Pain Free Working
Exercises

Core Strengthening Exercises to Do at Your Desk

Statistics show that most workers spend around 40% of their day strapped on their desk. And if you’re someone who has to work as a designer, telemarketer, writer, or another profession that needs your body glued to your desk for hours on end, then this percentage could even be higher.

Workouts take up time, effort, and hassle, don’t they? This leaves us with barely enough time to commit or even try workouts or ways to engage ourselves in action. 

Sitting for several hours straight day in, day out is a sure fire way to guarantee muscle loss, no matter if you worked out hard over the weekend (a couple weeks back at that). It’s weight loss, sure, but not the kind you’d want for your body. So back to scratch you go. And then back again, if you won’t push yourself out of that chair and break that cycle.

This definitely isn’t ideal for our body’s fitness, as we have to move for our bodies to stay fit physically and psychologically. Exercise is more than just for aesthetics or vanity, as some might think. If you sacrifice having discipline when it comes to fitness, it is your body, your health, and your psyche that you are compromising. And doesn’t that old adage tell us that our health is our wealth? When you exercise your body, you are nourishing your mental wellness as well.

Just tell yourself that if you can find the time and energy to scroll and read random stuff on the Internet, then you can definitely make time to do a couple of seconds to dedicate for your fitness — maybe do a stretch, a shoulder roll, or you may even try one round of yoga or any simple workout. Like this one, all you have to do is stick around and read until the end. Not that tall an order for something to bring out your best self, right? 

A constant fitness routine will not only help you achieve your weight loss goals, but also helps with strength training and is one of the many ways we can improve our overall body health. We need to workout our muscles to prevent soreness, too. Otherwise, work in the office will get even more draining. But how do we create a desk workout routine that you can actually do while at your desk? How do we maintain a healthy body without straying too far from your chair or worrying about work?

Thankfully, sitting at your desk doesn’t have to mean you’re going to stay sluggish and drained all day. As a matter of fact, your desk table and office chair could actually replace a gym or yoga studio and be perfect for these ab exercises, and they may even be done without using any equipment. Hitting two birds with one stone all while at the comfort of your office desk, one exercise at a time. Plus, you don’t have to leave work in order to get those abs toned!

And no, you don’t need to be a personal trainer or strength training expert in order to do a workout. Prioritizing your body, your health, and fitness is simple and straightforward once you get the hang of it. Here, we give you a few core strengthening exercises you could follow and tips on how to stay healthy and work on those fitness goals — even while you’re just sitting in your office!

Seated Ab Crunches

This is a good workout to improve core strength. If you’re someone who has maintained a fitness regimen, then you’re familiar with ab crunches. This is a great way to keep your ab area healthy while you sit. 

To start with this desk exercise, move towards the edge of your office chair, legs together, angling your knees at a 90-degree slant. Place your feet flat on the ground while holding your arms up, hands interlaced behind your head. Make sure to engage your core and relax your shoulders while you slowly lean back. Keep going until you graze the back of your chair, then sit back up simultaneously lowering your right elbow to the opposite knee, shifting your weight to that direction. Lift your left leg until the knee touches the elbow. Keep that leg steady to feel the burn on those abs. 

Repeat this motion, this time with your left elbow touching your right knee. Move forward and try to do 20 reps, 3 times each.

Seated Leg Pull-ins

Position yourself to sit on the front end of your chair with your legs together and bent at the knees. Have your feet flat on the floor, back straight, and your shoulders back and relaxed. Lean back 45 degrees. From that position, take your hands to the edge of your chair on either side of your thighs, engage your abs, and, while still leaning back, slowly draw your knees in toward your chest. Next, extend your legs out at a 45-degree angle, hold for a second, then draw them back in, bending at the knees again. Repeat this at least 20 times. (If your office chair has wheels, lock them for added stability.)

Oblique Squeezes

The core isn’t just made up of your lower and upper abs, but your sides or obliques, too. Our second workout exercises the side muscles of your abs. Start these desk exercises with a sitting straight position on the edge of your chair, legs together and feet flat on the floor. With your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and arms relaxed at your sides, start to lift one arm up, bend at the elbow, and then facing forward bend to the side that you have your arm raised. The lower, the better. So if you have your left arm raised, bend to the left side. Do the same for the other arm later. And again, the lower, the better.

Squeeze your sides so your hip is slightly raised, keeping your other foot on the floor. Put your weight at the ball of your foot to make sure you can keep your core engaged and your shoulders relaxed. Using this technique will make you feel the strength of your abs in each squeeze.

Repeat this exercise for the other side, keeping that mind-to-muscle connection intact. Connect your head game to your muscles. Using this exercise is good for your oblique and overall core strength. Push yourself and try to do 20 reps, three times each.

Easy Standing Cross Crunch

Another workout you can do is a cross crunch. This requires you to stand up from your chair. But don’t worry, the movement is incredibly easy and you can use it every time you need a break from sitting down.

Lift your arms to place your hands behind your head, like you’re cradling your head between your hands. Next, try to touch your left elbow to the opposite knee. Make sure you keep your core tight while doing these desk exercises and that the one leg that isn’t in use is planted on the floor. This is the standing version of our earlier exercise, the seated ab crunch. This also doubles as a stretch for your arms. Moving forward, repeat this for 3 sets with 10 reps each, taking a 15 second break in between each set.

Standing Side Crunch

This is another desk exercise you can use every time you feel the muscles in your body get a little sore from sitting. Stand up and place your feet flat on the ground, raising your right hand toward the ceiling. Stand straight and tall, keeping your core engaged all the time, shoulders relaxed, and one foot planted firmly on the floor, raise your right knee to the side and slowly touch it with your right elbow, all while keeping your weight centered on that same foot. Repeat this movement with the opposite side like before. 

This is also a great stretch to use for your arms. If you want to push yourself more, try to do 3 sets with 10 reps each. Set the time to 10 seconds for resting in between each set.

And there you go! No personal trainer, gym or yoga studio needed, just the office, some break time, simple tips, goal to move your body, and yourself. Always remember that no work is so important if it comes at the cost of your health and fitness. Your health comes first before anything else. 

And no, great fitness, good health, and those body goals don’t do themselves alone. Workouts don’t get themselves done by themselves. It takes a whole lot of work, commitment, and mindset to get up from where you’re sitting and take the time to move your body to exercise or even just stretch.

The most important thing in all of this is that you know how to listen and observe your body. Feel connected to it in every breath intake, in every stretch, push, or pull. Rest when you need to, take a deep breath if you have to. That is the main anthem of yoga and there is a good reason why. Breathing and relaxation is part of taking care of your health too.

Congratulations for taking the first step into your fitness journey by doing this simple core exercise! Give yourself a pat on the back. You may clap your hands and take a bow too. You are on your way to your best self. Just get up, put in your best work, try harder, acknowledge your effort, then repeat all over.

Sheena Bergado

Sheena first met Tricia on a back pain support forum. After becoming online friends they launched PainFreeWorking.com in 2019. Due to suffering from upper back and shoulder pain, Sheena vows to find the best ergonomic office equipment in the Philippines to help fellow desk workers.