By Cary Raffle
Whether you’ve been lifting weights for years, playing sports, competing in marathons and triathlons, playing basketballs or soccer, or just starting out, most of you face the same challenge: transitioning from sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day to physical activity. (The same goes for many other occupations—cops, cab drivers, pilots, and judges are a few examples of people who tend to sit a lot face similar issues.
Proper conditioning can help avoid injuries, improve performance, and deliver better results. How? By correcting the postural distortions and muscle imbalances that office work creates. Read on for the recommended exercises and stretches and links to an illustrated program.
Public Enemy #1 – The Chair Long periods of sitting can lead to tight hip flexors and weak core, including weak extended gluteals, tight and arched lower back and sagging abdominals. Over time, these imbalances can contribute to lower back pain, difficulty balancing, and less efficient movement.
Accomplices – The Keyboard and Computer Screen Leaning forward and working in front of your body for extended periods tends to tighten muscles in the chest and front of shoulder, overstretches the upper back, tighten the upper trapezius while overstretching the lower and middle trapezius, rhomboids. Breathing can become less efficient, the misalignment of the shoulder can lead to less force production in chest and shoulder exercises and increase the likelihood of shoulder injuries (especially to the rotator cuff).
It is a simple matter when you break it down: Stretch the muscles that get short (tight) all day long, and strengthen the muscles that get overly extended. For the most part, these muscles are on the opposite sides of the body, for example, chest/back or hips/glutes.
A Few Words About “Cardio”
Cardiovascular exercise is THE most important exercise you can do – but the definition is somewhat misused. Exercise scientists and the government define “cardio” as anything that increases your heart rate, and recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day. “Cardio” is not exactly the same as aerobic exercise – an activity is aerobic when you perform it for one minute or longer (at which point your body uses the aerobic energy system, fueled by oxygen).
Depending on your fitness level and goals, cardio could be brisk walking, stair climbing, dancing or running 5 miles. It could also be weight training. In fact, circuit training with limited rest between exercises can burn a similar number of calories and produce some of the same benefits as aerobic exercises. If you want to maximize your weight loss and conditioning, a trainer can assess you and give you a personalized target heart rate for your cardio training.
The trick with cardio is to find something that is comfortable for you to do and holds your interest. Your exercise and flexibility program can support your cardio training. Whether you’re just starting out or competing in triathaons and marathons, you can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
And Now…The Top 10:
- Chest Stretch – Targets chest and front of shoulders; can improve posture and breathing and reduce risk of shoulder injuries
- Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch – Targets hip flexors and quadriceps; can improve posture and reduce risk of low back and knee pain and injuries
- Calf Stretch – targets calf muscles and can reduce risk of knee and hip injuries and also help with Achilles tendon and plantar fascia
- Foam Roll Iliotibial Band – the IT band is difficult to stretch, and can contribute to many problems including knee pain and injuries
- Hip Abduction – Targets the gluteus medius and maximus; can indirectly help relax the IT Band and reduce the risk of knee injuries and low back pain and injuries.
- Rear Delt (Reverse) Fly – Targets rear deltoids, lower and mid trapezius and rhomboids; can improve posture and breathing and reduce risk of shoulder injuries
- Row – targets lats, rear delts and retracts the scapular, can improve posture and breathing and reduce risk of shoulder injuries
- Squat – Targets glutes and leg muscles, can improve posture and reduce risk of back and knee injuries.
- Leg Press – Targets glutes and leg muscles, can improve posture and reduce risk of back and knee injuries
- Plank – Targets the transversus abdominus and other deep abdominal core muscles, important for protecting the back and spine, and improving posture and breathing.
The Fine Print
These are typical exercises recommended for office workers, different exercises may be appropriate for you. Schedule your fitness assessment with a Certified Personal Trainer for your personalized recommendations. See a doctor before beginning any exercise program, and seek professional input if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease or any other medical condition. Proceed cautiously at your own risk.
Cary Raffle is a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Group Exercise Instructor and has an MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion.
He has blogs at caryraffle.com and exercisenono.com.
Cary trains on Wall Street in New York City, and can be reached at email@example.com or 917.603.3813
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