Hydrow Strength and Movement Specialist Peter Donohoe provides some quick tips and important stretches to help offset muscle tightness.
Sitting at a desk is something we all have to do for work, but it is not good for our posture. In fact, sitting increases the load on your spine by 1.5 compared to standing. The toll it takes on our bodies has only gotten worse since we’ve been quarantined at home, often pounding away on our laptops on the couch, in bed, or on desk chairs that aren’t ergonomically designed.
Typically, when we’re looking at a computer screen, we let our head tilt downwards resulting in incorrect posture and overworked neck and head muscles. Sitting on a firm chair can be uncomfortable and, after long periods of time, this overworking of the lower back can lead to stiffness. Alternatively, sitting on a soft chair can lead to lax abdominal muscles and poor spinal alignment leading to, you guessed it - additional back pain.
In other words, we’re causing added stress and restriction to our body by placing our spine in positions of dysfunction. The good news is there are easy exercises that can help correct and activate these muscles for increased mobility, flexibility and reduced pain.
Here are three go-to movements you can do at home:
1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
What it solves: This movement stretches/lengthens the fronts of the hips, known as the hip flexors and the psoas (a muscle group connected to both the front of the pelvis and the lower back). Stretching the hip flexors releases tightness in the mid and lower back as well as stiffness in the front of the hips.
How to do it: Place one knee on the ground positioned 2 inches behind the hips while placing the other foot on the ground in front of the body with your raised knee directly over your front heel. Maintain good, upright postural position with hands on hips and “pull” the pelvis upwards towards the ribs. This movement is a mobility exercise and is generated by working the core and glutes, drawing the hips away from the kneeling leg. Perform this movement three times, doing ten reps on each side. Hold the last rep for a 10-second count.
Static Glute Stretch
What it solves: As well as stretching your glutes, this stretch also helps fix the hip, lumbar spine (lower back), and postural tightness.
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with one knee pulled into your chest and the other leg extended straight on the ground. Externally rotate your hip by drawing your ankle and foot towards the opposite shoulder. Keep your back flat on the ground and relax into the stretch. Perform three times for 30 seconds on each side.
Kneeling Lat Reach Stretch
What it solves: This stretch helps with shoulder and arm movement as well as support for good postural lengthening.
How to do it: From a hands and knees position on the ground, stretch your right hand toward the far left corner of your mat, then gently sit back towards your heels and feel a stretch along the side of your torso. Breathe as you relax your left elbow and shoulder towards the ground, settling comfortably into this position. You’ll feel lengthening between hand and hips. Perform this exercise three times for 30 seconds on each side.
While we’re continuing to navigate this new work environment and sitting for long periods of time in our home offices, from kitchen counters, on patio chairs, or wherever you find yourself working, it’s more important than ever to perform these stretches regularly. These movements will help create a pattern of correct postural support that your body will become familiar with. Better movement and flexibility will help stave off pain and tightness in your back and hips.
For more stretches like these, check out our Hydrow On the Mat workouts, which you can access through our iOS app or on your Hydrow rowing machine screen. These strength and mobility classes, which range from Pilates to yoga and beyond, are designed to help you gain full muscle health (beyond the 86% of muscles reached via rowing) through cross-training for a total mind/body transformation.