5 Pilates Exercises to Do at Your Desk

I currently work as a technical writer for my primary source of income. There are two major things that have an impact on how well I feel at the end of the business day:

  1. 1. I’m lucky enough to have a desk that converts between standing and sitting.
  2. I find ways to incorporate simple Pilates exercises throughout my day.

If you end your day at the office with tightness between your shoulders, a stiff low back, or unhappy hips, read on to find five variations on common Pilates exercises that you can do right at your desk. If you’re feeling drained, weak, or tense, try these simple movements.

I have two quick notes before you dive in:

  1. In the exercises below, I refer to working to your point of control. I define that term as the range in which you can work safely while maintaining your alignment. 
  2. If you have a rolling desk chair like I do, remember that you’re on an unstable surface! 

Ribcage Arms
Sit at the edge of your chair, feet even on the floor. Perch on your sitting bones, lift through your powerhouse, and draw your ribcage in. Lift your arms straight in front of you to shoulder height. Keeping your ribs contained, reach your arms to your point of control, or until your fingertips are in line with the ceiling, whichever comes first. Repeat a total of 5 times.

Maintaining your alignment, bring your arms by your sides. Press your palms against the edge of your chair. Lift one leg to your point of control, trying to keep your knee and foot still, and return it to the ground. You can work one leg at a time or alternate, repeating for a total of 5 reps per leg. 

Seated Hundred
Maintaining your alignment, extend your arms until they hover approximately 12 inches from the edge of the chair. Pump your arms vigorously; imagine you are bouncing tennis balls against your palms. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Complete 10 cycles of breath.

Side-to-Side (from the Short Box Series)
Maintaining your alignment, stack your palms one on top of the other at the base of your skull. Lift tall and lean into the wind. Get even taller as you reach one elbow out on the diagonal. Lift to return to center. Grow tall again and reach your other elbow on the diagonal. Lift and return to center. Repeat 3-5 times on each side. 

Twist and Reach (from the Stomach Massage Series)
Maintaining your alignment, return to center. Keep your arms in the same position. Twist to one side and grow long through your spine as you lean back to your point of control. Grow taller to come up to center. Twist to the other side, reaching long through your elbow. Lift and return to center. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.  

I love these office-friendly Pilates variations because they allow me to broaden my shoulders, wake up my glutes, stretch my side body, and give me a boost of energy. You can do this sequence throughout your work day anytime you feel tight or just need a little pick-me-up. Depending on how my day is going, I repeat it anywhere from 3-5 times. 

What questions do you have about keeping your body happy at your desk job? Drop a note in the comments! 

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