The Office Workout

( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2004 12:16 AM EDT

When work has you chained to your desk and tied up with phone calls, getting to the gym might seem impossible. But who says you need to go anywhere to get a solid workout? Next time you find yourself confined to your office, give these exercises a shot!

1. The desktop push-up

This is a great exercise to work the chest, shoulders and arms. The key is to focus on your breathing (exhale as you exert yourself) and to always maintain a flat back. Stand facing your desk with your hands placed flat on the top surface, shoulder width apart. Your feet should be placed together with your legs fully extended. As with a regular push-up, simply bend at the elbow and bring the chest toward your desktop. To work different areas of the chest and arm muscles, you may vary the distance between your hands. Perform this exercise 10 to 30 times. If it is too difficult, simply perform the same movement against a wall.

2. The squat

Squats are excellent for toning the front and rear thigh muscles as well as the buttocks! Simply stand in front of your chair and lower yourself as if you were about to sit down. Stop when your knees reach 90 degrees and slowly return to the starting position. This exercise can be performed with your arms crossed or extended, and your feet may face forward or point slightly outward. Always remember to contract your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight and your eyes looking straight ahead. Also, make sure your knees do not bend over your toes. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions. For variety, lean against the wall and bend your knees to 90 degrees. Hold this position for as long as you can, until you can feel your thighs shake. For an intense challenge, perform the same exercise with one foot off the ground.

3. The triceps dip

A big problem area, especially for women, is the back of our arms. Firm them up with this great triceps toner. Stand at your desk, facing away from it. Place your hands on the edge of your desk so your palms are flat and your fingers are hanging off the edge. Your legs should be extended straight out in front of you so your body weight is supported by your arms. Keeping your feet on the floor, slowly lower yourself by bending at the elbows. Keep your elbows tight to your sides and continue with the downward movement until your elbows reach a 90-degree bend. If this exercise is too hard, perform the same motion but with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet closer to the edge of your desk. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions.

4. Static lunge

The lunge is another great exercise that targets the legs and buttocks. Simply stand with one foot in front of the other. Bend the rear leg until it reaches 90 degrees. Allow the front knee to bend to 90 degrees and make sure the knee does not cross over the toe. Slowly lower yourself as you inhale, and then slowly raise yourself up as you exhale. Perform 15 repetitions and then switch legs.

5. Get strong calves

Try this exercise the next time you are on the phone or filing papers. Stand close to your desk so that you can hold on for balance if you need to. Slowly raise yourself up on the balls of your feet, hold for two seconds, and then slowly lower yourself. Repeat this movement 20 times with your feet together. For a more challenging movement, perform the exercise on one leg at a time. Focus on slowly lowering the heel and then lift up as high as you can.

6. Lower back

Most of us with office jobs will suffer from lower back pain at some point—it is almost inevitable because of the sitting position we assume for most of the day. Strengthening this area is key to prevention, so try this exercise throughout your day. Sit on your chair and move back from your desk slightly. Pretend you have dropped your pen directly in front of you and you need to lean over and pick it up with both hands. Allow your arms to hang down between your legs and be sure to keep your back as straight as possible.

Don’t let your back round out. If you cannot reach the floor, do not force it, just go as far as you can and make sure you focus on your breathing. It is important that you inhale as your lower yourself and exhale as your raise your upper body back into a sitting position. Try this exercise 20 times or perform as many sets as you feel comfortable with. If the exercise is too easy, place an object such as a book on the ground to give the exercise a little resistance. If the exercise is too difficult, place your hands on your thighs to help yourself throughout the movement.

7. Oblique exercise

A great follow-up to the lower back exercise, this oblique exercise is similar, except you will drop your pretend pen to the side of your body instead of in front of you. This will help strengthen the oblique muscles, the abdominal muscles found on your sides. Again pretend as if you have dropped a pen, this time to the side of your body, and then bend sideways to pick it up. The same technique applies as above. Keep your back straight and continue facing forward. Inhale as you lower yourself and exhale as you raise yourself to the beginning position. Keep your feet planted and your hips stationary and touch the floor with one hand only. You may place your opposite hand up by your ear. If you cannot reach to the floor, simply go as far as you can. Perform the movement 10 to 15 times on each side.

These exercises are all suggestions on how you can keep yourself active and alert throughout the day. You can choose to perform them one after another, repeating the circuit two to three times, or you can simply choose your favorites and attempt them throughout the day whenever you get a break.