by Sean St. Onge
Hello, and welcome to The Unofficial Corporate Stretching Guide: A hacking system and lexicon for the corporate desk jockey.
Are you currently sitting down?
Are you staring blankly at your computer screen?
Are your eyebrows furrowed?
Do you have your heels tucked under your chair?
Are your shoulders rounded with your hands in front of you propped in an elevated position to move your mouse?
Besides "synergizing" you to the top of the corporate ladder...what will The Unofficial Corporate Stretching Guide do for you??
- Give you stretches and exercises to be done without equipment or much space
- Provide information on postures and positions to address and avoid
- Serve as a go-to resource for specific ailments
- Be a complex lexicon making fun of corporate lexicons
Let's face it. A large portion of our society spends way too much time in a seated position. What is more unfortunate is the number of people with occupations that require them to be at a desk. There have been various quick fixes and stop gap remedies to reverse this in the workplace. Remedies like using a "Swiss/physio" ball to sit on at your desk that would require more core activation to keep your spine neutral and upright as well as the cool and hip "stand up desk." (Standing all day may not be the answer either, but that is another topic for another day, stay tuned!)
Out of an average workday in the boxed in cubicle corporate jungle, people are seated for upwards of 5 hours. How can we combat the effects of all this sitting? Especially in the workplace without being chided or mocked for looking odd??
Well, the cause outweighs the need for not looking silly, yet you do not need to do the above pictured just to keep loose.
Office Friendly Drills
1. Groiner to Desk (hips)
After being seated for so long, the muscles that flex and extend your hips and legs to move become shortened and tight. In order to keep all that musculature opened up, try a Groiner to Desk drill. Facing a corner of your desk, place your hands on the desk giving yourself some room to prop your body in a push up position. Alternating right and left feet, step in towards the desk bringing your foot flush to the base of your desk and your chest as close to the corner as possible. Be sure to NOT arch your lower back. Aim your chest over the desk as if you were looking to read that all too important "TPS Report" you have been meaning to hand in.
2. Door Frame Pec Stretch (chest)
Due to the nature of ye olde keyboard, our chests get caved in a ton. How can we fight this? Find yourself a door frame or corner of a cubicle. Keeping your elbow level with your shoulder, GENTLY lean forward but not to put too much stress on your elbows and lower back. Do your best to not crank on your shoulders while performing this one as you can be doing more damage than you know. And yes, I know it feels good. Just be mindful. You are only eliciting the response from your chest pectoralis, specifically the pectoralis minor. Note: Pictured on the right is an example of a "too much stretch" position vs. the picture on the left. Pushing or leaning too far forward can prove problematic to excess stress on an already stressed set of shoulders.
3. Seated Neck Stretch
Or the fancy term is "levator scapular stretch." While seated at your chair, set your left arm behind the small of your back, then place your chin almost touching your chest. With your free right hand, pull your head to the right GENTLY. Hold for 15-20 seconds while trying to pull your shoulder blades down as if you were to put them in your back pocket. Then, switch sides. Set up as pictured below.
4. Seated Overhead Reach (upper/mid back)
This one, although very simple, for Desk Jockey Nation, it is imperative to do! While at your desk, just raise your arms over your head as if you were trying to reach your middle fingers to touch the ceiling. If you are in the bullpen, aka cubicle row, make sure you are not just using your middle finger alone. Just saying. Keeping your "ribs down," brace your abdomen like someone was going to punch your gut. While you reach overhead, continue to take slow deep breathes. This will provide a great stretch for your lower, upper, middle traps, rhomboids, and lats. Continue to look forward without allowing your head to extend back and upwards. Eyes on the prize kids.
5. Seated/Standing Toe Pull
My good friend and resident Chiropractor/Movement Specialist, Dr. Vincent Brunelle, reminded me of how important our feet are in reference to people that are stuck in spinal flexion. (Also known as YOU! Desk Jockey Hero. Or people that sit a lot) He says, "Stretching the dorsum of the foot with your shoes off can be done in either a seated or standing position. Faulty abdominal flexors often are compensated with over active toe extension. Releasing the top of your foot provides better foot to ground reaction feedback."
Besides feeling really good, what the good doctor is trying to relay here is that due to being seated for extended periods of time, our abdominal muscles are virtually "turned off" allowing our lower back muscles to be "on" all the time. Check your feet, specifically your big toe inside your shoe. Is it pointed up towards your body? In the time I have spent writing this, I have noticed my big toe on both feet flexed up for about 70% of that time. We all do it to some extent and most don't even realize it. Hence why we sometimes get that cramp in our feet after sitting for a while and try to move around. Remove your shoe and "drag" your toes as pictured above. You should feel a great stretching sensation in the arch of your foot. Try it a few times; you may notice your abdomen flexing. By doing this stretch it can help reverse the ill effects of back pain via misuse of core muscles.
It is kind of a big deal. For the brevity of this blog, here are cliff notes. Due to the fact our bodies can regulate the breathing process without thought, for example in our sleep, we are not consciously thinking of breathing, yet it happens. For something we do a lot, we actually do not do it very well. We take north of 20,000 breaths per day and most of them improperly. While we do so, we are firing our accessory breathing muscles (upper traps, scalenes, levator scapula). Think of when someone is out of breath after hard exercise, exertion, or for the context of this article, say walking up the dreaded big staircase in your office. You may htink of someone doubled over due to exhaustion with their hands on their knees. The picture below on the right is what we can identify as "proper" position when we are out of breath to get more air into our bodies and recover.
I am sorry to say you have been led astray. Actually, we have just learned that this does not hold true anymore. Ah! Science is so awesome! Ha! For a great read on breathing, you can check out 212 trainer, Tony's blog, Tips for Better Breathing.
Moving the needle- Make time throughout your workday to add these drills and make them routine. By doing them it will keep your body better prepared for what it was meant for. Movement! It allows you to "keep all your ducks in a row," and it will prove to be the "best practice." So...