Time and time again most people punch out from their 9 to 5 and make their way to their local gym. They do a little cardio and keep a few of the seats warm on a handful of machines and head over to the mats for a little core training and stretching. Half way through, their back pain flares up so they call it a day and head home. The majority of these people are in the gym because at some point their doctor said they needed to exercise more. Whether suffering from back pain or not, you’re bound to hear it. In this article, I want to give you the exact blueprint to what your time in the gym should look like if you’re currently suffering from back pain and spend the majority of your day at a desk.
The pre warm-up and warm-up
The first thing you want to do before starting your workout is get the blood flowing. There are several ways that I recommend doing this, one way is simply walking on the treadmill for no more than 10 minutes. If the treadmill isn’t your thing I would do more of a dynamic warm up such as jump rope or jumping jacks. Jumping rope or Jumping jacks should be limited to 5 minutes. If those two are a bit boring then my favorite is more of a dynamic setup with taking my body through similar movements that I’ll be doing during the actual workout. 95% of these are done with just my body weight. My favorite dynamic back warm up is band pull a parts. They are super easy and help get the shoulders and back fired up.
These warm ups are pumping fresh oxygenated blood to all the discs, surrounding muscles and joints. This is very important if back pain has been an issue for you especially if you sit at a desk. The stagnant body positions your in from sitting can slow blood flow causing your discs to have inadequate fluids to keep them supportive.
After the short warm up you’re going to go right into 3 of the best stability and spine stiffening exercises you can do. These exercise take all spinal flexion out and help strengthen and build endurance in the core to help with lasting spinal stiffnesss even if your not at the gym. You won’t really have a core dominate day but feel free to add in a couple anti-flexion exercises to the any of your lighter days.
McGill Crunch 8 sets of 8 second holds
Rolling Plank 8 sets of 10 back and forth with 3, 3 second holds for each side
Bird Dog 8 sets of 8 second holds each side
Do 8 sets of each exercises
At this point your warm up is done. You should already be experiencing relief from your back pain and feel more support from your core. You also should have broken a sweat by now and feel pretty loose. Now its time to move on to your basic “repairing exercises”
I label them as “repairing exercises” because they are doing just that. Repairing what has been damage from poor posture, and habits while at work. For now these exercises are going to simply reverse everything you have been doing all day and help insure progress when it comes to relieving low back tension from sitting all day.
The Repairing Phase:
This is where the exercises come in. Today, I am just going to focus on specific exercises for chronic sitters so if the program seems a bit unbalanced don’t worry it’s set up that way for a reason.
You may think you have a nice butt but odds are those things are as dormant as they could be. You see, one of the major problems with sitting is the lack of butt use. The problem is, we are designed to spend most of our day standing and walking, not sitting so when the glutes don’t get used they become weak and your body eventually compensates for underdeveloped butt muscles. It’s pretty tough to do but you should be able to squeeze your glutes even when you’re sitting at your desk. If you can’t odds are you haven’t learned to make the mind muscle connection or those things are napping!
So your first step is to wake those guys up!
My best glute developers:
Do each exercise 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Now that those cheeks have gotten some direct work now it’s time to move to the larger supporting muscle groups.
How do you know which exercises are the best for beating your desk jockey posture?
It’s simple, take all your clothes off and stand in front of a mirror (don’t do this at work or maybe even the gym…do this at home). The muscle groups you want to work on are the ones you CAN’T see in the mirror. That’s right. The ones that seem to always get neglected.
To break it down even more, you’re going to stick to the exercises that require you to PULL.
My top 4 pulling exercises:
Do each exercise 3 sets of 10-12 reps
1) 1 Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Row
2) Seated or Standing Cable Rows
3) Body Weight pull ups
4) Lat pull down with lat bar or neutral grip bar.
These should be a staple in your current program. Remember to proceed with caution with any of these exercises. You don’t want to make your back pain worse or flare up by doing any of these. If it hurts to do them at their most basic level, than your next step is to do a more supportive variation of the exercise. Keep in mind that some back pain flares up hours or days after you go to the gym. Start small and see how your body reacts. If you feel trashed then go back in and tone it back a bit.
Rules to always follow
- Always stand more than you sit when your at the gym. I know you want to sit between sets but walk around. Learn a route around the gym that is the exact time your rest period is and walk that every time you break. It’s tempting to grab that bench and take a quick swipe around Instagram or through emails but stay focused.
- When adding in other body parts (arms, legs, chest and shoulders) Always keep a 3:1 ratio so for every 1 chest, arm, shoulder etc. exercise you do, do 3 back exercises. It doesn’t matter which one just do them.
- We are fighting all things flexion so please don’t finish your workout with some weighted decline sit ups or hanging leg raises. I know they look cool but you have already done enough damage sitting in that office chair for the past 8 hours.
- Refrain from long distance treadmill walks or sitting on the bikes to get your “cardio” in. I know it’s tempting but too much walking can cause some over extension in your lower back especially if your core is weak. As far as the bike goes all it’s doing is forcing you back into the seated positions.
These are the nuts and bolts to what your workout should look like if your job keeps you stuck behind a desk. The exercises can change from week to week but be sure to maintain this structure.
Thanks for reading guys! If you learned anything, be sure share this with a friend. We are all looking for ways to make our desk jobs a little easier. I appreciate your time and support!
Let me know in the comments below: What exercises in the gym cause you the most pain?