15 Effective Desk Exercises to Get Fit

Do you want to ease the aches and pains of a desk job? These desk-friendly office workout ideas will keep you in good shape!

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Effective Desk Exercises to Get Fit

Being slumped over a desk all day is bound to wreak havoc on your body, and even if you haven’t noticed physical evidence of these negative effects, there’s definitely internal issues that are bound to happen. From water retention to back pain, the price to pay for working a desk job is plentiful. 

So, if you’ve had enough of the aches and pains, there’s a simple solution - getting your body moving, even while you are sat at your desk. Keep reading to learn some effective cubicle exercises that you can easily incorporate into your busy work schedule. 

1. Desk push-ups

illustration of a man doing desk pushups

If you want to strengthen your back, arms and shoulders, then desk push-ups are the perfect workout. To ensure you have the correct form, lean forward and place both hands on the edge of the desk. Then perform a push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest towards the desk keeping your elbows close to your torso. Do three sets of 10-15 reps to ensure that you have properly worked the muscles. 

2. Oblique twists 

illustration of a man doing oblique twists on their office chair

Oblique twists work your back and waist muscles - requiring little effort to perform while at your desk. While sat on your swivel chair, hold on to the edge of your desk with your thumb touching the top and your palm the bottom and twist to one side. Hold for five seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Continue doing a repetition of 10 on each side for three sets. 

3. Desk planks 

illustration of a man doing desk planks on their office desk

Another great exercise to strengthen your arm and back muscles are planks. To perform this version effectively, place both hands on the desk with your elbows at a 45-degree angle. Then bend your elbows and lower your body towards the desk. Push back up and repeat 15 times for three repetitions. 

4. Ankle rolls 

illustration of a man doing ankle rolls

If you’re holding a lot of stress and tension, then ankle rolls are your saviour. To do them, place one leg on the other rotate your ankle in circles. This should feel comfortable, so if you feel any strain stop performing the exercise. Repeat at least 10 roles on each ankle for three sets. If time is of a constraint, just do a few every half an hour. 

5. Tricep dips 

illustration of a man doing tricep dips

If you want to say goodbye to bingo wings, then try tricep dips. To perform this exercise safely, however, you need to ensure that you have a sturdy desk. With your back facing the desk, place your hands shoulder width apart and your body in a squat formation. Bend your arms to 90-degrees, lengthen and repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions. 

6. Seated bicycle crunches

illustration of a man doing seated bicycle crunches

If you want to strengthen your midsection, seated bicycle crunches are a good exercise option. Start by sitting in a sturdy chair and ease back slightly, lift your legs up, bend your knees and move one leg in and the other out as if you’re riding a bike. Do a repetition of 20 crunches for three sets. 

7. Chair squats 

illustration of a man doing chair squats while hovering over their office chair

To get your glutes and core in shape, stand in front of your chair, facing away from it. Move into a squat position, gently tapping the chair and return to standing position. It’s important to note that your knees should never go in front of your ankles. Do three sets of 10 repetitions.

8. Neck rolls 

illustration of a man doing neck rolls in front of their computer desk

Does your neck feel really tense? If so, try implementing a few neck rolls throughout your day. Start by leaning your neck towards the left side with your ear facing your shoulder and roll it around until it reaches the right. Repeat in the opposite direction.

9. Tricep stretches 

illustration of a man doing tricep stretches

With most of us carrying stress and tension in our upper backs and shoulders, tricep stretches are the perfect way to relieve that pain while working from a desk. To perform the exercise, raise your arm over your head and bend it so you can touch your shoulder blade. Now with your opposite hand, push on your elbow towards your head. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

10. Shoulder stretches 

illustration of a man doing shoulder stretches

Hunching over a desk all day is bound to cause havoc on our shoulders. To prevent shoulder pain, do a handful of shoulder stretches each day. Sit with your back straight, lift your arms into the arm and grab your elbow with your opposite hand, pulling it towards your head. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

11. Chest stretches 

illustration of a man doing chest stretches

To stretch your chest and relieve anxiety, straighten your arms and lengthen them behind you. Draw your bellybutton into the and crown your head towards the ceiling. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, release and repeat 10 times. 

12. Upper-back stretches 

illustration of a man doing upper back stretches

To stretch your back while you’re sat at the office, place your hands on your desk and wheel your body back, then lean into the desk so your head is facing your lap and hold for 30 seconds. Lift yourself up vertebrae by vertebrae and repeat 10 times. 

13. Hamstring stretches 

illustration of a man doing desk pushups

Sitting down at a desk all day can result to poor blood circulation and cause water retention in our bodies. Hamstring stretches are the ideal exercise to prevent this from happening. To perform this exercise, lengthen your leg out in front of you with the opposite leg at a 90 degree ankle and lower your body towards the lengthened leg. Hold onto your toes and push to create some resistance. Repeat on the opposite leg for three rounds of 10 reps. 

14. Wrist stretches 

illustration of a man doing wrist stretches

If you’re typing all day, you’re bound to get sore wrists. So, give them a break with a little stretch. Lengthen your arm in front of you and pull your fingers towards you using the opposite hand. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side. You can do this as frequently as you want.

15. Seated leg extensions 

illustration of a man doing seated leg extensions

Similarly, to hamstring stretches, leg extensions are also great to increase blood circulation. So, in a seated position, lift one leg out of the body, lower it to the floor and lift it back up. Repeat on the other side and complete 10 repetitions on each leg for three rounds. 

Final thoughts

You don’t have to do a full exercise regime every time, but it’s important to keep your body moving throughout the day - especially if you’re working from home, and the opportunities to walk over to your colleague’s desk and get moving are more limited.

Besides stretching, it’s also important to have a productive work routine that consists if frequent breaks. Most fitness professionals recommend getting up from your desk every 30 minutes and getting some physical movement in. That said, if walking around isn’t an option for you, simply perform a few of the more discreet desk exercises we have included on our list and get fit!

Which of these stretches are you most likely to incorporate into your daily routine? Let us know in the comments section below.

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 31 August 2017.