If you have a desk bound job or generally spend a lot of time sitting down, then it’s definitely worth you checking out these six mobilisations to help return healthy range and function to your body.
Desk Bound Biomechanical Dysfunction
It’s the way of the world these days – long days in front of a computer, followed by hours staring down at our devices, and little attention paid to our seating posture. Moreover, we’re not conditioned as a society to force frequent small breaks from our seating position, where we move around and purposefully move through full ranges of motion.
I am a case in point. Since childhood I have been glued to my Commodore, Nintendo, Sega, Mac, Laptop, and mobile devices. And, I default to spending loooooong stretches of time in front of the screen… in positions I know are no good for me. I know I should stand up, move around and use my body, but I the lifelong habit is hard to break.
These behaviours have some downsides to my eyes, mental health, hands and general wellness. I am much more aware and and caring now, but I am not perfect. Not by a long shot.
But it’s posture and mobility that are the most obviously effected by my sedentary desk bound vocation. My knees were constantly in pain, my fingers were ultra sensitive, my upper back was always tense, my neck was always strained, I had an inability to deeply breathe, and my back would frequently twinge.
My posture sucked. Both seating, standing, walking… and when I worked out in the gym. Rolled shoulders, tight chest, rounded upper back, a forward head. I had a ‘duck bum’ standing position. I had the classic Upper-Crossed Syndrome. My balance was rubbish. Try and put me under a bar, and it all went wrong. My knees would throb with pain.
The mechanical issue(s)? Shortened and tight Chest, Shoulders, Hip Flexors and Quads. Weak and lazy Core, Glutes and Upper Back. Over stretched muscles in and around my scapula. And, a general lack of understanding go how I was holding my body, and how it looked when I moved it.
It Doesn’t Need To Be That Way
Luckily, it wasn’t surgery I needed. Nor did I need to accept that my genetics were to blame, or that I wasn’t simply a result of unavoidable age degeneration. I was ~30 for god sake!
Today, I am pain free. My posture is greatly improved. I don’t hurt myself in the gym anymore. My physical strength, range of motion (ROM), and form under load reflects a healthy and highly functional body.
To be clear, I am not out of the woods. My vocation and lifestyle has not fundamentally changed. It’s a constant fight to combat the effects of my lifestyle – both in the gym, mindful postural control and through regular mobilisation work at home.
It sounds like work, but it isn’t really. If you don’t use a skill, you lose it. Same with mobility, range of motion and healthy posture. But once you establish skill (or appropriate mobility), it’s relatively easy to maintain it. A few minutes a day, combined with a mindfulness of your movement quality is all it takes.
My Go To Mobilisations To Combat The Desk!
OK, so if you are like me in terms of lifestyle (outside of the gym), it’s highly likely that you get insufficient range of motion in you hips, shoulders, thoracic and scapula. Plus, you’ve likely got lazy glutes, psoas and upper back.
Full Body Resistance Training under load will help with a lot of the above. It’s the best response – to move through ranges of motion whilst under load. You don’t need to specific rehab per se, just squat, plank, deadlift, bench etc for your body goals, and things will improve.
However, it’s a bit chicken and egg. If you’ve got naff ROM and and achy joints, then you’ll have bad form, which will lead to more issues as well as stunting your strength progress.
So, it’s important to combat your desk bound sedentary lifestyle with both weight training and mobility drills. You need to encourage your body to let go and stop overreacting. You need to show your body it is safe and enjoyable to get back into those long forgotten end ranges of motion.
Furthermore, we all need more parasympathetic activity in our lives. Activities that calm down our nervous system and our busy minds. Activities that help us breath more calmly and deeply, and push us into resting states.
After lots of experimentation (and over commitment), I’ve settled on the below six mobilisations that in my opinion offer the best bang for you buck in terms of fighting my kind of lifestyle. There are literally hundreds of stretches and movements you can perform, that all have their merit, but these seem to best address the chronic seating position.
NB: Brief descriptions are offered in terms of why and when for each exercise within the description of each YouTube Video.
1) Lying Thoracic Rotations
2) Thoracic Extensions on Foam Roller
3) Steve’s Greatest Ever Stretch
(You don’t need to worry about the exact order. Just the general positions you find yourself in)
4) Paleo Chair
5) Super Couch
6) Band Dislocates
A Few Extra Ideas to Play With
If you can incorporate the above mobilisations into your workout warm ups and/or into your evening bedtime routine, you will make great progress towards a more functional, happier and less aggravated body.
You don’t need to get strict with your mobility practice, but the more you can do these moves (and others) the better. If you did some of these 5 out of 7 days a week, that would be great.
Outside of the mobilisations, I would encourage you to work on mindful posture control, muscle activation, and priming movements ahead of heavy workouts.
Here’s a couple of decent additional resources:
Mindful Posture Correction Cues
Egoscue – muscle priming for quick posture reset
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