Let me take you back in time…
It’s August 2005 in Stamford, CT.
It’s the usual Wednesday night softball game with the guys from the office.
I’m up at the plate. I wait for my pitch and I connect. Ting! The ball flies in the gap between left and center field. I drop the bat and start hustling down to 1st…
This is at least a double I think to myself, I might be able to squeeze a triple out of this if I get moving.
I round first and look up to see that the left fielder took a bad line and missed the ball. I take a wide angle to 2nd base and turn it up another gear heading to 3rd base. The center fielder retrieves the ball from deep left center field. I’m half way to 3rd base..and then it happens.
Sharp pain shoots down the back of leg.. Shit. I knew it.
I just pulled my hamstring.
The ball gets to third base, I hobble forward and get tagged out. Head down, I slowly limp off the field. I’m out for 2-3 weeks with a mild hamstring tear. No intense exercises for weeks. I’m freakin’ pissed.
Looking back at it 10 years removed, I now realize how avoidable this injury was.
Start Now Before It’s Too Late
If you’re like me, stretching and flexibility work never was fun to do so I didn’t do it. It always was put to the back burner. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll start Monday.
That sound familiar?
Well, here’s the reality. The more you neglect stretching, flexibility, and moving your body well, the quicker it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass. And when I say ass, I mean I literally got bit in the ass with a hamstring tear.
This is especially true if you’re spending any time in an office or at desk. You need to offset the damage with stretching, yoga, or any other kind of soft tissue work if you want your body to work well.
Whether it’s charging it hard on the weekends, tearing up the dance floor pain-free, or running around on the beach with family, you need to bulletproof your body with the right type of stretches.
Doing some random yoga stretch that looks cool isn’t going to help you out. You need to do the right kind of stretches for your specific needs.
Today I’m going to give you my top 5 stretches for office workers. These 5 movements will target the exact areas that get neglected from sitting at a desk and working at a computer.
I wish I had this list 10 years ago. It would have saved me so much time and effort, and a torn hamstring too. I’m now paying the price with tight hips, stiff ankles, and cranky shoulders.
Here are 5 stretches you can do right now to offset the damage of sitting.
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
What – This stretch will target the main hip flexors of the leg that get very short when you sit.
Why – If you hip flexors are short and most likely weak, you will not have good hip flexibility. This can lead to knee and lower back pain. Get your hips moving well and the joints around the hip will be very happy.
How – Get into a half kneeling position with your upper body tall. Find a mat or soft pillow or towel for your bottom knee if the ground is hard. The key here is to squeeze the butt on the leg that is on the ground – you should feel a deepening of the stretch through the front of the hip. Try to avoid arching your lower back. Hold for 30-60 seconds with deep relaxed breathing.
What – This stretch will target the large chest muscle and the front shoulders. These muscles get short and tight from any sitting at desk, in a car or working at the computer.
Why – When the chest muscles get short and tight, they pull the shoulders forward and create bad posture. Bad posture over time can lead to all sorts of pain and discomfort, not too mention an inability to fully use your shoulder.
How – Find a doorway and place the inside of your forearm on the doorway with the elbow at a 90 degree angle. Contract the muscles of the chest for 2 seconds and then release and try to go deeper into the stretch. Try for about 10 contractions on each side.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
What – This stretch will target the back of the legs, the hamstrings.
Why – When the hamstrings get tight and over active, they allow the big muscles of the butt (the glutes) to stay sleepy. You don’t want sleepy glutes. Releasing the tension in the hamstrings will allow the butt muscles to work better. This will take a lot of pressure off the lower back.
How – Simply bend forward and let your hands drop towards the ground. The key here is to keep your back as flat as possible. Think about reaching out in front first and then drop down to the ground. Grab onto your shins or ankles and keep the knees from bending too much. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Slowly come back up. Repeat for a total of 3 rounds.
Wall Shoulder Slides
What – This stretch will work on your middle and upper back flexibility. This part of the spine is called the thoracic spine and is vital in shoulder and upper body movement.
Why – Sitting for long periods of time promotes a slight rounding (flexion) of the thoracic spine. It’s important that you balance that out with some extension of the thoracic spine to make sure it stays loose and mobile. If the thoracic spine gets restricted and tight, it can lead to shoulder issues.
How – Set up with your back against a wall. Place your arms out to the side at shoulder height with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. The back of the shoulder, back of the elbow, and back of wrist should all be touching the wall. Slowly raise the arms overhead while maintaining contact with the lower back and keep the ribs down. The idea is to slowly slide the arms up while maintaining contact to the wall with back of hand and outside of the elbow.
Shoot for about 10 moving up and down while focusing on good breathing and making sure your ribs stay down.
Calf / Ankle Stretch
What – This stretch will target the ankle joint by stretching the calf muscles and combining that with specific movements to get more range of motion in your ankle.
Why – The ankle joint should be able to both point, flex, and turn inwards and outwards. The problem is our feet are more protected than ever with modern foot ware. Chances are if you don’t work on your ankles, they will be restricted in dorsiflexion (bringing the toes up towards your body). The calves obviously play a huge role in how the ankle moves. If your ankle doesn’t move well, you can expect other joints to take additional stress. Knee pain, shin splints, and planter fasciitis are all commons issues related to limited range of motion in the ankle joint.
How – Grab a towel or yoga mat and role it up so that it is 4-5 inches tall. Place the front of one foot – just the ball of the foot – on the towel. Keep the same heel down on the ground and lean try to lean forward by dropping the knee forward. You might feel a little pinch in the front of the ankle joint or a severe tightness in the calf. Try for about 20 repetitions on each leg.
Be Proactive To Age Gracefully
Keeping your body pain-free, moving well, and avoiding injury as you age is all about being proactive. You have to nip aches and pains in the butt so they don’t turn into injuries years down the road. A little nagging soreness left unchecked can lead to chronic problems, especially if you spend a lot of time in a chair.
When clients or even friends tell me how it’s so much harder to get in shape now that they’re in their mid thirties or that “oh man, once you hit 40, it’s all over,” I call bullshit. It doesn’t have to be over.
Yes, if you spend 15+ years of your life sitting all day, and then sitting some more in your car, and then sitting some more on the couch when you get home, well then yes, 40 is going to feel shitty.
There have been a number of studies that show that even with 30-60 minutes of exercise 3-5x per week, you still do NOT offset the damage of sitting.
BUT, on the other hand, if you take care of your body and do exercises to offset the damage of sitting, address your specific weakness, and have a solid movement practice, 40 can feel great. For me at 36 right now, I’m stronger, leaner, and more flexible than I was at 22.
Shit, why can’t 50 feel great? Hell, this guy is in his 50’s and moving pretty well.
What do you want to do with your fit, strong, flexible body?
I don’t know about you, but I have a LOT more living to do in this body!
I want to explore parts of this world that require a fit, strong body with lots of endurance. I want to surf parts of the Indian Ocean that get big and serious and that certainly require a fit, flexible, strong body.
Time To Practice. Practice. Practice.
Ok, now you got your action plan. These 5 stretches will address most of the common tight areas that anyone sitting at a desk will have. The most effective way to perform these stretches is to do them as often as possible, at least once a day, ideally twice a day or more.
One final note. You need to be patient with this stuff. Just think about how many years you most likely neglected stretching. I know for me, I didn’t do any kind of stretching until my early thirties. Tissues take time to loosen up and joints need time and consistent movement to regain full range of motion.
Be patient and simply do the work. It will pay huge benefits over time, I promise.
If you want a more individual look at how you move and specific areas that might need attention for your body, I can help you with a comprehensive body assessment. No matter where you are in world, It’s one the most powerful parts of my online coaching program. I’ll take a look at how you move using the FMS system, which is the gold standard of movement tools used by the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and many other professional sports teams. If you want to feel, move and look better now than you did in your 20’s, you need to know what’s holding you back. Take 20 seconds and fill this form out and I’ll be in contact with you soon.