Sit at a Desk? 9 Quick Exercises for Better Posture and Reduced Joint Pain

A cranky and stiff lower back. Tight shoulders. Poor posture. Super tight glutes.

These are the symptoms of sitting too much during the day, working a desk job, or simply not moving around enough.

To help you improve your posture and get rid of joint pain I’ve got 9 quick exercises you need to do before you even touch a weight in the gym. 

The best part is they’re time efficient, simple to do, and will improve your day-to-day life as well as improve gym performance.

Creating the Ultimate Warmup

Your warmup doesn’t need to be super long to be efficient. It will, however, help you move better in the gym. The improved movement quality will keep you feeling good during and after your lifting sessions.

Follow along as we work from head to toe to improve posture and eliminate joint pain.

Step 1- Foam roll/soft tissue work

If soft tissue work was only applicable to one population, it would definitely be those who work at desks all day long.

If you’ve never foam rolled or done any soft tissue stuff before, check out this short clip below from Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore.

While you can certainly roll your entire body, the areas I’d recommend spending the most time on would be the glutes/piriformis, upper back/traps, and hip flexors/TFL.

Pick 3-4 problem areas and focus on those. You don’t have to roll everything every single session.

Why it’s good: There’s a ton of debate about whether foam rolling actually does anything to improve movement quality and performance. In the pre-training routine, it’s a good idea to pick the most troublesome areas and knock those out. After training, you can spend more time rolling more general areas to help promote recovery by improving blood flow.

Step 2 Upper back/Thoracic Spine

For many people, the upper back takes a ton of abuse. Whether it’s from poor posture, heavy lifting, or just everyday wear and tear, the upper back needs a ton of attention.

A lot of times, addressing mobility issues in the upper back will solve some of the problems you might have during lifting. For example, maintaining a good upper back position during squats, deadlifts, and bench presses can not only improve performance and strength, but also keep you injury free as well. If you are limited in upper back mobility then many of your exercises will be hindered.

Rock Back Quadruped Extension-Rotation

How to perform: Start in the quadruped position (hands under the shoulders and knees on the ground). Rock your hips back while keeping your back flat. Place one hand lightly on the back of your head. With the down arm straight, drive your working side elbow down towards the other elbow, and then up towards the ceiling. As you rotate through the upper back, keep the low back still and follow your elbow with your eyes the entire time. All movement should come from the shoulder blade and upper back.

TRX Y

The TRX Y is a great warmup drill to activate the middle traps and work on upward rotation of the scapula. Pair with the t-spine rotation drill above and you’ve got a great combo for the upper back.

How to perform: Start at the top position with your arms overhead and tension on the straps. While keeping your rib cage down, glutes tight, and chin tucked, slowly lower your hands towards the front. Once you get to chest height, lift your arms back up, aiming to let the shoulders rotate freely. Do these nice and slow and start out almost standing straight up and down until you find the right tension point.

Step 3 Glutes/Hips/Adductors

Your butt and hips will definitely be cranky after sitting all day long.

Ever tried rolling into the gym and going right into squats or deadlifts without addressing your glutes or hips?

I have and it doesn’t feel good. It will often take more time to warmup this way than it would if you just spend a couple extra minutes at the beginning getting things ready to rock and roll.

Below are two of my favorite drills to loosen up the glutes, hips and adductors.

Split Stance Adductor Mobs

How to perform: Start in the quadruped position. From there, kick one leg out directly to the side and point your toe straight ahead. Your hands should be right under the shoulders and can move forwards and backward as you push the hips back. Take a big belly breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth as you rock the hips back. Aim to keep your spine neutral. All the motion should come at the hip joint, not the low back. Once you rock back as far as you can while keeping the back flat, walk your hands forward and squeeze your butt to finish the rep.

1 Leg Glute Bridge

How to perform: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet close to your butt. Grab one knee with both hands. Take a belly breath in through the nose and lift your hips up as high as you can while keeping your rib cage down. Exhale through the mouth as you lift your hips. Aim to flex your butt hard at the top. Push through your heel the entire time as well.

Step 4 Core Stability/Ankle Mobility

When most of us sit during the day we don’t pay much attention to our core. Or using our core to hold us upright in a chair. This exercise below is great for challenging the core, even though it make look pretty easy.

Deadbugs

This drill is excellent for learning proper core positioning and stability. It’ll also light up your abs in the process.

How to perform: Lie on your back with your arms straight over your chest and knees bent at 90 degrees. Make sure your lower back is flush against the ground. Take a big belly breath in through the nose. As you exhale, extend one arm and the opposite leg while keeping the low back flat on the ground. Return to the starting position, take another breath and repeat the other arm/leg.

Rocking Ankle Mobs

How to perform: Start in the top part of a pushup. From there, walk your hands back a bit towards your feet. Cross one leg behind the other and perform mini calf raises on one leg at a time. The goal here is to get your heel to the ground.

Step 5 Dynamic Portion

Once you’ve gone through each of the above stationary warmup exercises, you’ll transition to more dynamic movements to finally prepare you for a killer training session.

Walking Spiderman with Overhead Reach and Hip Lift

How to perform: Take a big lunge forward, dropping your back knee down to the ground. Your hands should be on the inside of your front leg. With one hand on the ground, reach overhead with the opposite arm and follow your hand with your eyes as you reach up. Put your hands back down flat on the ground and perform a hip lift. Try to straighten both legs as much as possible. Return to the ground, stand, and then switch sides.

Bearcrawl

How to perform: Start in the top part of a pushup. Brace your stomach and take a deep belly breath in through the nose. From there, you’ll take small steps with opposite arm and leg. This requires a bit of coordination so take these slow. It’s also more effective for warming up the shoulders and hips if you perform them slow and controlled. Aim to move your hands and feet together.

Yoga Pushup

How to perform: Start in the top part of a pushup. Take a big belly breath and perform a pushup into a downward dog. You should keep the legs straight and aim to push your hips up and back as you go into the second part of the movement. The more comfortable you are with this one, the more fluid you can try to make the transition from the pushup to the downward dog position.

Putting It All Together

Now that you know which exercises to do during your warmup, here’s what it should look like.

  • Foam roll (pick 3-4 areas and spend no more than 20-30 seconds per area)
  • Rock Back Quadruped Extension Rotation 5/side
  • TRX Y 5 reps
  • Split Stance Adductor Mobs 5/side
  • 1-Leg Glute Bridge 8/side
  • Deadbugs 5/side
  • Rocking Ankle Mobs 10/side
  • Walking Spiderman 5/side
  • Bear Crawls 5/side
  • Yoga Pushup 5 reps

Once you’re familiar with these drills, this ought to take no more than 10-15 minutes. The idea isn’t to warmup more than you train, so address these exercises in a time efficient manner and then get into your lifting.

You should perform this before each lifting session. It’s also not a bad idea to do this on off days as well to help reinforce good movement patterns and help address any troublesome areas.

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