: Triceps, trapezius, shoulders
How to perform: Use the edge of a chair, couch, table or some surface that can hold your bodyweight and won’t slide out from you. Put hands at the edge of the chair facing away from the chair. Feet should be a large step out from the chair. Drop your butt to the floor supporting yourself on your arms. Drop down till your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push body back up so elbows are straight.
Modifications: To make it EASIER: Bring feet closer to the support (chair, ect.). To make it HARDER: Feet further away from the support.
10. Sumo Squats
Strengthens: Most of lower extremities, emphasizes the hip adductor (groin) muscles more than normal squats
How to perform: Feet wide apart, with feet pointed out at 45 degree angles from the center. Squat down, bring thighs parallel to floor, then come back up.
Modifications: To make it HARDER: Hold weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, bar, ect.)
Remember these are general exercises that require a minimum amount of physical fitness. If you’re injured or experiencing pain, you should always consult your chiropractor or healthcare provider.