Strengthening & Stretching Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

November 27, 2015

With winter fast approaching, the idea of exercising outdoors might be somewhat unpleasant and the festive season can mean that evening workouts just won’t fit into your busy social schedule.

Don’t worry – there are LOTS of great exercises you can do either sat at or very close to your desk.

Rather than just sit there and let your fitness levels decline, break up your day with strengthening and stretching exercises that will at the very least maintain your fitness levels until you are able enjoy a proper workout!



Squats are the king of lower body exercises as they work all your leg muscles at once. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward. Push your hips back, bend your knees and, with your weight on your heels, squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Stand back up and repeat. You can perform this exercise at your desk simply by pushing your chair out of the way behind you.


Lunges are basically an alternating one-legged squat which makes them a good choice if you need a demanding leg exercise. Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides. Take a large step forward, bend your legs and lower your rear knee to the floor. Stand back up and change legs. If you have space and don’t mind raising a few eyebrows, why not do traveling or walking lunges to and back from the water cooler?!

Calf Raises

This desk-bound exercise is a variation of the old-fashioned donkey calf raise so loved by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends. Lean forward and place your forearms on your desk. Keep your legs straight and push up and into your tip toes and then lower your heels back to the floor. Increase the range of movement by standing on a thick phonebook.


Push-ups could very well be the best office workout exercise! Place your hands on the floor and walk your feet back so your legs are straight and your abs are tight. Bend your arms and lower your chest to the floor. Push back up and repeat. Rest your knees on the floor or your hands on your desk for an easier workout. If you need more of a challenge, place your feet on your chair.

Band Pull-Aparts

This simple but effective exercise targets the opposite muscles used in push-ups. It’s very good for improving your posture and strengthening your upper back. Hold a resistance band in both hands and out at shoulder-level. Keeping your arms straight, stretch the band out and across your chest. Return to the start position and repeat. Keep a band in your desk drawer just for this exercise!

Isometric Chest Press

Isometric exercises involve plenty of muscle tension but no actual movement. Place your hands together in front of your chest in a sort of praying position. Lift your elbows so they are roughly level with your mid-chest. Push your hands together as hard as you can for 20 to 30-seconds – do not hold your breath. Release, relax and then repeat!

Isometric Arm Builder

This isometric exercise works your biceps on one arm and your triceps on the other so make sure you do both sides of your body! Clasp your hands together with your left hand on top of your right. Tuck your right elbow into your ribs. With your right arm bent at around 90-degrees, try to curl your right hand up to your shoulder while pushing down as hard as you can with your left arm. Your arms should not move other than a little shaking. Hold this position for 20 to 30-seconds and then switch sides.

Chair Roll-Outs

This great ab exercise only work if you have a chair with wheels. Kneel down in front of your chair and place your forearms on the seat. Keeping your abs tight, push the chair away from you until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Use your abdominals to pull the chair back to you and then repeat. Do not overextend your lower back as this can lead to injury.


Standing Chest Stretch

Place your hands on your lower back and then push your elbows back and open your chest. Hold this position and then relax. Tight chest muscles can adversely affect your shoulder and upper back posture so this is an important stretch for desk-dwellers.

Seated Lat Stretch `

Raise your arms and stretch up towards the ceiling – try and touch the roof with your hands. Hold this position and then relax.

Seated Upper Back Stretch

Sit up straight and warp your arms around yourself so your left hand is on the right side of your upper back and vice versa – give yourself a big old hug! Hold this position to stretch the muscles between your shoulder blades.

Seated Neck Stretch

Sitting at your desk can make your neck very tight – especially if you are also feeling stressed. To remedy this, sit up straight and place your left hand lightly on your head and reach down toward the floor by your side with your right hand. Pull your head gently to the left and feel the stretch in the right side of your neck. Hold and then change sides.

Seated Lower Back Stretch

This pleasant stretch can help loosen your lower back. Sit with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean forwards and rest your chest on your thighs. Wrap your arms around the back of your legs and then hold this position.

Seated Spine Twist

Sit on the edge of your chair with your torso upright and feet flat on the floor. Turn to your left and reach around to grab your chair’s backrest. Hold this position for 30 to 60-seconds and then swap sides. Twisting is a fairly rare movement in daily living – we mostly just go forward and backward. Gently twisting your spine can help reduce lower back tension and restore natural movement capacity.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Tight hamstrings can affect your hip and knee health and even affect your lower back so keeping your hamstrings long and limber is important. Sit up straight and plant your feet firmly on the floor with your legs bent to 90-degrees. Extend one leg in front of you. Place your hands on your bent leg and then hinge forward from your hips. Try and lower your belly towards your thighs without rounding your lower back. Hold this position and then slowly change legs.

Forearm Stretch

Lots of typing can tighten your forearm muscles which may result in the development of repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome and a condition called trigger or stenographer’s finger where it becomes very difficult to fully extend your digits. To prevent this problem, place your hands together in front of your chest with your fingers straight and in a sort of prayer position. Touch your thumbs to your chest. Keep your hands together and slide your hands down your chest until you feel a stretch in your forearms. Hold this position for 30 to 60-seconds and then relax.

Being office-bound does not mean you can’t work out. There are lots of opportunities to sneak in some exercise if you look for them – just don’t let your boss catch you!

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