Lets Get Stretchy and Strong Shall We?
It is pretty clear that our new normal involves hours upon hours sitting in front of a screen most days. Gone are break room conversations, walking to a co-worker’s office to catch up, cross the street to grab a coffee or even “walking meetings”, which seemed like such a great idea at the time.
So how do you fix the new working from home and Zoom posture? I’ll show you. Let’s learn how to stretch and gain strength that will result in a better posture.
While there are countless upsides to this new normal, one of the biggest downsides is what it is doing to our physical bodies. There are a few “no-so-great” things that happen to our bodies when we sit for prolonged periods of time.
The backside of our body (posterior chain in Fitness-Speak) becomes elongated and weak.
The front side of our body becomes shortened and tight.
These changes are happening literally from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head.
Let’s take a moment to consider the shape of our body when we are seated. With feet hopefully flat on the floor, our ankles are flexed thus stretching out the calves while tightening the front of the lower leg.
Our knees and hips are flexed at approximately 90 degrees, thus lengthening, and weakening our hamstrings, glutes and lower back (posterior chain!) while shortening and tightening our hip flexors. Hands on a keyboard and mouse mean rounded upper back and shoulders weakening those muscles while our chest is caved in and getting tighter and shorter.
Finally, eyes on a screen mean a forward head position creating further lengthening of the back of the neck while shortening the muscles under our chin.
We are basically painting a picture of the hunched over, slowly moving person that is most likely in some level of pain.
The great news is there are a few simple exercises and stretches that we can throw into our daily routine to combat this WFH posture and get everyone standing up straight, breathing easy and feeling awesome! We all want to find our “happy” with exercise.
Step 1 – Let’s Get Stretchy
Set your alarm to take at least two stretch breaks during your workdays. Stand up from your desk, find a little space and make your body a priority. That next ZOOM call can wait 5 minutes:
- Stand tall, roll the head of your upper arm bone (humerus bone in Fitness Speak) back in your shoulder sockets.
- Clasp your hands together behind you and gently raise your arms up. Stand tall, try to create space between your collar bones and enjoy just how good this one feels. (Personally, twice a day is not enough for this one! Standing in the line at the grocery store, waiting for the pasta water to boil? Bring it on! No judgement)
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Place one hand on your desk for balance on this one if needed. One foot in front, find a low lunge position with your back knee on the floor.
- Tuck your tailbone under and find that length in the front of your back leg.
- NOTE: Please keep your front knee happy by ensuring that your front shin bone is vertical. Hold and breathe for approx. 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Standing Side Bend
One of our new favs! In general, we simply do not bend laterally as much as we should. It’s a bit like a game of Twister . . .
- Cross right foot over left and as much as possible place feet so your pinky toes are side by side.
- Raise your right arm to the sky and grab your right wrist with your left hand.
- As you pull your right up arm UP and OVER on the high diagonal to the left, gently allow your hips to push to the right.
- Hold and breathe for approx. 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Step 2 – Let’s Get Strong
So now that we have successfully stretched out the shortened front side of our body, let’s focus on getting our Posterior Chain as strong as possible! All of these exercises can be done with or without weights. Want to use weights but don’t have any?? Consider large containers of laundry detergent or kitty litter for the Lunges and soup cans for the Rows . . . They work great!
Reverse Lunge w/ Knee Drive
- Vertical front lower leg, eyes and chest up (remember to create space between those collar bones!), and weight in your front heel.
- Step back into a lunge, then up with a knee drive and hold. When you get to the knee drive, squeeze down the Glutes on your standing leg. 15 reps each leg 2X
Marching Glute Bridge
- On your back with feet under knees, toes up and weight on your heels.
- Alternately raise one knee than the other. Your point of focus on this one is to absolutely keep your hips level.
- Try to visualize a cup of coffee (or wine!) on your low belly, try not to spill it.
- Squeeze down on your glutes with each weight shift. 20 reps total 2X
Upper Back Row
- Grab a couple of soup cans, light weights or a resistance band for this one.
- Find a stable stance with soft knees. Reach both arms out in front, palms facing up.
- Steadily pull both elbows back and (IMPORTANT!) squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Be focused on creating that SQUEEZE of your shoulder blades with each pull back of your elbows.
- NOTE: Please keep a long, long neck on this one, shoulder blades pulling down while the crown of your head pulls up to the sky. No scrunchy necks allowed.
So here we go with three stretches and three strengthening exercises to help combat the WFH / ZOOM Posture rabbit hole. Ohhhh, these work for students as well, but I will leave it to you to figure how best to make that happen!
Set your alarms and consider finding an accountability partner to commit to with these stretches and exercises. 10 minutes / day . . . You won’t be sorry!
Stand tall my Gal Pal friends . . . Breath deep and smile! We’ve got this.
Meet Emily Werner
Emily Werner (shown in the photos above) grew up in northeast Colorado on a 200-acre farm and has enjoyed being active her entire life. She played volleyball, competed in physique competitions, and was so passionate about health and wellness that she earned her degree in kinesiology from Cal Poly. She loves hiking and the more primal types of exercise, which brought her to the Pacific Northwest. Emily decided to become a trainer six years ago to help people tap into their potential, build confidence, and find their true power within. She joined the MIAC team in October 2020 and is a certified personal trainer through NASM, an ACE Functional Training Specialist, and a pain-free performance specialist.
Also of note . . . Emily is launching her website livingwild.me on March 1st. Emily will be offering optimal health coaching focusing on 8 major aspects of health, including physical training (at MIAC of course!)