Your Ultimate Anti-Desk Exercises

You sit at a desk from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon (and sometimes longer), Monday through Friday (and sometimes on weekends too). 

And every time you get up out of that desk chair, whether to go to the bathroom or the copy machine, there’s a good chance you feel some of the unpleasant aftereffects of all that desk-jobbing. Your lower back is tight, and your hips are sore, and your back and neck definitely don’t feel ideal. 

That’s because sitting at a desk does a number on your whole body. It’s far from a natural posture in a variety of ways. And the more time you spend in that desk-sitting position, the more your muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments are paying a price. 

The good news: A lot of this damage can be reversed if you occasionally do some exercises to counteract it. Spend a few minutes a day doing these exercises (at your office, at home, or at the gym), and you’ll go a long way towards erasing the effects of that desk life. 

Dumbbell Row

When you sit at a desk and type all day, your back muscles are in a very “relaxed” mode. That’s not how they’re supposed to be. They’re supposed to be tight, pulling your shoulder blades back and opening up your shoulder joints. 

Rows of any kind (whether dumbbell, barbell, or cable) are the best way to create that tightness and reset the positioning of your shoulders. And the basic dumbbell row is one of your best options here. To do it, just stand with a single dumbbell, hinge forward at the waist and grab something with your opposite arm to support yourself. Aim to have your torso nearly parallel to the ground, shoulders just slightly higher than hips, then row the dumbbell to your hip. Lower it. Squeeze your shoulder blade as you do this. Think of doing 3 sets of 10 reps per side. 

Superman Hold

This is your other option for getting those back muscles to wake up, and the best part is, it’s bodyweight so you can do it anywhere. Just lie on your belly, legs and arms extended. Squeeze your glutes; this will lift your legs off the ground just slightly. Then squeeze your shoulder blades and lift your straight arms high off the ground. This will drive your chest up a bit too. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Do 3 to 5 reps, hitting 3 sets. 

Glute Bridge

The other muscle that frequently falls asleep when you sit at a desk: Your glutes. And losing this muscle group hurts greatly because it’s responsible for driving your hips into a neutral position when you stand, providing a strong base for your spine to sit upon. You need to be able to “feel” your glutes on a regular basis, but often, we lose that function. 

Regain it with the glute bridge. Lie on your back, feet flat on the ground, knees bent, feet spread just slightly. Squeeze your glutes hard, lifting your hips off the ground, aiming to create a straight line from shoulders through knees. Keep your core tight as you do this. Lower back to the ground. Do 8-10 reps per side and hit 3 sets. 

Couch Stretch

Your hip flexors get tight from all that sitting, and they’ll also prevent you from standing up straight. Combat that with the couch stretch, a vicious move that’ll open up your hip flexors a great deal. 

To do it, stand facing away from a couch, box, or chair, back of the legs touching it. Place one knee on the box or chair and slide it back until your foot or shin can rest on its back; bend your front knee as you do so, creating a 90-degree angle at the front knee. Place your hands on the ground and squeeze your abs tight, then raise your torso so it’s nearly perpendicular to the ground. Hold for 10 seconds; do 1 or 2 reps per side. 

Spiderman to T-Spine Stretch

Loosen up your mid-back and stretch your entire body with the Spiderman to T-spine stretch. Your entire body will love you for this one. To do it, get in plank position, abs tight, then shift your right foot toward your right arm; keep your glutes tight as you do this. Your right knee should be at a right angle. Remove your left hand from the ground and reach it straight overhead, opening your chest and feeling the stretch along your upper body. That’s 1 rep; do 2 to 3 per side. Do 1 or 2 sets. 

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Fitness Director for Men’s Health Magazine and CSCS trainer -

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He's logged training time with NFL and track athletes, and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men's Health in 2017, he served as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.