6 exercises to combat the negative effects of sitting at an office desk typing the whole day

Daily stretching routine for desk jockeys suffering from hip, shoulder and neck muscle tightness will deliver quick results. The only equipment you need is an exercise band

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 April, 2016, 7:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2016, 2:47pm

Sitting at the office desk all day, staring at a computer screen and shrugging your shoulders as you type can leave you with tight hip, shoulder and neck muscles that could turn into chronic injuries.

“The effect at the hip joint of sitting at the desk is equivalent to holding a squat all day, and typing on the keyboard is like holding a shrug all day,” explains Louis Doctrove, lead trainer at Topfit, a boutique gym in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Doctrove is one of the trainers in the SCMP’s 12-week #TopfitMorning challenge.

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He offers a simple solution: a six-exercise stretching routine – three moves each for the shoulders and the hips – that he recommends doing every evening after work.

By using a resistance band (available in sporting goods stores) to aid the stretches, you can get a deeper stretch – a similar effect to having someone assist you with stretching, Doctrove says. Choose a band of medium resistance.

The effect at the hip joint of sitting at the desk is equivalent to holding a squat all day, and typing on the keyboard is like holding a shrug all day
Louis Doctrove

Hold each stretch below for two to three minutes. The intensity of the stretch should be a six on a scale of one to 10 – 10 being an extreme stretch. Step forward or back towards the fixed point to adjust the resistance of the stretch accordingly.

At the start of the stretch, the muscle tightness will be very noticeable and then the feeling will dissipate as you continue to hold the stretch, Doctrove says. “At the end of just one session, you will be able to notice the difference in flexibility straight away.”

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Don’t believe it? Try this simple shoulder test before and after the stretching routine: stand with your arms at your sides and your feet hip-width apart. Then, keeping your lower back and elbows straight, raise both arms at once, palms in, and arms by your ears.

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Your range of mobility at the shoulders should be much improved after these stretches.

Shoulder stretch 1: latissimus dorsi and subscapularis muscles

Attach resistance band to fixed object (like a pole) at shoulder height for all three shoulder stretches. Attach the other end of the band just above your elbow joint/lower bicep of one arm.

Facing away from the fixed point, walk forwards until there is tension in the band and place hand behind your back, using your other arm to keep it high up and engaged. Hold stretch for two minutes, then switch arms.

Shoulder stretch 2: latissimus dorsi and levator scapulae (muscles that run down the side of neck)

Grab the band in your hand and turn away from the fixed point.

Place hand behind your neck, like you’re trying to scratch your back. Turn your palm upwards towards the ceiling. With your free hand, pull your neck out to the side to stretch the side neck muscles. Hold for two minutes then switch arms.

Shoulder stretch 3: teres minor and deltoid

Facing the fixed point, grab the band with one hand, wrapping it once around your wrist. Walk backwards until you feel a pull on your shoulder complex (like it’s slightly being pulled out of the socket).

Turn your palm upwards and place your other hand on top to block it. Turn to the side to lengthen out the external rotators. Hold stretch for two minutes then switch arms.

Hip stretch 1: hip flexors

Attach band to a fixed point at knee height, and step inside the loop with one leg, positioning the band high up into the hip crease. Keeping the band secure with your hand and facing the point, step back with the same leg and drop your knee to the floor (lunge position). Hold for three minutes then switch legs.

Hip stretch 2: hip joints

Attach band around a bar to a fixed point slightly higher than hip height. Step inside with both feet and position the band around your lower back.

Holding onto the band, use the support of the band to squat as low as you can. Hold for three minutes.

Hip stretch 3: iliotibial band

A band is not needed for this. Start on the floor in a lunge position. Fully rotate the front leg (knee pointing outwards) until it’s flat on the floor. Extend back leg as much as you can. Hold for three minutes then switch legs.