Five Simple Stretches for Desk Workers

Whether working as a remote freelancer from home or landing a position at an office job, most working adults spend hours each day sitting in a chair. More specifically, most adults spend time sitting down while bent over a desk.

And, in the inverse, even those who aren’t bound to sit in an office chair from nine to five might still find themselves stooped over a desk. Today, countless recreational activities can be accessed directly from a smartphone or other device—games, video streaming, social media, and more—which means even more hours are spent squinting at a screen.

For example, online poker and blackjack players might sit for hours in front of the computer while playing in a tournament. One way many pros have found to mitigate the effects of sitting in chairs is to follow advice from instructors like Lauren Green, who advises gamers to do backward arms crosses and seated twists to keep their bodies loose.

Much like office workers, poker and blackjack players benefit from a clear mind, which relies at least partly on a relaxed physical posture. Staying seated for long stretches of time can cause muscle tightness and neck pain—but it can also lead to brain fog and lower levels of alertness.
For those looking to perform to the best of their abilities, incorporating a stretching routine is vital to keep both the body and mind functioning at an optimal level. But with limited free time and space in an office, how can workers stretch for success?

Below are five simple stretches that target areas strained by long periods of sitting. Each is appropriate for the office space and can be categorized as ‘deskercise’.

Pectoralis Stretch

Targets the shoulders and chest, stretches the torso

Most deskercises center around realigning the spine and shoulders, which tend to curve while seated. The pectoralis stretch targets the pectorals, or chest muscles, and helps workers stretch and lengthen these muscles.

This exercise can be completed while still seated. Simply clasp your hands behind your back and push your chest outward. As you do so, raise your chin, then hold the position for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Backwards Arm Cross Stretch

Targets the neck and shoulders, stretches the chest

The backwards arm cross stretch targets the neck and shoulders. More specifically, it helps work out rotator cuff muscles, which are located in the ‘rear’ area of the shoulders, and will increase joint flexibility.

This exercise can also be completed while remaining seated—though some recommend standing. Whether seated or on foot, keep the feet position slightly less than shoulder-length apart, cross the arms behind your back, and hold them there for as long as possible. If you’re able to, clasp each together by the wrist.

Latissimus Stretch

Targets the torso, stretches the arms

Also known as the Overhead Reach, this stretch is designed to strengthen the shoulder and back. In doing so, there’s less pressure put on the spine. Strengthening latissimus muscles is also helpful for building bulk.

To get started, simply extend an arm over the head, then reach to the opposite side. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise with the opposite arm.

Hamstring Stretch

Targets the legs, stretches the hamstring

Most athletes or fitness buffs understand the power of the hamstring. As one of the longest muscles in the body, it’s directly related to mobility, flexibility, and speed. Unfortunately for desk workers, it’s one of the most at-risk muscle groups for those who sit for long periods.

Luckily, stretching the muscle is quite simple. You can stay seated and extend one leg outward at a time, then reach for your toes. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise with the opposite leg.

Upper Trap Stretch

Targets the upper trapezius, stretches the neck

One target area for all deskercisers is the neck and shoulders. The trapezius muscle covers the upper back, stabilizing the shoulder blades and helping the neck move. By targeting this muscle, the neck and shoulders are strengthened.

One of the easiest ways to stretch the trapezius is to gently pull your head toward one shoulder, being careful not to overextend. Hold the pose for up to 15 seconds, then repeat by pulling the head toward the opposite shoulder.