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Top 3 Exercises To Do While At The Office (And Improve Your Body During Work Hours)

Sitting or standing for more than 6 hours per day? Let me show you few simple exercises you can do to prevent long-term lower back injuries.
Milos Vujnovic Posted In Health at the Office, Mobility Drills

When I injured my back (and my hip), I learned an important lesson and that was that I haven’t injured it with weight training (on the contrary) – the weight training was the final straw. My back simply could not take it anymore and it “broke” completely.

Injuries like herniated discs and torn hips rarely happen at once [1], meaning that unless an immediate trauma happened (like a car crash or similar), our backs are quite durable to receive multiple minor traumas which eventually can lead to a large trauma like a herniated disc.

Additionally, I wasn’t aware that my weight training made my back more durable – by strengthening my posterior chain – abdominals, gluteus and hamstring muscles – those muscles actually prevented additional spinal flexion. What this means is that if I haven’t made my abdominals (and other muscles) stronger, my injury would’ve been much more severe [2].

image source

So let’s get to the point… one of the main culprits of my injury was my sedentary lifestyle.

Sitting for more than 8 hours a day, without proper breaks (allowing my body to reset itself and my muscles to reactivate) – and all of this sitting combined with an additional exercise where weight was loaded on my spine (compound movements like Squats) slowly but surely lead to my injuries.

Prolonged sitting or standing is quite difficult to our bodies – our interverbal discs receive constant pressure – and although they are designed for that, taking pressure while the spine is flexed AND without supporting musculature (abdominals, gluteus…) our spine receives micro-injuries constantly which can lead to… sounds familiar?

So what can we do? Well, the reason which I’m writing this is quite simple – I don’t want you to experience injuries which I had. Sleeping on a floor while drugged full of Ibuprofen (and unable to tie my shoes) doesn’t sound nice, does it? So check this out…

My Top 3 Exercises To Perform While You’re Sitting (or Standing) In Your Office

As we talked about before, I believe that there are 4 important areas which we should focus on, and those are:

  • Hips
  • Gluteus (your butt!)
  • Hamstrings
  • Upper back

Additionally, I believe (and based on research) [3] that hips take the top priority when we think about back injuries… meaning that weak and tight hips can lead to curved lumbar spine (lower back).

Secondary, as we discussed before, your abdominal muscles are important since they are the ones who prevent your spine to flex even more (and to pressurize your intervertebral discs).

Keeping that in mind, here are my top 3 exercises which you can do – and these exercises will focus on the areas which I’ve pointed out above:

Exercise 1 Standing T-spine Extension
Exercise 2 Hip Hinge
Exercise 3 Bodyweight Squat

Performing 8 repetions of each exercise would be a good start. After a week or two, you can add 10-12 repetitions instead.

Quick note – these exercises are a part of my free Athos Mobility Routine. 

So Let’s Look Into Each Of These Exercises

What we’ve learned so far is that weak back, abdominal and gluteus muscles equal spinal flexion.

While we cannot fully strengthen and develop our muscles just by doing those exercises (you can with Vigorous 5×5), we can “tell” our body to reactivate our current musculature and prevent it from being fully deactivated (atrophied).

In a nutshell, we’re telling our body (nervous system) to use the muscles to support our spine instead of the other way around which is using our spine and bone system to keep our whole body stabilized.

I know that this is much to grasp so I promise that I’ll keep this simple. So let’s get back on point… which is why am I recommending those 3 exercises.

  1. The standing t-spine extension will remind you to keep your shoulders down and back instead of slouching forward.
  2. The hip hinge will remind you to move your hips back instead of overextending your lower back to achieve the same result (this mostly happens while sitting).
  3. The squat will “remind” your gluteus muscles to be activated when are you sitting (among other muscles like adductors), instead of slouching your hips forward and sitting on your tailbone.

Makes sense? Good 🙂 Now let’s see…

How Many Times Should You Do This?

Plain and simple, at least once a day, five times a week (hopefully you’re more active during the weekend so we don’t have to implement those exercises on Saturday and Sunday).

Once you’ve gotten the grasp of it, you’re free to do it twice or even thrice a day, but like everything please keep it in moderation and use common sense – if something hurts while you’re exercising, stop doing it and reassess your technique!

Closing Thoughts

I hope that now have a better understanding of how prolonged sitting or standing affects your spine. Just working out for one or two hours a day will NOT diminish the effects of bad posture which you’re doing for that long. Again, use common sense – if you’re doing something wrong for 8+ hours, and doing a workout for 1 hour, what do you think your body will follow?

I’d like to mention one more thing again – the exercises which I’ve written in this article are a part of my mobility routine which you can download and start exercising. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it and how it affected your boring office day! 🙂

Best,
Milos

References

[1]The role of trauma in disc protrusion
[2]Role of muscles in lumbar spine stability in maximum extension efforts
[3]Hip rotation range of motion in people with and without low back pain who participate in rotation-related sports

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