Defeating the Desk Jockey: Tips, Tricks, & Workout to Fix Posture

Defeating the Desk Jockey: Tips, Tricks, & Workout to Fix Posture
Is your desk job holding you back from crushing your goals and making gains? Check out this article for tips, tricks, and a workout to defeat a desk bod!

Mason strolls through the halls of the office sipping his coffee and mindlessly checking his watch.

Lunch is still 2 hours away as the day has just begun and the caffeine has yet to set in.

He pauses momentarily at Greg’s desk to initiate small talk in a feeble attempt to delay responding to the impending mountain of unopened emails in his inbox.

“Any big weekend plans?”

Greg looks up quizzically realizing it’s 10am on a Monday morning and mumbles something relatively incoherent.

He then continues to toggle between Facebook and columns of data lurking in Microsoft Excel while feigning interest in the uninvited conversation.

Switching gears, Mason asks, “How has your back pain been lately?”

Greg looks up surprised and stops scrolling through his news feed. “To be honest, it has been really bad lately. It feels like I’ve tried everything - orthotics, stand up desks, prescription drugs, stretching, icing, back braces…Heck, I even considered surgery at one point.”

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Mason took a sip of his coffee and contemplated how to respond as he could sense the desperation in his friend’s voice.

“Have you tried strength training?”

Promoting Perfect Posture - Harmful or Harmless?

Maybe you’re like our good friend Greg from above who has been crushing Excel templates from 9-5 while subsisting on Folgers and Krispy Kreme.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Related: Working Man's Guide to Building a Workout Program

Perhaps you resonate more with Mason and you have a friend or family member like Greg. Even better, lend a helping hand and send them this article.

However, before we get into the nuts and bolts of program modification or specific joint mobilizations, I think it’s important to have a brief discussion on posture and pain.

Despite what gets promoted in the mass media, “Sitting is not the new smoking.” Arguably, promotion of fear mongering ideas such as this may be even more detrimental than sitting itself.12

M&S Female Athlete Performing Deadlifts

When we discuss posture, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. There is no such thing as perfect posture - the principle of posture is entirely context dependent.11
  2. You can’t assume that any particular posture will result in pain - correlation doesn’t equal causation.9,10
  3. There is much more to pain and associated biomechanical compensations than just mechanical etiologies.2,6,7
  4. Postural adaptations may be the system’s homeostatic solution for movement efficiency depending upon the desired outcome - structure predicates function.1
  5. Posture, just like pain, can change relative to your environment, mood, social dynamics, and threat perception.6-8,13

​The human body is an incredibly adaptive organism with multiple degrees of freedom so it is very tough to make declarative statements regarding static or dynamic postures.

If posture was really as simple as some folks make it out to be, then why have multiple studies confirmed that 20-70% of patients with “anatomical abnormalities” (i.e. disc bulges/herniations, labral tears, spinal stenosis, meniscal tears, etc.), present with no history of pain?3-5

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Admittedly, pain science is much too deep to delve into within this article, but we know that there is definitely a psychosomatic aspect to pain and as such, we must lay the groundwork to better understand the why behind the what. Knowledge is the first weapon in your arsenal, use it wisely and consume it endlessly.

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune” - Jim Rohn

Circle Up!

Like most things in fitness, there are rarely new ideas, just different applications and explanations. So, I must give credit where credit is due - much of the methodology behind this idea came from Max Shank and his 5-minute flow concept. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, you can learn more about it here:

At the heart of the 5-minute flow is the idea of joint circles. Actively moving through a full range of motion with each joint in the body is the easiest way to warm-up.

Gymnastics have been using this idea for decades but the fitness sector isn’t always keen to catch on. Sure, you might occasionally see someone utilizing shoulder circles but beyond that, most folks aren’t that conceptual when it comes to warming up.

Why circles?

Well, when it comes to warming up, the average gym goer likely isn’t familiar with the terminology that typically gets thrown around regarding specific movements. “Spiderman lunge to Cossack squat with overhead reach and exhale” - you know what that looks like, right?

Nah, I didn’t think so, nor did I expect you to. If you’re lucky you might remember a few static stretches from PE but other than that, most default to 5 minutes on the treadmill and 10 reps with an empty bar.

Related: Warming Up For Dummies: A Lifter’s Guide to Injury Prevention

Joint circles solve this problem - take any joint in the body and move it in a clockwise and counter clockwise fashion (i.e. circumduction).

  • Hips
  • Shoulders
  • Ankles
  • Wrists
  • Elbows
  • Neck
  • Hips
  • Shoulder blades

You can use them as part of your warm-up or simply break up the monotony of sitting at a desk by interjecting some movement. Better yet, use both options.

Postural Programming

Enough talking, let’s get swole…

DAY 1 - Push
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Front Squat (3 Second Eccentric) 6 3
2a. Bench T-Spine Mobilization 3 7
2b. Split Stance Push Press 3 7 each
2c. Half Kneeling Vertical Pallof Press 3 7
3a. Incline Close Grip Tricep Pushup 4 11
3b. Overhead Cable Tricep Extension 4 11
DAY 2 - Pull
Exercise Sets Reps
1a. Romanian Deadlift (3 Second Eccentric) 4 5
1b. Kneeling Adductor Mobilization 4 7 each
2a. Ring Inverted Row 3 11
2b. Ring Fallouts 3 9
3a. EZ Bar Reverse Curl 4 13
3b. Cable Hammer Grip Rope Curl 4 13
DAY 3 - Auxiliary/Conditioning
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Dips 4 7
2a. Sled Pull 4 50 ft
2b. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge 4 8 each
3a. Sled Push 3 50 ft
3b. Barbell Glute Bridge 3 11
3c. Lateral Band Walks 3 9 each

If you get hopped up on some Assault and decide to try and combine the auxiliary day with day 1 or 2, you will get smoked. I make no apologies; you’ve been warned. Regardless of what the caffeine might be telling you, you’re not Captain America and your adrenal glands don’t need all of that volume.

Why the odd numbers? Training can get repetitive and stale from time to time so why settle for the typical 3x10, 4x8, 5x5, etc.?  As they say, variety is the spice of life.

BRO TIP: This combo feels magical on your back after sitting at a desk for way too long…

Solidify the Simple to Solve the Complex

Complexity is attractive, is it not? Think of the snake oil salesman who constantly uses large words and abstract anecdotes to promote his product. You may not fully understand the mechanism but the unique, esoteric nature of the product seems to prompt curiosity.

Related: Muscle & Strength's Lean Muscle Mass Expert Guide

Many folks view strength training in the same light, as they don’t fully understand the training process and its role in the process of adaptation and homeostasis. Rather than a relentless execution of the basics, they prefer to add additional layers of complexity without adhering to the fundamentals.

Simplicity - distilling complex ideas into a useable format that any layman can understand and apply.

Many of the recommendations within my articles may seem decidedly simple but that’s the point. People don’t need more complexity; they need to understand how to consistently apply what they already know. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.