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Notes from the offices of Mizzen+Main

Back to The Desk

Office Workout: 10 Exercises To Do At Your Desk


(...and 10 ways to get it wrong)

You work hard to stay in shape. Sure, you might not be joining the NFL anytime soon, but no one wants their job to negatively impact their pursuit of that sculpted look—looking at you beach-goers.

Unfortunately, sitting all day has been linked to a number of health concerns, including weight gain, weak bones, and mental health issues. Yikes. That information startled us enough to get out of our chairs and start moving more throughout the day.

That’s why we came up with this office workout. It turns out, it’s actually pretty easy to get a quick sweat from behind your desk. Check out our ten desk-friendly exercises you can do to keep moving at the office.

1. Chair Tricep Dips

Targeting the back of your arms and your chest, tricep dips are an easy office exercise that only requires a steady chair. Put your palms flat on the chair, keeping your heels planted, and lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, then return to your starting position and repeat.

Make sure your elbows don’t flare out during this exercise. While an elbow flare may sound like a fancy dance move, it actually puts tension on your shoulders and can lead to injury. If your work chair has wheels, opt for a handrail or bench instead. This will work the same muscle groups without the risk of you crashing to the floor when your chair swivels away.

2. Desk Pushup

Desk pushups are another chest and tricep move that can be easily added to your office workouts. Facing your desk, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and perform a pushup. If you don’t mind the crumbs from your morning Nutri-Grain bar in your face, you can make this move more challenging by performing it on the ground. Like the tricep dip, keep your elbows tucked in tight to your torso through this movement. Flaring elbows can cause shoulder injuries that’ll keep you from working your upper body altogether.

3. Body Weight Squats

Have you heard of dead butt syndrome? Us either, but it’s a real thing that happens when your glutes forget how to work after hours of sitting every day. Some good old fashion bodyweight squats can help activate your glutes and remind them they’ve got a job too.

To perform a squat, stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance. Then sit back like you're sitting into a chair. Pause, then return to the starting position. When performing a squat, make sure your weight stays in your heels, not your toes. This can help prevent knee pain caused by improper form.

4. Wall Sits

A real quad burner, wall sits strengthen the front of your legs, glutes, core, and hamstrings. To perform this move, stand with your back against a wall and slide down until your hips and knees are parallel with the floor. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, then take a rest.

When doing this move, you’ll want to make sure your knees are at 90 degrees. Many folks sit too high on the wall, making the exercise more of a wall lean rather than a strengthening move. A wall lean might bring less attention, but doing a proper wall sit next to the watercooler is a classic conversation starter.

5. Desk Planks

The holy grail of core-strengthening moves, planks aren’t just for the gym. Desk planks can be done discreetly and made more challenging with a few simple modifications. To perform this move, lean against your desk in a straight line, using your hands to keep steady.

If this feels too easy, try lifting one leg off the ground to add a component of balance. You’ll see a lot of people sticking their butts in the air for this exercise. Don't be like those people. Instead, focus on engaging your core and staying in a straight line.

6. Climb Stairs

If you thought you were getting out of cardio you thought wrong. Chances are your office has stairs, and stair climbing is a great way to get your heart pounding. Constant phone calls at your desk can feel monotonous. Take client calls climbing stairs; people appreciate knowing you’re busy but still making time for them.

By talking while you climb, you can stay engaged at work while also breaking a sweat. Oftentimes, as people get fatigued, they start to lean forward. To keep yourself from sounding like you're dying while answering calls, stand up tall.

7. Oblique Twists

Let’s say you’re feeling too comfortable and don’t want to leave your chair. There’s a move for that. Oblique twists can be performed seated, but don’t be fooled, this move is a core crusher. Start by sitting in a swivel chair with your hands holding your desk. Using your hands, spin yourself to one side then move to the opposite side.

Make sure you move through this exercise with control. If you haphazardly spin yourself around, you’ll fail to work your core and look like somebody who had too many beers at lunch. Which, if you’re going to have too many beers at lunch (which we neither condone nor encourage), the best move here is going to be remaining as discreet as possible.

8. Calf Raises

We often “forget” to work our calves at the gym, but strong calves are important for athletic performance and overall health. To build bigger, stronger calves, perform calf raises standing at your desk or bring the intensity up a notch and perform them on a step.

Start by standing upright holding your desk or a handrail. With your toes pointing forward, bring your heels off the floor, engaging your calf muscles then lower down. People often rush through this move, performing the exercise quickly. Calf raises aren’t meant to be a cardio move. To reap the full benefits, make sure you perform the exercise slowly. If anyone who has a standing desk does these throughout the day, they’ll be rocking calves the size of cantaloupes by the close of the quarter.

9. Pistol Squats

Calisthenics gets a bad rep for not being flashy, but pistol squats are a move that turn heads at the office. If you haven’t mastered this move yet, you can use an office chair as support while you learn. Start by sitting tall in your chair with one foot planted on the ground and the opposite leg extended forward. Stand up on the grounded foot keeping the opposite leg extended, and repeat the exercise 5-10 times.

When you're doing this move, don’t collapse into your chair as you sit back down. This doesn’t help you build strength. Instead, focus on slowly lowering yourself back to your seat.

10. Standing Chest Stretch

Sitting at a desk all day can leave you with a tense upper body and poor posture. If you only choose to incorporate one of these exercises into your routine, we suggest standing chest stretches.

To stretch your chest and shoulders, start by standing up and lace your hands together behind you. Straighten your arms and lift your hands a few inches away from your body. Make sure you don’t bring your hands too high in this stretch to prevent strain on your shoulders. You can do this exercise anytime. Just don’t forget to turn off the Zoom camera when it’s your 9AM.

If you don’t want constant sitting to impede your fitness gains, try incorporating a few of these moves throughout your day. Working out in the office is a lot easier when you’re comfortable in the clothes you're wearing. If you’re looking for a work shirt that feels more like activewear, shop our new arrivals.