Sit Like This, Get Stronger

These active sitting exercises can prevent injuries that stem from sitting at a desk all day.
These active sitting exercises can prevent injuries that stem from sitting at a desk all day.

For those who work at a desk, the endless articles calling sitting worse than smoking feel frustrating. Sometimes, a job demands that we sit. Which is why I'd like to introduce a new concept: active sitting. Our butts may be glued to a chair, but that doesn't mean we can't engage those muscles. 

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Typically, when we sit in a chair, we dump our weight forward, curve our backs, and pull our shoulder blades out of position. The result is asymmetry — the muscles in the front of the body are way too tight, the muscles in the way too long. 

What we want to do is sit with weight equally distributed through our sit bones and pubic bone. Our abs are slightly engaged to keep the trunk upright, our shoulders are down and back, and our head is in line with our spine and shoulders. This is active sitting, and doing it fires up the muscles of the core, the lats, and the deep cervical neck flexors (the same muscles that don't work when you slouch). 

Here are three other active-sitting movements to do every day at your desk — without looking ridiculous — that will help change your posture, and fight the adverse effects of slumping at your computer. 

Sitting Sidebend
This move targets the lats and abdominals. The lats overlay the external obliques (the torso side muscles), and both are important mid-trunk stabilizers. Restrictions in either muscle can inhibit stability and alter placement of your shoulders. Side bends will strengthen both muscles to help you sit up straight throughout the day. How to do them: 

Sit at the edge of your chair with your hands interlocked behind your head and sidebend left as far as you can, and then right. Squeeze your shoulders down and back to ensure proper positioning. Avoid rounding at the shoulders or twisting your torso to get maximum engagement of the lats and abs. Do 15 reps on each side. 

Sitting Chin Tuck
All those hours at the desk pull your chin ever forward. To put your body in better alignment and alleviate some of the stress on your back, do chin tucks: Pull your chin back so ears are in line with shoulders. As you do, also maintain equal weight on your sits bones and pubic bone to feel abs engage. Do 15 reps. 

Reinforcing Shoulder Positioning
Sit in an upright position (pictured above) with a neutral pelvis, and feet flat on floor. Bend both elbows to 90 degrees and drive them toward the back of your seat, squeezing shoulder blades together (there should be little to no movement in your arms). This will challenge your middle and lower traps, rhomboids, lats and triceps, and help train better posture. Do 3 sets of 10 reps throughout the day. 

David Reavy, founder of Chicago-based React Physical Therapy, is the creator of the Reavy Method, a whole body approach to physical therapy and exercise. Reavy works with numerous pro athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLS, and the WNBA.

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