Stretch at your desk

Hi friends! How’s the morning going? Hope you’re having a lovely day so far! The weather has been gorgeous, so I’m excited to take the pups for a nice walk and enjoy a good stretch.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in a solid stretching routine, and I’m trying to get back into it because I’ve noticed that I have mild upper cross syndrome (my head slightly shoots forward, and my shoulders round), which I’m working to improve. In a nutshell, my levator muscles and chest are tight and need to be stretched, and I need to work strengthening my upper back to help pull my shoulders back. (This video explains it well, if you’re curious to learn more.) Years of bad posture -despite dancing forever, once I walked out of the studio my posture went out the window- has taken its toll and I’d like to work on improving it. If you see me out and about and slouching, feel free to give me a little poke bahahah.

The research is mixed on stretching; some sources indicate that it’s a great way to prevent injuries and reduce soreness, while others claim stretching can be ineffective. My thoughts: if it feels good, it works for you, and you like it, DO IT. I find stretching especially helpful if I’ve been seated (driving or working at the computer) for a long time.

For stretching, the goal is to promote and maintain full range of motion. If you notice that you’re in a stationary position for an extended amount of time, think of the muscles that you’re shortening and lengthening in that position. For example, when we’re seated, we’re flexed at the hip, which shortens our hip flexors. To stretch them out, you’ll want to extend from the hip (just think about moving in the opposite direction). Not only will it help to promote that particular range of motion, but it will feel DELICIOUS.

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Some of my favorite stretches you can do at your desk:

(emphasizing levator stretching and chest opening, since many of us hunch a bit while at our computers. Hand, upper back, oblique, and hip flexor stretches are also included.)

Relax and stretch at your desk

It’s a perfect way to energize yourself during the afternoon, or take a short break to re-center and focus for whatever project you may be working on.

Do you stretch at your desk? Any tips for posture improvement? I find that stretching, strengthening, and core/stabilizing work helps well… it’s just a matter of doing it!

Happy stretching <3



Here’s another energizing stretch flow <3

Workout of the day: this humpday booty burner!

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  1. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on January 14, 2015 at 4:06 am

    I switch between standing and sitting throughout the day when I can. It’s tough when you’re sitting in meetings all day long which is most of my life. I try to do stretching where I can. Maybe I should start a stretching movement before each meeting starts. Everyone always seems to be late anyway and it would be a way to break up the awkwardness of waiting. Or would stretching be weirder?

  2. Michele @ paleorunningmomma on January 14, 2015 at 4:35 am

    My posture at my desk is terrible, and since I got more serious about yoga I’ve noticed how it impacts me. As much as I try to stretch, move around, I do forget and I hold a lot of tension in my neck, shoulders, and back. I like these suggestions and photos 🙂

  3. AJ @ NutriFitMama on January 14, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I need to do more stretching. I personally think it feels good, so I will continue to do it when I can. I haven’t thought about doing stretches m=in the middle of the day before- that might work better than trying to get it in after a morning workout or in the evening when I am just worn out.

  4. Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat on January 14, 2015 at 5:02 am

    Great post Gina! I have a standing desk at work but even with one of those, it can be easy to slip out of proper posture. I love the stretches you’ve provided and I’m going to do some today!

  5. Alicia on January 14, 2015 at 5:20 am

    Funny you mention upper cross syndrom- I also have a mild case of it. Our generation has grown up hunched over electronic devices, so it’s probably safe to say a lot of your readers also have it. A guest post by a PT or chiro would be amazing! Have a great day, Gina!

  6. Tamara @ A Side Of Dessert on January 14, 2015 at 5:53 am

    I’m jealous of the weather you have! We’re in a deep freeze in Canada. I’m experiencing a similar problem and I’m really trying to get rid of it.

  7. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on January 14, 2015 at 5:54 am

    I always like to stretch throughout the day, but today it will be necessary! My body is super sore from my workouts. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  8. Chrissy @ Pink Polish and Running Shoes on January 14, 2015 at 5:58 am

    I love this post. I spend most of my day sitting at a computer so I need all of these stretches badly. I’ve just started incorporating Yoga into my daily workouts and it’s made such a difference for me. I’ll have to try these stretches too. Thanks Gina!

  9. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment on January 14, 2015 at 6:06 am

    I have a similar issue with my shoulders rounding and my head going forward. I have found stretches and using my foam roller for some mobility work are very helpful. Thanks for these suggestions and the photos. 🙂

  10. Livi @ Eat, Pray, Work It Out on January 14, 2015 at 6:08 am

    I love this! As a student I am always sitting at a desk and these stretches are much needed!!

  11. maggie on January 14, 2015 at 6:10 am

    This is great! My hip flexors are definitely the muscle that takes the biggest hit. I think the stretch that helps most is to sit up straight and cross one leg over the other so that the ankle of the crossed foot rests on the knee of the straight foot, then lean forward. Sometimes I add a little side bend too. Thanks for the new ideas, it’d be good to add these into what I already try to do.

  12. Jill @ Champagne for Everyday on January 14, 2015 at 6:11 am

    This couldn’t have come at a better time!!!! I was at my desk for TWELVE hours yesterday, and so busy that I really shouldn’t have gotten up. My shoulders are soooo sore. I’m going to save your jpeg and set reminders to stretch (and run the stairs!!). Happy (limber) Wednesday!! 🙂

    Latest Post: Flat Belly Myths Debunked + Life Changing FODMAP Diet

  13. kristin | W [H] A T C H on January 14, 2015 at 6:22 am

    i feel so kinked up by the end of the day, but never think to stretch at my desk. thanks for the tips!

  14. Brynn on January 14, 2015 at 6:22 am

    I have found I hunch quite a bit with the new babe (mainly while feeding). Stretching is so important and I have added it into my nighttime routine. My neck and back desperately need it!

  15. Joni on January 14, 2015 at 6:51 am

    I’m excited to see a post like this! 🙂 More movement throughout the day, not sitting so much/staying in one position, stretching, and walking is so important. I work a desk job but I’m starting a certification for Restorative Exercise that teaches you all about alignment (and how it’s different from posture!) and ‘exercises’/stretches to help reverse some of the side effects we have of sitting, etc. It’s fascinating stuff, and if you ever want to know more, is a great website (<–she's a biomechanist that started the Restorative Exercise Institute). I know you're very knowledgeable and informed about body and movement so I wanted to mention it as you might be fascinated by it like I am haha!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      i will definitely check it out! thanks for passing it along 🙂

  16. Amanda @ Slimplify Life on January 14, 2015 at 7:01 am

    Sitting-Eagling as we speak ;). I actually work at a Culinary School so my office is the kitchen counter and a barstool which forces me to sit up!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 8:06 am

      that sounds like a very fun job 🙂

  17. Lesley on January 14, 2015 at 7:24 am

    I make sure to stand up and stretch out at intervals during the day. I even have a foam roller to try to help keep my muscles loose. I foam roll and stretch during lunch since that’s the perfect time to get away from my desk.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 8:06 am

      that’s awesome! you probably feel so much better, too 🙂

  18. Lizzie @ The Magic Tree on January 14, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I love to stretch. It instantly makes me feel better and looser. Even the simple act of pulling my shoulders back feels good.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 8:05 am

      same- i just need to remember to do it!

  19. Ashleigh on January 14, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Such good advice! As an profession, I work in workplace health promotion and this is the kind of thing we educate employees on. Every little bit counts! We will alternate between standing and sitting in meetings, and policies dictate that a meeting over two hours has to include an activity break (usually stretching), as well as a healthy snack.

    I also find my hip flexors tighten up through the day, so I stretch out my quads, hamstrings and flexors. I also need to make the effort to not tuck my legs in under my chair – it puts a lot of stress on these areas.

    Thanks for the post!

  20. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on January 14, 2015 at 9:12 am

    So good! I also like to stand in a doorway with both arms up and extended and hanging onto the frame, then push my chest through the doorway. It’s a good arm and chest stretch. These are great! 🙂

  21. Alex @ True Femme on January 14, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I think I definitely need to stretch more (and foam roll more) because my muscles have really been hurting lately and it seems to help me (I’ll take a placebo effect). I did my first HIIT workout a few days ago (from your book) and I am *still* sore in places I haven’t been sore in for a while! I’ll count that as a win I think! Also–that shirt is incredibly adorable. Do you remember where you got it?

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      so awesome you got a great workout! thank you again so much for supporting the book <3
      the shirt is from express. i got it for 15 right before xmas!

      • Alex @ True Femme on January 15, 2015 at 8:09 am

        Awesome, thank you! And of course! I’ve been telling all of my Pure Barre friends about it too! It’s such a great resource!

        • Fitnessista on January 15, 2015 at 3:13 pm


  22. Emma @ em-poweredwellness on January 14, 2015 at 9:37 am

    This is great, thanks for sharing! I have to constantly remind myself to sit with good posture at my desk, but stretching, yoga, and also core and back workouts help a lot!

  23. Domi @ Eat, Pray, Lift on January 14, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Mmm, love a good stretch after sitting for awhile. Usually when I’m at my desk for more than 30 minutes or so, I have to take a handstand break or a plank break just to shake things up. 🙂

    When you mentioned dance, it reminded me that I wanted to ask if you have any suggestions for getting into dance as an adult? I’ve always wanted to learn tap or contemporary, and decided that 2015 will be the year I finally give it a shot. Any tips?

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      you should definitely go for it! i would google and find adult classes near you. where are you located??

  24. Tiffany (A Touch of Grace) on January 14, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I have the same exact issue. And all the women in my family have ended up with hunched backs. I will not let that happen to me. Thanks for sharing some great stretches to do at work!

  25. Cate on January 14, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Thanks for the reminder to stretch today. I am not good at remembering to do this throughout the day as I sit, and I am a little sore today after doing the new Body Pump for the first time yesterday. My chest needs a stretch after all those tiny, evil pulses. Triceps are saying hello as well.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      we don’t launch it until next weekend, but i’m so excited!

  26. Les @ The Balanced Berry on January 14, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for sharing Gina! This is great for us cubicle dwellers 🙂 I do stretch quite a bit at my desk, and am also fortunate to have a height-adjustable desk so I often stand during the workday. My back starts killing me if I don’t!

  27. Mary on January 14, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Oh Gina I needed to see this today. I work a desk job usually 5 but possibly 7 days a week 8 to 12 hours a day. I do stretch and I do get up and walk as much as possible. I’m making a print out to leave on my desk of these stretches. But right now I’m having another fitness related problem maybe you could give me a little advice (and maybe get a little chuckle out of) My heart is in Zumba! I go twice a week and have loved it for 3 years now. I have within the last 6yrs lost over 100 lbs. Zumba has helped with the last part of that. But I feel my body is to comfortable with just Zumba now. I have done a few 5ks last year and although I had a great time I’m just not sure if I’m a runner. I did not make a resolution this year at all but I did promise myself that I would push myself out of my comfort zone. So I switched gym’s to one that offers classes (my old gym did not). So I have taken a Core class and found my Core needs lots of work! 🙂 Next was my first Spin Class. OK maybe this shows my age but it has been forever since I was on a bike. I was excited and nervous. I enjoyed the class but………Have NOT enjoyed the Biker Butt I got from it. 🙂 I mean pretty painful for the last couple of days. I believe the fact that I broke my tail bone years ago may have something to do with it. But I DO NOT want that to beat me. We were out of the saddle a lot but any ideas anyone has to lessen the Bike Butt I would greatly appreciate it.

    Sorry this is so long but I knew you (and all you gals on here) would have some suggestions. And I so need to get your book! 🙂 Thank You everyone!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      hahah! first of all, HUGE congrats to you on your weight loss success! that is incredible!
      for the biker butt, check out the gel bike seats. they have them on amazon and will make your ride more comfortable!

  28. Cassie Vaughn on January 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I really should stretch at my desk, but I’m always afraid someone will walk in and think I’m being crazy. However, I’m always doing neck rolls!

  29. Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves on January 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

    As a dancer I need to stretch, but even as I have not been dancing for the past 6+ months, I still find that my body absolutely needs formal stretching sessions. I just did a yoga practice that focused on hip opening, and it was glooooorious. I am able to squat lower and reach fuller range of motion when I stretch!
    I also hate sitting in one place forever, so you bet I’m doing stretches like a freak before and after sitting down for a long lecture 🙂

  30. lilly on January 14, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for posting about this, I never knew that what I have going on has a name! … I had a mild case a few years ago due to working at a computer all day, I would try to get up from my desk at least every hour to help it out. Now it’s gotten worse because of multiple surgeries around my shoulder, muscle atrophy due medication I’m on, and the fact that I spend a ton of time in bed due to fatigue and illness from my medication. I see a trainer and a massage therapist. They first work on (massage ?, but with very firm pressure) breaking up the tightness in my pecs, which helps the back muscles drop down… then they work on my upper back, sholder, and neck muscles. For strengthening, tons of rows in all different directions to pull everything in thr upper back down and in.

  31. Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork on January 14, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I have the same issue (upper crossed syndrome–didn’t realize it had a name)! I’ve been trying to focus on opening up the front of my body with chest and hip stretches as well as putting more focus on strengthening my back to open me up. I have a daily reminder on my work calendar to get up and move or stretch. I snooze it for 15 minutes so that I’m sure to do something 4x an hour. I’ll be honest-I sometimes hit snooze and don’t move, but it’s still a good reminder that I usually listen to.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      that’s a great idea!

  32. queenoffitness on January 14, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    great post gina! today must be a day for talk of posture. i talked about posture being a non verbal communication tool with students in my K and 1st grade groups today. we role-played appropriate posture for imaginary situations too. i wonder what the students at school will think when they see me busting out these moves in my office. …they probably won’t bat an eye, i mean i have high heels every color of the rainbow and they all want my clothes so they will probably think anything i do is “cool.” i am going to take these into classrooms when i do my guidance lessons and give the kids a stretch break. we make them sit way too long some days.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      that is an awesome idea! i read an interesting article from a PT friend who said that many kids are being misdiagnosed with ADHD; they’re just not intended to sit for so many hours a day! of course they’re antsy and can’t pay attention. love that you have a ton of heel colors 🙂 xoxo

  33. Annie on January 14, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this Gina, it’s just what I needed! Love your blog – I have been reading it since 2008 🙂

    Build your confidence inside & out:

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      thank you for reading for so long!

  34. Amanda on January 14, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I definitely don’t stretch at my desk…I wish I could. I work at a Wall Street firm and sit on a trading floor with about 60 traders and analysts. I would never live it down if one day I got up and started doing those stretches : ) I can’t even imagine the comments I’d get!

  35. Christina @ The Beautiful Balance on January 15, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Loved the graphic! I stretch through yoga and before a workout but always forget to stretch after my workout and throughout the day. Sending this to my boyfriend now. He has been complaining about his back, neck, and shoulders killing him because of sitting at his desk.

  36. Molly@This Life Is Sparkling on January 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

    i’ve never stretched at my desk but i’ve been trying to take time after my workouts to stretch and i love how i feel after!

  37. Kady on January 19, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Love this. As a PT, I see a lot of patients with poor posture, and I am no exception to the effects of seated/computer work. I would highly recommended adding in deep neck flexor strengthening as well. It has made a huge difference for me with decreasing headaches caused by neck/suboccipital tension. Here’s a good intro for the simplest progression:

    • Fitnessista on January 19, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      that video was awesome. thank you for sharing! i’ll definitely be adding those exercises into the rotation

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